By John Gruber
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The president of the United States, on, of course, Twitter (random capitalization and frenetic punctuation sic):
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???
In 1845, Congress decided that Election Day would be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. If Trump wants to change that, he has to convince Congress — a likely impossible task. And the January Inauguration Day was enshrined in the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in 1933.
This is the biggest litmus test for maintaining democracy we’re going to get. No pretending you haven’t seen his tweet, no insisting he’s kidding, no waffling. If you enable the thought of delaying elections because of rumors and whims, you’re enabling the end of democracy.
In short, it is enormously consequential that the president of the United States would float such an idea — a true and genuine threat to American democracy. But: the system is holding up. Hours after the fact, no Republican has backed Trump’s contemptible spitball, and rather than hide or duck, many have stepped forward to flatly reject it, including the Republican leaders of both the House and Senate:
“Never in the history of the federal elections have we not held an election, and we should go forward,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, dismissed Mr. Trump’s suggestion in an interview with WNKY television in Bowling Green, Ky. “Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we’ll find a way to do that again this Nov. 3,” Mr. McConnell said.
This tweet is the low point in this whole years-long nightmare of a presidency, and yet simultaneously the reaction to the tweet is the high point. Democracy is the singular most important concept in our society, culture, and Constitution. Everything else, no matter how important, is secondary, insofar as our system of dealing with those issues depends upon democracy through open and fair elections. Civil rights (racial, gender, LGBT), gun rights, judicial nominations, tax rates, military actions, health care, education. Anything and everything enumerated in the Bill of Rights. All of these issues are, no matter what any of us individually feel or think about them, secondary to the conduction of free and fair elections. With this tweet Trump is doing no less than testing the water for ending democracy. It is but a tweet, a word that feels inherently diminutive, but make no mistake, this is the most historically significant and potentially consequential statement Trump has ever made. Rather than walk away from it, he has since pinned this one atop the 54,000-tweet stack of abject aggrieved lunacy that is his Twitter history, and reiterated the notion again in a just-completed televised press conference.
It is what until four years ago we would rightly have considered a logical contradiction — a profoundly consequential inanity. A probing hammer tap testing for cracks on the keystone of democratic rule.
What must Trump do for his Republican enablers in Congress to abandon him? is the question the rest of us have been asking on a near-daily basis, often in desperation but always in utter exasperation, since before he was even elected. We now seemingly and hopefully have an answer. The line they won’t cross is ending American democracy. History, I firmly believe, will judge Trump’s Republican enablers harshly for not having drawn a line long ago, but this, ultimately, is the singular line that matters. We must now hold our collective breath that they stick to it.
For this, Trump ought be subjected simultaneously to universal contemptuous scorn and gleeful ridicule, more so than for any of his nearly uncountable contemptible and ridiculous statements and actions of the past. The oath of office to which he swore is to uphold the Constitution. Merely proposing postponing the election makes a mockery of it.
It is no coincidence that Trump floated this perverse notion mere moments ahead of official confirmation of the obvious: the United States economy has collapsed in historically horrific fashion, and as the economy goes, so go elections. Donald Trump cannot win an honest fair election held 96 days hence, and by law an honest fair election must be held in 96 days.
Donald Trump is, thus, desperate and alone.
I set the odds at 1-in-3 that he drops out of the election before the Republican convention at the end of August. To suggest the election be delayed is an explicit admission that he cannot face his now likely defeat. His deranged mind might plausibly conclude it better — more face-saving to him personally, his only genuine concern — to drop out now on the bullshit claim that the election is “rigged” against him, than lose in a humiliating blowout and cry “rigged” after.