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President Trump’s attempt to rock the vote sends a shudder through the political world

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President Donald Trump is in a tight spot, behind in national polls and barely ahead in Texas, where no Democrat has won a presidential race since 1976. When he said the other day that “nobody likes me,” nobody disagreed with him.

His situation sets the environment for Republicans and Democrats up and down the November ballot in Texas. If the Republican president does well, that’s probably to the benefit of other Republicans on the ballot, even if the state doesn’t have straight-ticket voting anymore. If he does poorly, it could spell a good day for the Democrats. And in an election where a half dozen seats in Congress and the Republican majority in the Texas House are at stake, the top candidate’s performance is critical.

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On Thursday morning, the president retreated to his safe space — Twitter — where he ruminated on the impending election that could make him the first one-term president in almost three decades.

“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???,” Trump tweeted.

That sent a shudder through the political world. Democrats predictably started hacking away — or continued hacking away — at Trump. But Republicans, who’ve been very cautious about creating any distance between themselves and a president with strong support from their party’s voters, made room for themselves this time.

You can’t delay an election with a tweet, and you can’t delay one from the White House, either. That’s not what this is about. Trump is feeding doubts about the reliability and trustworthiness of U.S. elections, leaning on urban legends about the frequency of voter fraud — yes, it exists, and no, it’s not pervasive. Those doubts support the notion that any election that doesn’t reelect the incumbent is illegitimate.

But doubts like that don’t start and stop with the presidential race. Everybody on the ballot — winners and losers — agrees to accept the results when they enter the contest.

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Trump isn’t proposing to get rid of mail ballots. He casts them himself. He’s making a false distinction between absentee ballots, which are cast in the mail, and universal voting by mail, which is a version of the same process, with different rules about who is eligible.

But this is clearly a threat to the system we use to choose the people who represent us. Want to knock over a building? Destroy the foundation. Want to tear down a democracy? Destroy confidence in free elections.

It’s disquieting when the kooky stuff in politics comes straight from the top.

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There are always people like U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, who thrive on flagrant nonsense and outlandish skylarking; he’s the congressman who speculated that wearing a mask is what infected him with COVID-19. But he’s also just one of 535 members of Congress, and hardly the only one saying strange things all the time.

But the system almost always sorts seeds from stems on the way to the top. The 2016 election, starting in the Republican primary, didn’t do that. One refrain from that contest — that here, finally, was a candidate who wasn’t afraid to burn it all down — was dead on.

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The voters who wanted to kick the establishment aren’t upset about the president’s tweeting.

The voters who thought any Republican at all would be better than Hillary Clinton kicked their problems down the road and now confront the consequence.

If Trump were to lose the general election while successfully planting widespread doubts about the results, he’d be leaving the country in shambles for his successor — and for anyone elected to Congress or a state legislature in what could then be framed as a shady election that put illegitimate officials in place.

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If he’s not winning, nobody’s winning. He’s willing to risk the whole establishment of government to prove it.

That’s not a new story in history, but it’s new to us.


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2020 Election

‘This is a big deal’: Iowa Gov. ends voting ban for people with felony convictions

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The new executive order means there is now no U.S. state categorically banning people with former convictions from voting.

In a development heralded as "a historic sea change," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order on Wednesday overturning the state's policy of permanently banning those with felony convictions from voting.

"Today we take a significant step forward in acknowledging the importance of redemption, second chances, and the need to address inequalities in our justice system," said Reynolds, a Republican, whose order (pdf) is expected to restore voting rights to roughly 40,000 people.

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2020 Election

‘So many bootlicking hacks’: Trump campaign ignites mockery with ‘hilarious’ list of potential debate moderators

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Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday asked the Commission on Presidential Debates to move up the last presidential debate to the first week in September, according to Axios. In his letter to the commission, he also included a list of suggested moderators.

The list included several mainstream journalists, such as Norah O'Donnell of CBS News and David Muir of ABC News. But it also contained a number of right-wing pundits, like Hugh Hewitt.

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2020 Election

Trump’s unhinged fans get even more detached from reality as his chances fade

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A pandemic is spiraling out of control and Donald Trump's reaction is to roll his eyes and say, "It is what it is." Unsurprisingly, polling data shows that his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, is pulling ahead, not just in national polls, but in a number of battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, none of which Trump can afford to lose. After all, the incumbent has nothing real to run on. The economy is the worst it's been since the Great Depression of the 1930s, Americans are losing health insurance by the millions, and Republicans are responding by trying to shortchange unemployment benefits for the millions of people who've lost their jobs.

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