As the presidential race grinds on, more blue-leaning voters are expressing worry that Trump will “cancel the election.”
I don’t doubt that there are moments when Trump likes the idea of being a dictator or some kind of “president for life.” After all, he’s joked about it multiple times. But then, he has a history of both bluster and contradiction, so it’s hard to know how seriously to take him at any given moment. He could very well be fine with walking away after a single term to pursue other narcissistic projects that don’t demand as much of his time. For what it’s worth, Melania would mostly likely be thrilled if she didn’t have to put up with four more years.
Concerns about an “imperial presidency” are real, of course. The office began accruing more staff and power under FDR, and the burgeoning accelerated as time went on, especially after 9/11. This trend has plowed forward regardless of which party holds the White House, and no branch of government has attempted to check it in any meaningful way. Roll-backs have not been even lightly entertained, let alone undertaken. For this reason, Trump is the most powerful president in US history simply for being the current one.
This week, the subject of presidential power flared up in the media because Trump remarked at a press conference: “When somebody’s the president of the United States,” he claimed, “the authority is total.”
Constitutionally, that’s total bunk. Well-known attorney Floyd Abrams stated that: “President Trump’s assertion… is not just a breezy overstatement of his powers; it is a prime example of constitutional illiteracy.”
Trump is not alone in his illiteracy. I grew up in Nebraska, and it seemed like a lot of people there believed that kind of thing. But how different are the blue voters now when they assert that Trump will just “cancel” the election? Isn’t that just as blithe?
I understand that people can get a perverse thrill from throwing around this kind of thing, but a sober look—as laid out here: “What Happens If Trump Tries To Cancel The Election Because Of The Coronavirus?”—reveals that “a president cannot defer an election unilaterally. And even with support in much of Congress and the states, it would be extremely difficult, perhaps logistically impossible, to postpone the presidential general election.”
To wit, the process of how presidential elections and terms are decided is full of devilish details that can’t just be lightly tossed aside. A multitude of authorities would have something to say, including 50 different states with their legislatures and governors.
Extralegally, the corporate elite would probably prefer to avoid the “bad optics” of a canceled election. Social upheaval and uncertainty can be bad for the bottom line.
And what about the military? Would all the top brass just willingly go along? How about all the enlisted people? Aren’t there some who take their oaths to defend the Constitution very earnestly?
So no, I don’t really think that “canceling the election” is as easy as just saying it, even with COVID-19.
As for his recent assertion of “total” authority, Trump has gotten pushback from Republicans too. Keep in mind that “state’s rights”—not the racist dog whistle sense of that phrase, but the legitimate constitutional concept—is a deadly serious subject for a whole crowd out there.
But most importantly, Trump doesn’t have to cancel the election to stay in power. Not when there’s so many ways to just steal it, as the Republicans have been getting better and better at doing for years.
Voter suppression of likely Democratic voters is a real thing, but people don’t think about it because the mainstream media doesn’t talk about it. One has to follow the work of independent journalists like Greg Palast to keep up on the subject.
Disproportionally affected by voter suppression are people of color, who are more likely to vote for Democrats. So ignoring these issues is also racist. It should be a scandal that, in the year 2020, black people are still being prevented from voting. That it’s not betrays the white supremacy inherent in elite circles, including the mainstream media.
Being worried about whether Trump will cancel the election is based on surmises. Conversely, the lack of free and fair elections in this nation is factual.
Here, then, are eight ongoing syndromes afflicting our elections that mean Trump doesn’t have to “call off” anything to stay in power:
8) Voters fraudulently removed from the rolls
Various methods are used for this, but two very effective ones have been the Interstate Crosscheck program (developed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach); and “postcard purges, in which voters must return a postcard from the state in order to retain their registration. This second method was used to illegally nullify over 300,000 voter registrations in Georgia.
7) Reduction in the number of polling stations, especially in areas where POC live
GivingThis situation in red Texas was notorious this year, but even “blue” Los Angeles did it in the recent Democratic primary. See “Feature or Bug? Super Tuesday Plagued by Long Lines, Closed Polling Stations and Systemic Failure.”
This results in voting machines that are malfunctioning or just broken. POC are more likely to live in districts with such equipment.
5) Voter ID laws that disproportionally affect POC
Also affected are younger people, who move often. College students in particular face hurdles to voting. Such shenanigans have gotten much worse since the Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013.
4) Voters made to use “provisional” ballots instead of real ones
If a voter finds that their name isn’t on the list, or they don’t have the right ID, they are often given a “provisional” ballot, but these ballots are often not counted. Guess who is disproportionally given provisional ballots? That’s right—people of color.
3) Shady electronic voting machines
This article lists eight reasons why electronic voting machines are a bad idea. Ample evidence shows that they are easily hackable. In one case, an 11 year old was able to hack a voting machine! Many machines don’t provide a paper trail, so the results can’t be audited. Differences between exit poll results and announced totals suggest tampering. On top of all that, machine manufacturers often have close ties to the Republican party.
2) Ballots just not counted
In 2016, 70,000 votes in black-majority Detroit were not counted. Trump “won” the state by only 11,000 votes. This is only one example.
These are all ways that Republicans try to cheat. Each of these is well-documented. Arguably, Trump would have lost in 2016 if these things had been different. Why are they allowed to stand? That question brings us to the number one reason that Trump doesn’t need to cancel the election:
1) The Democrats aren’t really trying to win anyway
The DNC leadership and their friends in the corporate media successfully pushed out the candidate most likely to beat Trump: Bernie Sanders. (The DNC accomplished this in part through apparent rigging of the primary vote totals, so no, the Republicans don’t own voter suppression.) Certainly, Sanders made mistakes (not the least of which was dropping out prematurely) but a formidable deck was stacked against him from the beginning.
For now, they’re propping up Biden, who is sure to be gleefully shredded by Trump between now and November. It’s true that they could also put someone else in at the convention, like NY governor Cuomo, but there’s nobody with Sanders’ popularity. Of course, regardless of what polls say, the seven points mentioned above still stand. If people can’t vote, or if they can but their votes aren’t counted, then it doesn’t matter who they support.
Voter suppression is the elephant in the room in 2020. It was in 2016, too, and I find it amazing that the trauma of Trump’s victory didn’t lead to first exposing and then rooting out the widespread fraud. But then, as you’ll recall, Clinton’s loss was blamed on “RUSSIA!” for two and a half years, to the exclusion of every other issue or element. Now here we are with another election around the corner, and there’s nothing to show for all that time and energy wasted on Russiagate, and voter suppression is worse. Still, nearly nobody is paying attention.
Could Trump try to cancel the election in November? Maybe. But that’s speculation and right now we know something for sure: literally millions of people have been disenfranchised who are disproportionally Democratic voters, and innumerable roadblocks exist for those who have retained their registration. This loss of voting rights might not fire up the adrenaline as much as breathless alarm about imminent dictatorship, but the result is virtually identical: the death of democracy.