At which point is an election rigged?
At which point is an election rigged? Burlingham/

The most famous Mudede in the history of humankind is still alive and resides in Zimbabwe. His name is Tobaiwa Mudede, he is indeed related to me, he is the Registrar General of the very poor and small land-locked country in the heart of Southern Africa. This Mudede is famous because his name is on the documents that identify millions of Zimbabweans. He is also famous for rigging elections for his employer, the nonagenarian President Robert Mugabe. Without Mudede's competence in this shady art, Mugabe's presidency may have ended years ago. Those who have read Gogol's most famous novel will quickly understand why in Zimbabwe the rigging of elections is such a shady art—it involves the shades, the ones on the other side of the light, the dead. It just so happens those who are no longer with us almost always prefer the ruling party. It's also the case that if you are a citizen of Zimbabwe, politics goes with you to the grave and beyond.

Here in the US, the GOP's presidential candidate and self-professed pussy grabber Donald Trump has been claiming that not only is America's voting system rigged but, more impressively, "the media is rigging this system." And lots of his supporters, who are even bigger bumpkins than the rural types who follow Mugabe, believe him. (One can understand why Zimbos in the sticks are bumpkins—but how to explain all of these white Americans who actually had access to free schools?)

Now, there is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Mudede would really want to know how the media rigs an election. He is used to doing it the old way—with earthly ballot boxes and otherwordly people. Is it possible, as Trump implies, to rig the system without all of this trouble? Rig it before an actual election takes place? Mudede has been in this bad business for a good 30 years and would most certainly like to mix things up in the next election—that is, if his boss is still alive.

But it is also possible that Trump really does not know the meaning and manner of rigging an election. Who can learn from whom? Trump from Mudede, or Mudede from Trump?