THE LATEST flap over Donald Trump’s taxes shifted focus from an even more dangerous theme that he returned to over the weekend.
Don’t misunderstand: The tax issue is no small matter. The New York Times discovered that Mr. Trump claimed such a large business loss in 1995 — more than $900 million — that he may have avoided paying federal income tax for as long as 18 years. His reliable lickspittles, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, promptly proclaimed the enormous loss and possible nonpayment of taxes evidence of Mr. Trump’s business genius.
In which case, as Post columnist Ruth Marcus asked, why not release the tax returns and let us admire his genius in full?
In fact, the new details reveal a massive business failure and, if he then did not pay taxes, the exploitation of a tax-code provision that takes no special talent to uncover. Meanwhile, the public still has had only a glimpse of the GOP nominee’s tax history. For decades presidential candidates have released their tax forms. Mr. Trump hides behind the excuse that his returns are under audit. In fact, the only thing stopping him from releasing recent or historical tax returns is whatever he does not want the public to see. Or, as the case is now, whatever else he does not want the public to see.
But even more alarming than the contempt he shows toward voters by not releasing his taxes is the contempt he is showing — and cultivating among his supporters — for American democracy.
On Saturday, Mr. Trump told a Pennsylvania crowd to “watch” the voters in “certain areas” because “I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.” It is not a dog whistle when everyone in the country knows exactly what he means: that African Americans commit fraud to win elections. “So, go and vote and then go check out areas,” he said. “Because a lot of bad things happen, and we don’t want to lose for that reason.”
These words represent a direct incitement of his supporters to show up in minority communities on Election Day armed with conspiracy theories and hostile attitudes — and who knows what else. They come on top of Mr. Trump’s backtracking on his pledge, given during the first debate, to accept the results of next month’s presidential election. “We’re going to have to see,” he says now. He is encouraging intimidation of black voters, an odious tradition in U.S. history, and laying the groundwork to question the legitimacy of Hillary Clinton’s victory if she wins. This line of provocation is dangerous — literally so.