Is it possible to be shocked and not surprised at the same time?
That’s how I felt when I read President Trump’s tweet: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting which is good) 2020 will be the most INACCURATE and FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
I was not surprised because Trump’s grandiosity, sense of entitlement, disrespect for our democratic norms, and disregard for the rights of others would inevitably result in Trump doing anything to retain power. Nevertheless, Trump’s tweet was shocking.
The election can’t be delayed. Doing so would violate our Constitution. Delaying the election is so obvious an unlawful power grab, it won little support from Republican leaders.
But Trump’s tweet accomplished two things. First, media attention was distracted from the devastating news the economy had shrunk by 32.9%. Secondly, he undermined the validity of the election, planting the idea that vote-by-mail is fraudulent.
In Washington state, vote-by-mail is secure, convenient and safe. Washingtonians don’t have to stand in line for hours to vote. We can study each issue carefully, taking time to vote. Vote-by-mail leaves a paper ballot documenting our votes. Our signatures prove we are the legally registered voter. And we don’t have to risk COVID-19 by voting in person.
Patriots across the nation have been discussing what to do if Trump refuses to accept defeat. This is not hyperbole. Trump has been telling us for years he might deny election results. In 2016, Trump alleged the election was rigged, and when asked if he would accept election results, he answered, “if I win.” After winning the 2016 Electoral College, but losing the popular vote by 3 million votes, Trump claimed, without evidence, that 3 million fraudulent votes had been cast. Later, realizing his math resulted in a tie vote, he claimed 5 million illegal votes.
Trump claims vote-by-mail would mean “Republicans would never win again.” Vote-by-mail does increase turnout. Is Trump assuming more people voting is bad for Republicans? In-person voting is likely to suppress the Democratic vote as they take COVID-19’s danger more seriously than voters who trust Trump’s downplaying of the risk.
Voting in person will likely spread COVID-19. The president’s opposition is just one more example of his lack of empathy and his willingness to violate his oath of office rather than protect Americans.
Trump’s tweet about voting by mail is terrifying because he’s laying the foundation for denying the election results. If it is a landslide victory for Joe Biden, then Trump will have little recourse but to whine and yield. If it’s a close election, we likely will be in real trouble.
Trump said: “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” Many fear that “certain point” would be Trump alleging election fraud, and proclaiming himself President of the United States. This could happen if the results are chaotic in several states.
Investigative journalist Greg Palast explains how election confusion could result in Trump retaining power in a “Constitutional coup.”
Suppose Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida exit polls indicate Biden won, but their right-wing legislatures refuse to certify the vote, claiming uncertain results. This could result in neither candidate attaining the required 270 national electoral votes to win. In this scenario, the 12th Constitutional Amendment requires the House of Representatives to decide the election. But each state gets only one vote. Wyoming (population 578,759) and California (population 39,512,223) each get one vote. Since there are more red states than blue states, Trump wins. Trump could win while having a massive popular vote against him.
USA Today reports 67 American leaders “including law professors, retired military officers, former senior U.S. officials, political strategists and attorneys” from both parties met by Zoom to explore how the 2020 election could play out. They concluded: “The winner may not, and we assess likely will not, be known on ‘election night’ as officials count mail-in ballots. This period of uncertainty provides opportunities for an unscrupulous candidate to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the process and to set up an unprecedented assault on the outcome.” Reviewing several scenarios, the group found only an undeniable Biden win would avoid “violent protests and a constitutional crisis.”
If you think Trump wouldn’t instigate civil conflict, think again. He often encourages violence. Both his niece, Dr. Mary Trump, and his ex-attorney, Michael Cohen, say he won’t yield power peacefully. To win re-election, by keeping the economy open, Trump denied the danger of COVID-19, demonstrating his callous willingness to watch Americans die.
Recent events have amplified election anxiety. Chris Wallace of Fox News says it’s “troubling” that Trump has repeatedly stated that “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” And with 46 states receiving letters from the U.S. Postal Service that they can’t guarantee mail-in ballots will be delivered on time, voters worry their ballots won’t be counted.
Trump will, almost certainly, deny a Biden win. A hallmark norm of democracy is the peaceful transfer of power. But Trump is preparing the groundwork for refusing to yield power. We can only hope for a landslide victory and peace.
Roger Ledbetter is a politically-active resident of the Valley. He and his family have lived in Snoqualmie since 1979. Contact him through the editor by email: email@example.com.