There is no benign explanation for President Trump’s false assertion that millions of people voted illegally in the last election. It is either a deliberate attempt to undermine faith in the democratic process, an exhortation to those who favor new restrictions on access to the ballot box or the worrisome trait of someone with immense power willing to make wild statements without any credible evidence.
By repeating as president what he had said as a candidate, for whatever purpose, Trump is now striking at the foundation of a democratic society. This is yet another example of Trump being willing to cast doubt on information, individuals or institutions that he believes threaten his legitimacy, challenge his authority or question his actions, from attacks on “phony polls” or the “dishonest media” to assertions now of vast voter fraud.
This is not a debate about the size of the crowd at last week’s presidential inauguration. That is a piddling controversy compared to his claim that the election system overseen by the states is somehow riddled with fraud. Trump is chipping away at a shared public confidence in a system that is fundamental to a representative government for no apparent reason other than that he’s bothered by the fact that, although duly elected and now in the White House, he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million votes.