Sure, I had “Donald Trump Attempts to Cancel US Democracy Itself” on my 2020 Bingo Card. I even had the excuses he would use (mail-in voting/Coronavirus) and the method of notification (tweet). But, let’s be honest, so did pretty much everyone else.
It is, at the same time, an unprecedented and frightening attack on the fundamentals of American Democracy, plunging the US one giant step closer to dictatorship, and a move so predictable I could have written most of this post a few months ago and just filled in the blanks with details today.
This morning, US President 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
No, He Can’t Just Do That
In case you were wondering, no, he can’t, on his own, postpone a Presidential Election, or any election, for that matter. Unlike parliamentary democracies such as Canada, where Minority Governments are a thing, US election dates are fixed.
The Presidency is a four-year term, no more, no less, period. That’s why, when a president is impeached, steps down, or passes away before the four years are up, the office and all of its powers transfer to the next one in line instead of holding an election when it’s not the appropriate time.
The only way to move the voting day, even slightly, is with a law passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then signed by the President. Changing the date a new president takes office or an incumbent president starts their second term, on the other hand, would take a constitutional amendment. (As a Canadian, thanks to Cenk Uygur of TYT for this info, which apparently most Americans learn in high school civics.)
Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi and her sometimes lackluster legislative opposition to Trump, there’s no way she lets him get away with this one in the House. Meanwhile constitutional amendments take years, not the weeks, and the election is fewer than 100 days away, so also a no-go.
So Why Worry?
So, if Trump can’t legally pull off what he suggested in his tweet, why worry? Putting aside the fact that legality doesn’t seem to be that much of an obstacle for him, the real concern is the tweet itself.
While it’s structured like a typical Trump toilet tweet, there are some noticeable differences:
- He only uses all caps twice to highlight specific words.
- He says there is a difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting (there isn’t) in an attempt to preempt a common argument that his opposition to mail-in voting is hypocritical because he votes absentee himself and wrong because US troops stationed overseas have been doing it for years.
- There are no glaring grammatical errors.
- It was posted at 8:46am, a good time to be in the morning news cycle, and not at 3am like other tweets.
All this leads me to believe that someone else read it and edited it before he sent it. Maybe someone else even wrote it. This is Trump on-prompter written to sound like Trump off-the-cuff.
It’s not the unhinged ramblings of a troll. It’s a political test balloon.
They’re seeing how many people will go along with subversion of democracy either before or after the election and laying the groundwork for a challenge to the election results if Trump loses. And it looks like he might very well lose.
Sure, the polls in 2016 were saying that Hillary Clinton would win, but not by as much as they are saying Joe Biden will win this time. Also not in the same places – Trump’s poised to lose the suburbs hard.
Biden’s strategy of staying at home, poking his head out occasionally and letting Trump destroy himself in the spotlight seems to be working. Subverting American Democracy itself may be the current president’s last option.
We all knew it would come to this, but that doesn’t make it any less scary.
Featured Image: Painting by Samantha Gold