By J.C. Bruce
What to make of Donald Trump’s suggestion that the presidential election be delayed?
There are several immediate takeaways:
First, and most obvious, is that he’s only doing this because he’s behind in the polls and is facing the very real prospect of losing his bid for re-election.
Second, he has no authority whatsoever to delay the election, and even if he could his term of office expires at noon on January 20, 2021, election or no election.
Third, his claim that voting by mail will lead to a “fraudulent” outcome is an outright lie.
So what’s up with all this?
Let’s start with the tweet he tossed out on Thursday:
“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???”
Typical of Trump, he doesn’t outright say he will try to find a way to delay the election, he just nudges the idea out there with multiple question marks, like baiting a hook and seeing if any fish will bite. When the inevitable backlash hits, he can always fall back and say, hey, I never said I would do it.
Mary L. Trump’s psychological analysis of Trump in her bestselling book, Too Much and Never Enough, paints a portrait of a diseased mind. It’s never enough for Trump to win, others must lose for him to feel complete. In his mind, he can never lose as that would represent a kind of psychic death. Any perceived failure is “fake” or a “hoax” because the only way he could lose is if someone cheated.
Hence the attack on mail-in ballots, criticism of the “fake” news media, the recent shaming of Dr. Anthony Fauci. The list is long.
It has, of course, been part of the broader Republican strategy for decades to suppress voter participation. As Trump himself has noted, when voter turnout his high, Republicans lose.
Indeed, were it not for a quirk in our Electoral College system, Hillary Clinton would be president today as she garnered millions more votes than Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Does that render Trump’s 2016 victory “fraudulent?” Of course not. The rules are the rules.
So when he sees his chances faltering in 2020, what are his options? Well, maybe change the rules? Hence the trial balloon.
This is not a surprise. He’s hinted at it before. And if he saw a clear path to pursue this there is no question he would do so, democracy be damned.
What is truly disheartening are the number of people who have drunk the Kool-Aid and would go along with him.
There is a clear and present danger to our democracy, and it is us. Too many Americans are entirely too at ease with the notion of authoritarian rule.
What drives this? Racism, for sure. The collapse of the middle class (largely at the hands of Republicans). The sense that the system is rigged against ordinary Americans. A general feeling of hopelessness. And the partisan divide that has split our country more severely than any chasm since the Civil War.
This discontent helped propel Trump into the White House over more traditional, establishment Republicans (and could be seen, too, among Democrats who supported Bernie Sanders over Clinton).
But could any of us have anticipated just how deranged this man would be?
It has always been the core weakness in the notion of a democratic republic: The people, damn them, have the power to wreck it.
This year’s election will be a test of whether we are strong enough to remain a democracy. The contrast in choices facing voters could not be more stark.
And the fact that we have a president who would even entertain the idea of postponing an election should terrify all Americans.