Trump Will Do Whatever He Can Get Away With

Jack Holmes
Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

From Esquire

On the day John Lewis was set to be laid to rest, the American president floated delaying the 2020 election. Immediately, the speculation about a Great Distraction began: was he upset at the prospect of a news cycle dominated by discussion of Lewis's towering American legacy? Was he trying to move attention away from the latest round of catastrophic economic news, as unemployment claims are once again on the rise and we learned annualized GDP fell at a record pace in the second quarter? Is his campaign's internal polling really this bad?

None of this is really the point. The American president has been waging a campaign to undermine the legitimacy of American elections since 2016. Back then, when he presumably thought he would lose, he would yell and scream about how the election against Hillary Clinton was going to be rigged. When he lost the popular vote by 3 million, he hollered about how "millions and millions" had committed in-person voter fraud. This time around, with a pandemic raging, his focus has shifted to vote-by-mail. (Having watched 150,000 of their fellow citizens die after contracting a virus the national government has given up trying to control, it seems many Americans are eager to avoid voting in person.) This culminated with an Official Message From the President on Thursday morning that managed to attack the legitimacy of an election that hasn't happened yet, call for that election to be delayed, and also be very stupid all at once.

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???

There is no significant difference between voting by mail and absentee voting. The main distinction here is that Trump claims it's OK that he voted absentee in the last election—along with 15 other top officials in his administration who voted remotely—but that it's not OK for others to do so. There is no evidence that any significant voter fraud has ever occurred with mail-in ballots. This is just like when he used to yell about in-person voter fraud, which is also a negligible problem. It's almost like any vote is fraudulent if it's not for him. Finally, he suggested it's not safe to vote in person now, despite his relentless push to reopen schools and everything else. It's almost like he doesn't really give a shit if you live or die.

This really should be considered another impeachable offense, another instance in which Trump is bulldozing the national interest in favor of his own and betraying his oath to defend the Constitution. It's easy to brush it off, considering he was boosting a Long Island pizza spot an hour later, presumably because its owner praised him on television. (He even tagged the Fox Business show he was live-tweeting.) The man is, after all, a clown. But his Secretary of State is already testifying before Congress that the decision on when the election will be held will be up to the Department of Justice. What, dude?

It's a mistake to see fascism as the exclusive remit of the world-historical villains of the 20th century, particularly now that there are unidentified federal agentssecret police—throwing citizens in unmarked cars. These people do what they're allowed to get away with, and we've allowed this clown to get away with plenty. He's been getting away with it his whole life. He owes the vast majority of his inheritance—and his shape-shifting wealth—to tax fraud. He escaped bankruptcy by bringing his company public and screwing over investors. Do not comfort yourself with talk of how he can't do that, or it's against the law. What has that ever mattered before? The laws are not real if there's no one to enforce them. Power exists only for those who wield it, and Democrats still seem to think they're up against a particularly crude Mitt Romney. He will do whatever he can get away with. Even if he doesn't succeed in fully destroying the election, he will render it illegitimate to his followers and attempt to make Mar-a-Lago his Elba.

All this on the day of the funeral of John Lewis, a man who did as much to make American democracy real as anyone who has ever lived. He was prepared to lay down his life to do so on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and he nearly did. "The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society," he wrote in a remarkable op-ed shortly before his death, which was published Thursday. "You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it." That goes for the American republic, too. The current president may not even need to stay in office to destroy it.

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