Donald Trump is on a mission to wreck the November election, and with it, he’ll have dealt a body blow to U.S. Constitutional democracy. Never before have we seen a President exert so much effort to undermine an election.
This is a unique year with a pandemic that makes in-person voting risky for many people, both those voting and perhaps especially for those working the polls who are often older people. Mail-in voting, to the extent possible, is seen as safe and necessary during this health crisis. Mail-in voting is already common a majority of states, and five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — conduct voting almost exclusively by mail.
Despite this, Trump is working overtime sowing doubt, predicting mail-in voting will be rigged with massive fraud. He claims mail-in voting is inherently corrupt — but allows for a few select exceptions: Absentee voting is OK, which he does, and all mail-in balloting is OK in Florida and Arizona which are both led by friendly Republican governors.
Attack on the Postal Service
Trump has aimed special fire at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) claiming it will be unable to handle millions of ballots — despite handling billions of items during the holidays between catalogs, holiday cards and gifts. He claims there’s waste and inefficiency, which might be true, but he’s had four years to address the problem. You’d think it could wait three months longer, but no. Trump has chosen this moment, just 90 days before a critical pandemic election, to shake the place up. To lead the charge, he’s designated Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General. It’s worth mentioning that DeJoy donated $1.2 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign and has no prior USPS experience.
On Friday, August 8, DeJoy fired five top postal officials and reassigned 23 others. Other actions taken in the last week or so include a prohibition on overtime and removal of postal sorting machines from Post Offices across the country. Pictured here are sorting machines stacked behind a U.S. Post Office on Broadway Avenue here in Cleveland.
Trump, who has raised deflecting blame to an art form, is lately blaming the Democrats for not providing necessary funds to avoid all this upheaval at the Post Office. Back in April however, Trump threatened to veto the entire CARES Act if it included any funds for the Post Office. In the end, an agreement was reached with the Treasury Department authorizing USPS to borrow $10 billion under the CARES Act, but this amount is insufficient.
Voter Access is the Real Issue, Not Voter Fraud
Let no one be fooled. If Trump wanted mail-in voting and the Post Office to work, he would make it so. Republicans would fall into line as they always do, and on this issue the Democrats would be in favor also. It would happen. But in April Trump tweeted the real reason he opposes mail-in voting: it “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
So we come find the real issue is voter access. Mail-in balloting removes obstacles to voting, which enables more people to participate. Since these people may not vote Republican, however, that’s not a good thing. It behooves Trump to do what he can to prevent these “unreliable voters” from participating at all.
“Voter fraud” serves as a smokescreen, a plausible pretext to justify suppressing voting rights. In addition, the assertion of massive voting by so-called “illegal aliens” has the side benefit of advancing a racist characterization of non-white immigrants that plays well with a segment of Trump’s base. I think he sees this as boosting his chances.
Looking Back at 2016 to Understand 2020
Trump’s positions are guided strictly by what’s good for him personally. To understand what he’s doing and saying now in 2020 it’s helpful to look at 2016. As most will recall, Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million but Trump exceeded the required 270 electoral votes to become President.
(Before going further, let me be clear on one point: Trump was the legitimate winner of the 2016 Presidential Election. While it seems unfair when looking at the popular vote, election outcomes in the United States are based on the Electoral College under Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution. We can debate the merits of the Electoral College — and I personally think it’s outlived whatever function it once had, like our appendix — it is nonetheless law until overturned by a Constitutional Amendment.)
In 2016, on the eve of the election with the polls against him, Trump railed against the Electoral College as a “disaster for democracy.”
But then, as it turned out, the Electoral College enabled him to squeeze out a victory despite losing the popular vote. Now suddenly Trump was trumpeting the “genius” of the Electoral College!
But still, it wasn’t enough that he’d won. The popular vote bruised his ego and to this day Trump pushes totally unsubstantiated claims about millions voting illegally including undocumented workers, people bussed in, walking dead, dogs and maybe aliens too.
There is no supporting documentation backing any of this up. But then he went further. In an interview with ABC’s David Muir in January 2017 Trump asserted that none — zero — illegal votes among these supposed millions would have been cast for him. All illegal votes would have been for Clinton exclusively. These are huge sweeping assertions pulled out of thin air. (The full interview is on YouTube.)
It’s not enough for Trump to win, as he did! There’s a complex psychological dynamic at work also. Much is said about his narcissism. I personally see him as very insecure. The popular vote loss has stuck in his craw all these years.
My Predictions for 2020
I expect we will see Trump double and triple-down with everything described here so far, and probably more. Little could surprise me at this point. In the end the election will go one way or the other, at which point I predict the following.
IF HE LOSES
He’s laid the groundwork to claim the election was rigged and fraudulent. “I told you so!” he’ll exclaim. He can assert cheating of all kinds, stoke conspiracy theories, sue to invalidate the result and, if necessary, even give tacit approval for his supporters to fight in the streets.
IF HE WINS
He will declare it a successful, fair and free election — provided he wins popular as well as electoral — and will pronounce that his Administration and the Postmaster General did an outstanding job to successfully overcome extraordinary challenges.
Am I right? Time will tell. Let’s talk in November!
Debunking the Myth of Voter Fraud
◼︎ Has there ever been voter fraud?
◼︎ Will there be voter fraud in the future, including maybe this coming election?
Probably so. I have little doubt.
◼︎ Is voter fraud a massive problem that has tipped elections and expected to again?
The fraud in “voting fraud” isn’t happening at the ballot box but with the measures supposedly protecting against voter fraud. In reality these measures disenfranchise low-income and minority communities, and students since young people are presumed to be liberal. All manner of burdensome requirements are created especially around ID cards. Some IDs are accepted, some aren’t. Some IDs alone are insufficient but require letters attesting to their authenticity.
The Alabama legislature, for instance, passed a strict voter ID law in 2011 that required IDs to be issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and then began reducing the number of DMV branches around the state and their hours. According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, about 118,000 registered voters — disproportionately Black and Latino — were unable to get to a DMV office to obtain these IDs. After a Federal probe the state began reopening some of the DMV branches, but the fact of voter suppression remains. This is but one example.
There has been numerous and extensive studies looking at voter fraud and none of these investigations have produced any evidence of fraud beyond isolated cases — and none that affected the outcome of an election. The Brennan Center for Justice has cataloged these investigations in a document titled Debunking the Myth of Voter Fraud.
In 2018, Trump’s own Voting Integrity Commission, led by Republicans, completed its work after being unable to substantiate any claims of widespread voter fraud.
In summary, “voter fraud” is largely a myth. It’s a sniffle that’s been declared a cancer.
Defend the Right to Vote!
When discussing elections and candidates there’s an elephant in the room.
- Does voting matter?
- Does it really matter which candidate or party wins an election?
It’s not a simple question and there’s not a simple answer.
At the local micro level I’d say yes. Elected officials that are up close and personal — mayor, commissioner, councilperson, school board member — can have a direct impact on our daily lives and with their close proximity it’s possible we might have personal contact with them.
At a broader macro level, I have to say not so much. We’ve all heard the adage of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. There isn’t that much difference between the two parties, though I have to concede these are not normal times! Trump seems uniquely bad at a uniquely difficult time. It’s hard to imagine how any other person from either party could have managed the health crisis this poorly and brought us to the miserable position we find ourselves in today.
There’s a case to be made that neither party, and hence neither candidate, truly represents the mass of working people in this country — that is, you and me. This is an important discussion I will return to in a future post. For now, the fundamental right to vote is at stake and this is my focus today.
The life and recent death of John Lewis illustrates this point. Voting is a vital and key component of political freedom. The right to vote was an historic conquest won through struggle and blood. It’s of paramount importance that it be defended, preserved and expanded. Elections are one of the ways we get out to promote and test ideas, and move society forward.
It’s vital that everyone have full and equal access to safe and efficient voting. That’s not what we have now — and what we do have is in jeopardy.
Defend the Right to Vote!
The final section has been revised since the initial posting.
A Request to my Facebook Friends: If you have a comment I encourage you to enter it below instead of on Facebook. This way everyone can participate in the conversation!
A Request to Everyone: All opinions are welcome. I only ask that we remain civil and respectful of one another.