US President-elect Donald Trump suggested that his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, has shown herself to be a hypocrite by agreeing to participate in a recount of votes in Wisconsin after publicly rebuking him during the campaign for his refusal to say before Election Day that he would accept the outcome as legitimate.
The limited scope of this recount, however, is a far cry from the unsupported claim of pervasive fraud and a "rigged" election Mr. Trump recited throughout his campaign. More than likely, the effort – which was spearheaded by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein – will prove inconsequential, observers note. But there could be political ramifications beyond 2016 for Republicans, Democrats, and even the Green Party.
"This recount is just a way for Jill Stein, who received less than one percent of the vote overall and wasn’t even on the ballot in many states, to fill her coffers with money, most of which she will never even spend on this ridiculous recount," Trump said in a statement Saturday, describing the push as "a scam by the Green Party."
Mrs. Clinton conceded to Trump within hours of the polls closing, and she has not rescinded her concession – unsurprising, as Wisconsin's 10 votes in the Electoral College would be insufficient to turn her loss into a win. To defeat Trump, Clinton would have to successfully challenge results in Wisconsin and two other swing states: Michigan and Pennsylvania, which carry 16 and 20 votes respectively. And experts say they simply do not see that as feasible.
"I don’t think there’s any realistic chance whatsoever that even if recounts are done in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, that’s going to change the outcome in the states, or in the presidential election generally," Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine told The Washington Post.
Even the White House, which publicly accused the Russian government of politically motivated hacking, assured the public that they should not fret over suggestions by some that the vote itself could have been hacked, as The Christian Science Monitor reported.
"The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian government-directed compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the president-elect," the Obama administration wrote in a statement. "Nevertheless, we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people."
Even so, among Clinton supporters who acknowledge that experts have not found any evidence of compromised votes, there are some who say the recount is a worthwhile exercise.
"I think that this is just making sure that we still have faith in democracy. We want to make sure that the results of the election are correct," Reilly Hatch, who lives near Madison, Wis., tells the Monitor. "Whether it changes the outcome or not, it’s important to have faith in the democratic process.”
Mr. Hatch, who volunteered for Clinton's campaign during the caucuses in Iowa then in his home state during the general election, says his support for the recount effort does not diminish the fact that he sees Trump as the legitimate victor in this year's election. Clinton is not a hypocrite, he says, because she has never claimed the election is rigged against her. Rather, she has followed another group's effort to answer questions about the vote in Wisconsin that may or may not be warranted.
"I don’t have the same kind of distrust of institutions, of media, of politicians, of the system that other people do," Hatch says. "So I’ve already accepted the results of the election as part of the democratic process; however, I do think that, regardless of what the outcome of this recount is, the state of Wisconsin – which has shown a great interest in preventing voter fraud – should look into whether our electronic voting methods can be manipulated."
Marian Krumberger chairs the Republican party in Brown County, where Trump won by more than a 10-point margin, according to preliminary vote counts. Having witnessed the elections firsthand with bipartisan groups of observers, Ms. Krumberger says Clinton should not be going along with the recount because there is no basis for Stein's suggestion that the initial results are unreliable.
Krumberger calls the recount a "grandiose waste of dollars" but notes that members of the local GOP are happy to contribute to the recount effort, alongside their Democratic counterparts, since some of their expenses will be covered.
"If the Left wants to spend their money to pay our people to recount those votes, so be it – extra Christmas money for them," Krumberger tells the Monitor.
In 2011, Wisconsin's recount over a state Supreme Court seat, in which 1.5 million people cast ballots, cost about $520,000, but this year's recount is expected to cost considerably more since nearly twice as many residents voted. That money would be better spent, Krumberger says, on running campaigns for candidates and causes that matter.
"We focus on winning elections. And that is not the way to do it. Throwing your money into these recounts isn’t going to help you win anything," she says, noting that the recount and widespread protests against Trump only serve to strengthen support for conservative Republicans.
Hatch, the Clinton volunteer, says he has been dismayed to see hundreds of liberal protesters in the wake of the election march down State Street toward the Wisconsin State Capitol – even though he agrees with their opposition to a Trump presidency.
"I’ve been really frustrated by that because it doesn’t seem to be the people that were participating in the process prior to the election that are now protesting," Hatch says, noting that political involvement is often far more tedious than momentary flares of activism. "I say if you want to have a say in the democratic process, first of all, vote, and also walk a packet, call a phone list, get in contact with people that are actually voters, and try to have a conversation with them. Don’t get angry, because that doesn’t change anything."
Aaron Blake, senior political reporter for The Washington Post's The Fix, wrote that Trump's calling Clinton a hypocrite could effectively fire up his base, even though her participation in the recount is not at all like his campaign's rigged-election claims:
As a political strategy, it makes sense, and it feeds into Trump's claims about media bias. Why isn't the media pillorying Clinton, the argument goes, for calling into question the results of the election just like it covered his comments way back when?
But the comparison between what Clinton is doing now and what Trump was talking about doing during the campaign just isn't apples-to-apples.
Trump won Wisconsin with 1,404,000 votes, while Clinton had 1,381,823, according to the state's election commission, as the Post reported. The deadline for Stein to file for a recount in Pennsylvania is Monday, and she has until Wednesday in Michigan.