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Editorial | The disqualified Donald Trump

Published:Friday | October 21, 2016 | 12:00 AM

There used to be a time in Jamaica when there were substantial flaws in our election systems. The names of dead or otherwise illegitimate people appeared on the voters' register. In a handful of constituencies, there was overvoting and sometimes ballot-box theft.

Yet, in the nearly three-quarters of a century since universal adult suffrage, Jamaica, even after heated and, at times, violent election campaigns, has managed the peaceful transfer of power and change in government. It has happened because, despite the imperfections of the system, there was widespread belief and acknowledgement that the outcome of the vote essentially reflected the will of the people. Indeed, while they may mount legal challenges against irregularities in specific ridings, leaders have not generally derided the legitimacy of elections and their outcomes.

For nearly four decades now, Jamaica has worked hard to fix its electoral system, inspired in no small measure by the United States and the tolerance that is associated with democracy. Until now, it has been hard, nigh impossible, to conceive of a contestant for the US presidency attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the process.


Unfit for leadership


But America has never before had Donald J. Trump, a real-estate developer and reality-TV personality, seeking the job for which he is patently, intellectually and temperamentally unprepared and unfit. Indeed, Mr Trump underlined his disqualification for the post during Wednesday night's third debate with his rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mr Trump has recently claimed that the process has been "rigged" against him and has raised the spectre of voter fraud in cities with large inner-city communities or mostly black residents, continuing the racist dog whistle that has characterised his campaign. His position on the legitimacy of the election has been largely rejected across America's divide. On Wednesday night, the debate's moderator, Chris Wallace, offered Mr Trump an opportunity to engage in a rational review and honourably retreat from his stance and to pledge respect for the outcome of the vote.

His response: "I will look at it at the time. I am not thinking of anything now."

Pressed by Wallace on America's tradition of the loser conceding defeat and the country rallying around the new president, Mr Trump refused to budge: "What I'm saying is, I'll tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense, okay?"

The presidential election will be on November 8. We presume that Mr Trump will endorse the outcome if he wins. We hope he doesn't, in which the event we suspect that he will, if not totally reject the result, engage in the politics of grievance.

Either way has illuminated a dark side of America and the Republican Party under whose banner he is contesting the election, if the United States is to sustain the moral authority that buttresses its global pre-eminence as an economic and military power. Its Jeffersonian ideas are as critical to America's status and stature as the size of the GDP and its military infrastructure.

But the Republicans have for more than two decades tolerated, embraced and are now in danger of being encased by an anti-intellectual, racist and xenophobic fringe that gives succour to the likes of Donald J. Trump. It would be bad enough if this were an internal problem, but given America's global position, it is a danger to the world. How Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln and others must squirm in the graves!