The Unethicality of the Sore Loser

Moving the goalposts on electoral criteria

During live US presidential election coverage on RT, after it became clear that Donald Trump was going to secure the required number of electoral college votes to win the election, word came that Hillary Clinton would not make a concession speech that night. The moderator of the live election coverage at RT was gobsmacked. He called Clinton’s behavior the “epitome of arrogance.” It certainly did smack of being a poor loser.

It seems that being a sore loser has reached stratospheric dimensions, as some are trying to reverse the electoral defeat for Clinton because she won the popular vote. To be clear, there is no comparison to what befell Al Gore here. Gore also won the popular vote in the 2000 US presidential election, but he was considered by many to have won the majority of electoral college votes because of electoral fraud in Florida. Yet even Gore, who has a better case to have overturned his defeat in 2000 than Clinton has in 2016, eventually conceded defeat.

These people seeking to circumvent current electoral college convention are, in other words, trying to move the goalposts on Donald Trump and his supporters.

Moving the goalposts is a type of logical fallacy whereby when a person has met the criteria required to succeed then the criteria are changed to something different or raised to a higher standard (also referred to as “raising the bar”).

Moving the goalposts is unethical. When it occurs in the sporting world, a penalty is bestowed on the offending team.

On 8 November candidate Donald Trump surpassed 270 electoral college votes and was declared winner of the 2016 election. Yet we hear from Democracy Now! of a movement to overturn the system of winner take-all electoral college votes in a state. The show referred to a petition supported by the celebrity Lady Gaga asking: “Electoral College: Make Hillary Clinton President on December 19.”

It calls on the electors to ignore the current rules, which bind them to voting for the winner of their state, and cast their ballots instead for the winner of the popular vote, Hillary Clinton.

Democracy Now! reports than 2 million people have signed the petition.

What it Signifies for US Democracy

The United States is not a democracy in any meaningful sense. Despite the US relentlessly tooting its own horn as the bastion of democracy, it is arguably inferior in level of democratic attainment even compared to nations it considers nemeses — Cuba and China — and that it fallaciously derides as being dictatorships.

Conferring victory upon the candidate who garners the plurality of votes in an election will do little to assuage the democratic deficit in the US.

Yes, deciding the outcome of an election through the electoral college vote seems out-dated at any point in time. However, overturning the rules of the game post hoc poses another logical quandary: the slippery slope. If a precedent is set whereby the rules of the game can be changed during play or after the match, then what is to stop the rules being tampered with again in the future when a result is not to a powerful side’s liking?

There are many crucial steps required before the United States can present itself as a meaningful democracy: for example, among others, discarding the electoral college, bringing transparency to party primaries, overturning Citizens United, providing impartial and equal media coverage for all candidates (including “third” party candidates) during an election, easing the barriers for “third” party electoral participation, facilitating electoral participation for all Americans. These measures must be implemented before an election. They must not be implemented during or after an election to change the result. It is unfair. That is elementary morality that any child would comprehend.

  • First published at American Herald Tribune.
  • Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at Read other articles by Kim.