The moment many have been anticipating came Thursday morning when Donald Trump tweeted:
With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020
Every word of this is false.
Not to mention, absentee voting is mail-in voting, but anyway…
The good news: the President of the United States does not have the authority to unilaterally postpone elections. Only Congress can do it.
The bad news: he is using the threat to sow chaos and doubt in the election’s integrity so Republicans have “legitimate concerns” about Joe Biden‘s predicted triumph in November.
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, tweeted:
1. Congress sets the date of the election.
2. Presidents have NO power to delay, postpone or cancel elections.
3. These messages from Trump are intended to promote chaos and confusion, and undermine confidence in our elections. We REJECT all of it. pic.twitter.com/lN4VoxF4ty
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) July 30, 2020
Last week, Joe Biden warned donors Trump will turn his base against mail-in voting in an attempt to “indirectly steal” the 2020 election.
Trump and Republicans’ war on the postal service is a component to it.
The president of the United States is broadcasting that he is considering a coup to hold on to power. Make no mistake: We are teetering on the edge of autocracy. https://t.co/OXXgpWtIDC
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) July 30, 2020
No surprise, Trump’s pronouncement came at the same time the Commerce Department released data showing last quarter the U.S. economy suffered its largest contraction–32.9%–in the country’s history.
Trump suggesting delaying the election (he can't do this w/o congressional approval) seems to be one of his more obvious attempts to change the subject given this morning's wretched GDP numbers.
— Kyle Kondik (@kkondik) July 30, 2020
Trump is obsessed with the disproved myth of “voter fraud.”
He even claimed–without evidence–the only reason he did not secure the poplar vote against Hillary Clinton in 2016 was because three to five million (the popular vote margin by which Secretary Clinton overshadowed him) voted “illegally.”
Even though Donald Trump’s approval ratings are in the toilet, assuming his political demise is a fait accompli is a mistake.
Donald Trump is going to try to hold onto the office by any means necessary.
And if there is anything we have come to understand about Trump, it’s that “any means necessary” means ANY MEANS.
Trump is aware the Justice Department policy of not indicting sitting presidents is shielding him from criminal prosecution.
Upon leaving office, he can be indicted.
In their Newsweek piece, “How Trump Could Lose the Election–and Still Remain President,” CNBC founder Tom Rogers and former Senator Tim Wirth (D-CO) explain:
“This is how it happens, Biden wins. I don’t just mean the popular vote, he wins the key swing states, he wins the electoral college. President Trump says there’s been Chinese interference in the election. He’s been talking about Biden’s soft on China—China wanted Biden to win so he says a national emergency; the Chinese have intervened in the election.”
This is particularly ironic considering Trump’s former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, documents in his new book that Trump, during trade negotiations with China, pushed Chinese President Xi Jinping to agree to purchase American agricultural products as a means to bolster popularity with U.S. farmers to help with 2020 re-election prospects.
Tom Rogers adds:
“Just ten days ago [June 23] he [Trump] tweeted, he actually tweeted, ‘rigged 2020 election,’ millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries it will be the scandal of our times. so he’s laying the groundwork for this. So he does an investigation and [Attorney General Bill] Barr backs this up with all kinds of legal opinions about emergency powers that the president has.”
“Then what happens is it’s all geared towards December 14th. Why December 14th? Well, that’s the deadline when the electors of the states have to be chosen. Why is that key? Because that’s what the Supreme Court used in Bush v. Gore to cut off the Florida counting. They keep this national emergency investigation going through December 14th. Biden, of course, challenges this in the courts and says, ‘hey, we won these states, I want the electors that favored me named. The Supreme Court doesn’t throw the election to the Republicans as it did in 2000; instead it says, ‘look, there’s a deadline here.’ If they can’t be certified in these states because of this investigation going on, there’s a constitutional process for this.”
That constitutional process lies within the 12th amendment, which states:
“If no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.”
Republican are already running full-tilt voter suppression ahead of November.
All it takes is for only a couple of states–say, Texas and Florida–to cast some doubt over the election’s integrity for it to be tossed to the House of Representatives.
That may appear on the surface to be good news since Democrats hold the majority in the House.
But they won’t be the ones to certify the election.
Remember, the 12th amendment stipulates, “The votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote.”
With more Republican-controlled legislatures than Democratic, this means Trump can legitimately lose both the popular vote as he did four years ago and the electoral college, securing re-election.
There is already a precedent for this.
In the 1876 election that pitted Republican Rutherford B. Hayes against Democrat Samuel Tilden, Tilden clinched the popular vote but was one vote shy of the requisite electoral votes.
As Ohio Republican Congressman James Monroe (no relation to our fifth president) published in The Atlantic in October 1893, “The votes of Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and South Carolina, with an aggregate of 22 electors” would decide the election.
That election happening in the midst of Reconstruction, federal soldiers occupied the three southern states.
Ku Klux Klan presence was also heavy in all four states.
Congressional Democrats claimed soldiers intimidated and suppressed the votes of Southern Democratic voters.
With the threat of re-igniting the Civil War that had only concluded 11 years before, Republicans and Democrats hammered out a backroom deal to hand the presidency to Hayes if he agreed to withdraw Union soldiers from the South.
He was made president, thus ending Reconstruction.
Judging how this primary season has gone, it isn’t inconceivable for Republican-controlled states to revive the “three-to-five million illegal voters” lie Trump screamed about in 2016.
With the pandemic making in-person voting dangerous, could we reasonably argue Republicans are also weaponizing the virus to suppress voter turnout?
It’s a dark scenario, but maybe that’s why they’re so reluctant to provide the necessary relief we should have received by now.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently published a piece titled “Donald Trump’s re-election playbook: 25 ways he’ll lie, cheat and abuse his power.”
Some he’s already doing.
Consider also that at this time in 1988, former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis’ lead over George H.W. Bush was growing, casting doubt over Bush’s succeeding Ronald Reagan.
Then the Bush campaign went to the reliable Republican playbook and whipped up the racist “Willie Horton” TV ad that “proved” Dukakis was soft on crime.
Bush went on to be POTUS 41.
Understanding that millions are going to have their votes invalidated, we need to make sure everyone eligible is registered to vote.
If you are already registered, check your status to ensure you have not been thrown off the roles.
If you are uncomfortable with voting in person due to social distancing, request an absentee ballot (although several states and the U.S. Supreme Court are trying to make this more complicated). Contact your county Board of Elections for its procedures.
Add to everything the power of gerrymandering, social media lies, right-wing hate media, and foreign intervention–basically some of what propelled Trump into office in the first place–and we’ve got ourselves a messy fight.
This election needs to cast no doubt about Donald Trump’s legitimacy to remain in office.
Biden needs to win in a landslide to deflate Trump’s claims.
That’s exactly what his niece, Mary Trump, asserts in her recently released memoir, Too Much and Never Enough.
He will not go quietly.
He will not go willingly.
He will not respect the centuries-old tradition of a peaceful transition of power.
This November must be a referendum on how historically inept he has been.
Don’t take it for granted Joe Biden will win.
We need to make it happen.
Image credit: elpasomatters.org