As I’ve mentioned a few times, we are so locked in the house with Trump, so surrounded by his predation, that the nature and scope of much of his abuse and wrongdoing are only partly visible to us. We all see the constant attacks on vote by mail, the incessant claims that the election will be rigged, that he’ll have to decide at the time whether he’ll accept the verdict of the election. But taken together he is actually depriving the whole nation of the ability to conduct a free and fair election. He is hanging over us as we do the normal work of campaigning and election-ing the possibility he’ll disrupt the process, won’t accept the result or most directly that the whole process won’t end up mattering at all. This in itself is a grave crime against the constitution and the republic.
Often we think about his chatter as though it’s annoying and distracting but as long as he finally respects the results and doesn’t take steps to prevent people from voting that it will all have been words. No harm, no foul. But of course that isn’t remotely the case. Think about it this way. How much time are you thinking about who will win the election in the ordinary sense: i.e., who will get the most electoral college votes in a more or less free public vote. And how much are you thinking about whether the President will use his executive powers to disrupt the election or remain in power despite losing? I venture to say you’re probably spending quite a bit of time in that second mental space.
That can be by actively sabotaging the postal system to hamper or sow doubt in vote by mail, as is now clearly happening. It can mean frivolous lawsuits to delay and complicate the vote. He hints that he might “delay” the election, which amounts to saying he might cancel it altogether, neither of which he has any power to do. It might even end up meaning police actions. Much of the current push against vote by mail appears to be an effort to set up a situation in which the President is in the lead with election night results (not at all improbable) and then goes to court to prevent the mail-in vote being counted, using the premise that mail-in votes are somehow inherently tainted. Can he get away with that? Probably not. But with enough toady judges he might be able to drag things out past January.
It actually doesn’t matter what his plan is or even whether he has one: the uncertainty is a feature rather than a bug. The President is already saying the winner has to be known on election night, something that almost certainly won’t happen unless there’s a blowout result. Again, more doubt. More uncertainty. Will the election even matter? Will he use his power to stay in office?
While laying out these scenarios I should note that I think he will lose and I think he will leave office in January. Remember that the President doesn’t need a successor. Even if his successor is not known on January 20th, 2021, his term ends regardless and the constitution designates an unambiguous constitutional successor. Her name is Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. But all the uncertainty amounts to a grand campaign of psychological warfare against the American public and the election. That is a grave crime against the constitution and the republic itself.
Be strong. Be of good cheer. Don’t cower. But keep notes of the unfolding crimes before our eyes. Because accountability must come. And it will.