The President of the United States wants to take away your vote. He tells us this now almost daily. Four years ago he told us that he actually won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election. On 27 November 2016 he claimed that “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” He had no proof of that then and he still has no proof. It did not happen. Of course, for a president that has told over 20,000 documented lies, we should not be surprised that he lied about this.
He continues to make this claim, and now that the 2020 election is approaching, he continues to assert that it will be “rigged,” “fraudulent,” “corrupt” and a host of other unsubstantiated claims that may put the integrity of the election into question in some people’s minds. In a July 2020 interview with Fox News host Mike Wallace, the president (of the United States!) would not commit to accepting the results of the election if he lost.
Remember, even though he is a known liar, the president, just like Saddam Hussein did, tells us what he is actually trying to do. He is up front about it. In my opinion, he tells us what he is going to do — in this case, try to steal the election — because he knows no one will stop him. Appeals to honor, ethics or the law have no impact on him. Repeat after me: “He just doesn’t care.”
The key feature of his intended interference in the upcoming election is his knowledge that he is likely to lose. He created an Electoral College victory in 2016 by the slimmest of margins (roughly 75,000 votes spread out over three states) and is unlikely to get more votes in 2020. Low turnout and protest votes against Secretary Hillary Clinton allowed him to sneak by. He knows that. The conditions in 2020 are totally different and the voter turnout will be very large — a fact not in his favor. What to do? Suppress the vote, claim fraud, and fight with every available tool in his dirty tricks bag to keep votes from being counted.
Is this my usual hyperbolic ranting about the Worst. President. Ever? No. The president told us what he is going to do. Right up front. In July he was complaining that the results of the election would not be available for “days, months or even years later.” He also said, wait for it, that the election results could be tied up in court for years. Aha! What is Mr. Trump’s favorite weapon? The courts. He sues everybody about everything. All the time. Rest assured that if he loses the election there will be a prolonged legal effort to invalidate ballots or even the results in key states that he loses.
More forthright still, the president has taken to attacking the validity of the process surrounding voting by mail. He claims absentee ballots are okay (he and his family vote that way) but mail-in ballots are not. (Yes, I know that they are the same thing.) Again, there is no evidence of any nefarious activity. Here is really what he means, as he put in a May 2020 Tweet (in all caps): “MAIL IN VOTING WILL LEAD TO MASSIVE FRAUD AND ABUSE. IT WILL ALSO LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY. WE CAN NEVER LET THIS TRAGEDY BEFALL OUR NATION.” (It isn’t clear to me whether the tragedy is the end of the Republican Party or mail-in voting.)
In other words, the higher the turnout, by making it easier for people to vote during a pandemic, the less chance he has of winning.
What is he doing about it? Trying to destroy the United States Postal Service. As usual, he is upfront about it. I will relate the details of his scheme, but perhaps all you need to know is what he is continually saying, and to also think about the ramifications of what he is saying. Mr. Trump is blocking funding to the USPS to purposely keep the system from being able to handle the increased mail. Specifically, he is blocking 25 billion dollars for the post office and 3.5 billion to help states with the mailed ballots. This was supposed to be part of the Coronavirus aid package. His opposition is a major impediment to continuing the aid which ran out at the end of July. He explicitly tied them together in an interview on the Fox Business Network. But I’ll let him tell you how he is trying to disrupt a smooth election.
“Now they need that money to make the post office work, so it can take all of those millions and millions of ballots. Now, if we don’t make a deal, it means they won’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”
In May, the president installed a crony of his as Postmaster General. Since then over 30 seasoned leaders in the postal system have been reassigned, lay-offs have begun, there is a freeze on hiring and new required procedures have created great backlogs of undelivered mail. Think that will have an impact on mail-in (or absentee, if you prefer) voting? In addition, the new Postmaster General has decided that ballot information and ballots themselves will be treated as the class of mail with which they are marked. Traditionally, the states mail in bulk using third class rates with the knowledge that the postal system will move those pieces as if they were first class mail. So, if the states and the voters want to make sure that the ballots get out and back in on time, they have to spend millions of dollars more than before — states that are already seriously cash poor as they have worked to fight the pandemic.
All of this hurts everyday Americans. Millions receive needed prescriptions by mail. Others receive checks by mail. Business transactions are hurt. And on and on. All because the president is afraid of the voting results if Americans can vote without fear of catching a disease that has already killed over 165,000 of our fellow citizens.
Here is why it matters. First, 34 states currently have “no excuse” absentee ballots. That means you do not have to be out of the state to vote absentee. Other states have pending legislation to implement similar procedures. As more states move in that direction, the devil is in the details. States count absentee ballots if they are post marked on or before (some require at least a day before) Election Day. Thirty-two states require that the ballots reach election officials no later than, or the day before, Election Day. The other eighteen states have deadlines ranging from the day after to three days after to ten days after the election.(Some states have legislation pending that may increase or decrease the numbers with these requirements.)
Do you see a pattern here? Now you know why the president will provide no money for the postal system and why he placed a crony in charge of the system who is making changes that significantly slow down the process. Time matters.
So let’s sum it up. Mr. Trump is sabotaging the postal system to disenfranchise voters. It is probable that with the mailed ballots that make it in, the count will not be over on election night. It might be election week. Pretend that Mr. Trump is leading on Election Day in some key states that have large amounts of mail-in ballots. Over the following days, Mr. Biden overtakes Mr. Trump as the counts finish up. Mr. Trump calls it a fraudulent election and takes steps to overturn the results. He goes to court in every state that he claims he should have won. Chaos ensues. The mind can conjure all types of scenarios as to what he does in those circumstances. Possible nightmare scenarios.
Fret not, however, as all reputable scholars and Constitutional experts from all political views agree that the Constitution is clear that the president’s term ends at noon on 20 January 2021. Period.
If there is in fact no resolution to the election by then (inconceivable to me) then the third in line behind the former president and vice-president is the Speaker of the House.
President Nancy Pelosi.
Events unfolding around the country are the previews for coming attractions, and it won’t be fun. To look at what is happening in Portland Oregon one might see a trial run for more such activity — currently announced for, or underway in, Kansas City, Chicago and Albuquerque.
Going forward, remember that this is all right from the autocracy 101 hand book. I will explain my thinking in this piece, but two major things are happening. One is that Mr. Donald J. Trump is trying to get video to support his campaign claim that the cities are out of control and that “only I can fix it.” Second, and far more ominously, he is laying the ground work for declaring martial law leading into the election. Mr. Trump and his campaign know that he cannot win solely through the support of his base. He needs to keep people from voting for his opponent — voter suppression — and one way to do that is to intimidate the electorate and to make it too hard to vote. It is an election strategy that comes at the expense of American cities and their citizens. It threatens the very foundation of our democracy.
As a reminder, federal law enforcement units in full combat gear have been on the streets in Portland for about ten days. Theoretically, they are there to protect the federal court house from protesters. In fact, they have been patrolling the streets of the city picking up people that look like they might be willing to foment trouble. Let’s dive into this further.
The federal government has a duty and a right to protect federal property from destruction. In cases such as the court house in Portland, this would normally entail coordinating with the local city and state authorities for a cohesive plan and would amount to a defensive — rather than offensive — effort to keep trouble makers away. None of this is happening. There is no apparent coordination with local authorities — indeed the mayor and governor have explicitly asked those forces to leave — and they are definitely using offensive tactics with rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and other agents against the crowd. To be sure, there are trouble makers in the ranks of the protesters. However, the vast majority are peaceful. Additionally, with proper techniques and coordination, peaceful protesters are likely to cooperate in identifying the bad apples in the crowd as it is in the best interests of the other protesters to keep it peaceful and to not provoke an over reaction by law enforcement. By all credible accounts, after weeks of protests, the demonstrations in Portland had settled into a peaceful occasion and were slowly dwindling in size. That is until the federal authorities arrived and began using their storm trooper tactics. In military combat gear, the federal authorities wear no name tags or unit identification badges, only a small generic “police” tag on their camos. Reportedly, they are from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agencies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). One might ask who is guarding our borders from the supposed hoards coming across from Mexico if they are in Portland? One might also ask what training these particular agencies give to their agents regarding community policing?
If you think it is an exaggeration, look at this video of a Navy veteran trying to talk to some of the agents and getting beaten and pepper sprayed while not even raising his arms or making any threatening movements.
All of this on its own is bad. Very bad. But it portends worse things to come. Remember Mr. Trump’s words earlier this week.
“I’m going to do something, that I can tell you. Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. Look at what’s going on — all run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by the radical left.”
So, first of all, only Democrat mayors are “bad.” Secondly, there are currently no violent demonstrations in Philadelphia, Detroit or Baltimore or other cities he is going to “dominate.” This is pure, unabashed partisan politics using federal law enforcement agencies for his personal gain.
Additionally, the hypocrisy is all too familiar. The rationale behind the Portland deployment is to protect against citizens expressing their First Amendment rights on federal property. In 2018 Mr. Trump gave full pardons to two Oregonians — father and son — that set fire in 2016 to 139 acres of federal land during Red Flag Warning conditions, endangering firefighters working on another fire nearby. It resulted in a 40 day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by protesters supporting their cause. He considered these men to be patriots. Peaceful protesters in cities are considered to be criminals.
As I have written in this space before, I was very involved in figuring out Saddam Hussein’s next moves during Gulf War I. We figured out after awhile that he pretty much always announced what he intended to do. He couldn’t always carry it out, but he was pretty straightforward in his pronouncements. Mr. Trump is the same way. He announces exactly what he plans to do.
Here is the diabolical back drop to his strategy. In my 8 May piece “American Carnage” I wondered aloud about how Mr. Trump could have so badly botched the national response to the pandemic and opined that perhaps it was deliberate. I am now sure of it. He did not create the pandemic, but he is going to use it to his advantage. Similarly, he will use the Black Lives Matter movement to declare that they are terrorists working to destroy America. He already barely hides his racism in this regard. Yesterday in a speech he blamed Mexico (again) and the BLM protests for the spread of the Coronavirus in the South and Southwest. He repeatedly declares that if the Democrats win the election, they will “destroy the suburbs,” a not-so-subtle racist canard.
Many pundits and political experts, as well as average citizens, have wondered for weeks and months why Mr. Trump refuses to put forward a national effort to halt the pandemic and to address racial injustice. It dawned on me yesterday that as former Maryland Lt. Governor and National Republican Chairman Michael Steele explained on TV yesterday — this is his plan. In other words, he will use the chaos currently engulfing our country to his advantage. He will trot out again his beliefs that the the Constitution gives him “absolute power” and that “I alone can fix it.” These will form the basis for action on his part to interfere in an election that he is already claiming — nearly daily — is rigged. He is against mail-in ballots (even though he, his family, many of his aides and many service members vote by mail) and has installed a long-time ally as Postmaster General. Mail bags mysteriously disappearing? Mail trucks mysteriously bursting into flames? The imagination can run wild.
The point is that we will not succumb to an outright coup on his part. It will be gradual with incremental decisions and policies that set the stage for him to declare the election invalid and that he must stay on to save the country. He is on record multiple times, most recently in his Fox News interview with Mike Wallace, that he will not accept the outcome of the election if he thinks it’s rigged. Asked directly if he would accept the results he said,
“I have to see. Look — I have to see. No, I’m not just going to say yes. I’m not going to say no.”
Since many of the states will use mail-in ballots, it could be days or weeks before the official results are in. If the election is close as the polls close on Election Night, and the results change dramatically against Mr. Trump when the absentee, provisional and other ballots are counted, he could well declare the entire election a fraud and cancel it. He is on record with the 2018 Florida election — which was very close and looked as if it would go against his preferred candidates — as saying that only ballots counted on Election Day should be valid. He tweeted without offering a single piece of evidence,
“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible — ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night.”
Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis both won their races.
We already know that Mr. Trump will do anything that benefits him. There is no ethical, moral or legal bottom for him. He now has an Attorney General that acts as his personal attorney and shares Mr. Trump’s belief in an Imperial Presidency.
The U.S. military put Mr. Trump on notice after they were used in a political stunt at Lafayette Square in Washington D.C. for his bible thumping campaign photo op that they would not be used for political purposes. Thus, Mr. Trump went to his flunkies in DHS (the top position and most of the sub-agencies are headed by “acting” leaders that do not have Senate approval) in order to create his own personal police force to pursue his personal goals.
Some may think that this is a “Chicken Little” scenario. Alarmist. Couldn’t happen here. That’s not America. Stop hyperventilating. No way. I hope that you are correct. Personally, I am watching out for our “Reichstag Fire” moment.