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.
… but they don’t do it. As you may have seen, it was widely reported that voter turnout for the election last week was the lowest since 1942, when the population may have been preoccupied by other matters. As tabulated by the United States Election Project , only 36.4% of the population eligible to do so voted. Within individual states there was a wide-ranging result. Indiana had the worst voter turnout at 28% and Maine had the best at 59.3%. While non-presidential election years are historically lower than when the presidency is up for election, such a low turnout is shameful.
There is much speculation as to why Americans do not vote and I cannot pretend to know why there is such low turnout. Some speculate that the low turnout this year was the result of a voter “protest” — not voting so as to show displeasure with the candidates. If this is the case, then I am not sure what impact those citizens thought that they were going to have. Somebody is going to get elected whether or not everyone votes. Non-voting only allows the respective base voters to dictate the results. Anyone that did not vote (and allowing for the fact that there are some people who were truly unable to vote for circumstance beyond their control) has no right to complain about the course our country takes with its incoming crop of elected officials. Not voting to protest the candidates is about as silly of a logic train as I can imagine in a democracy. As the saying goes, elections have consequences, and not voting increases the likelihood that as a society, we are not going to like those consequences.
I also truly hope that in the next two years (until the next election) I do not hear any politician of any stripe saying “what the American people want” based on the outcome of this election cycle. How can anyone possibly know what all of America wants (no one ever calls me to ask), especially when only about one-third of our fellow citizens participated. The primary purpose of an election in this country is to allow the American people to indicate what they want. I cannot believe that nearly two-thirds of the country simply does not care.
Some western nations — most famously Australia — have mandatory voting. I do not advocate that as I am not sure that it would work in our society and I can think of some serious “cons” to the “pro” of getting everyone involved. At least it would eliminate the need for the millions of dollars spent this year to get out the vote, money that could best be spent on other things, although I suppose it does help the economy, or at least the advertising industry and political consultants. The biggest argument against it in my mind (besides our national aversion to mandatory anything having to do with government) is that it would lead to people voting for officials or ballot measures of which little to nothing is known by the voter. Although that happens enough as it is.
The irony of this low voter turnout was brought home to me on Tuesday with the celebration of Veteran’s Day. Universally, people from all walks of life thanked our service men and women for their devotion to our country. Many in their tributes mentioned the right to vote and how precious that right is to us. A better tribute to our veterans than celebrity public service announcements would be for people to actually go out and vote. The defense of that right comes at a high cost. A visit to Arlington National Cemetery, especially Section 60 where many veterans of our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, is a stark reminder. I have occasion to visit the National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland from time to time. One only has to spend about five minutes in any part of the hospital to see the tragic results of sending our young men and women to war. The results impact not only the lives of these young veterans, but also their families and friends. All are easy to spot and none ask for our sympathy or for anything else. I am amazed at their positive spirit and determination.
I often think of the young people I see there when I hear our elected leaders arguing for military involvement in this spot or another. It becomes real when you visit Section 60 or the military hospital in Bethesda. It would be good for all of our leaders to think beyond the political abstract and think in terms of real people being asked to sacrifice their future and their lives. These young folks will answer the call to go in harm’s way, but to them such decisions are not abstractions or theories or political gamesmanship. It is real.
And yet, we can only muster 36.4% of our eligible voters that manage to make it the polls.