Warning of the very real chance of a "nightmare scenario" in which President Donald Trump misleads the American people over the results of the November election—or refuses to leave office voluntarily if voted out—Sen. Bernie Sanders is raising the alarm and mobilizing his army of supporters to be aware of just how dangerous a game the president is now playing.
In an interview with Politico and an email sent to his massive email list Friday, Sanders suggested that too many news organizations, social media companies, and lawmakers—in addition to the broader public—remain unaware of the manner in which Trump is laying the groundwork for a potentially devastating series of events.
"Trump is now using his lies and misinformation to sow confusion and chaos in the election process and undermine American democracy," stated in the email, sent to millions of his supporters on Friday. "In other words, he does not intend to accept the results of the election if he loses and leave office voluntarily. This is not just a 'constitutional crisis.' This is a threat to everything this country stands for."
Speaking with Politico earlier in the day, Sanders said one crucial thing to be done immediately is to educate people. "What we have got to do in the next two months is to alert the American people about what that nightmarish scenario might look like in order to prepare them for that possibility and talk about what we do if that happens," he said.
Earlier this week, Trump was accused by legal experts of committing an outright felony when he publicly called on voters in North Carolina to vote twice in the November federal elections. For Sanders, the comment should be seen as just part of a larger ploy by the president and the GOP to sow doubt about the integrity of the election while also creating conditions to actually steal power by refusing to concede if Trump is defeated by Democratic rival Joe Biden.
In his email, Sanders said:
At a time when he is behind in almost every national poll and in most battleground state polls, Trump recently stated, "The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election."
Think about what that means. What he is saying is that if he wins the election, that's great. But if he loses, it's rigged. And if it's rigged, then he is not leaving office. Heads I win. Tails you lose.
As Common Dreams reported earlier this week, Sanders is not alone in his concerns. After researchers at the analysis firm Hawkfish presented a scenario in which Trump could try to prematurely claim an election night victory on November 3 based on incomplete results—a so-called "Red Mirage" win based on same-day voting by Republicans but leaving out millions of yet-to-be-counted mail-in ballots by Democrats in key battleground states—it was clear to many that both the president and his GOP supporters will create untold havoc if not adequately confronted.
"The fact is that we will not get results on election night—it may take days or even longer for states to count the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots needed to conduct a safe election after Trump botched the response to the coronavirus," said Ryan Thomas, a spokesperson for Stand Up America, after Trump invoked the "Red Mirage" scenario on Wednesday, but inversing the implications by saying it would be Democrats "rigging" the delayed results against him.
Such "baseless charges being spread by Trump and his allies in the right-wing media about the election results," said Ryan, "are not only damaging to the foundation of our democracy, but also wholly unAmerican."
And Sanders agrees.
"Trump is not only trying to create chaos and delegitimize the election process," he warned in his email. "He and the Republican Party are now spending tens of millions of dollars in the courts to make it harder for people to vote."
To combat the ability of Trump to sow such misinformation, Sanders is calling for four things to be done without delay:
- With the pandemic and a massive increase in mail-in voting, state legislatures must take immediate action to allow for votes to be counted before Election Day, as they come in;
- The news media needs to prepare the American people to understand there is no longer a single Election Day and that we may not know the results on November 3;
- Social media companies must finally get their act together and stop people from using their tools to threaten and harass election officials and spread disinformation; and
- We need Congressional hearings with local officials to learn how they plan to handle the Election Day process and the days that follow.
While Sanders told Politico he hopes "with all of my heart that none of this happens," he admitted he is very much concerned that Trump will do nearly anything to cling to power and would even go so far as to refuse to leave office if defeated.
"There is a very high likelihood that Trump will contest the results if he loses," he told the outlet. "And it would be an unprecedented moment in American history and undermining everything that this country stands for if we have a president remain in office who lost the election."
The reality, he said in his email, is not easy to face but the truth must be told.
"In the United States we have an antiquated and inefficient process for conducting elections," he wrote. "And, today, that system is operating under the additional strain of the coronavirus pandemic. Sadly, instead of trying to improve this flawed situation Trump and many Republicans appear willing to exploit it to maintain power."
As his final message to supporters in the email, he said the hard work ahead in the weeks and months ahead is "to deliver Joe Biden an overwhelming victory on election night. But, we must also stay vigilant, and do everything possible to prevent Trump from staying in power if he loses."
And concluded: "Nothing less than our democracy is at stake."