In a tweet on July 30th, President Trump suggested postponing the November 3rd election. The tweet read, “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 [U.S.A.] Delay the Election until people can properly, securely, and safely vote???” and was pinned to the top of Trump’s twitter page, despite criticism from either end of the political spectrum. The president does not have the authority to change a scheduled election day and this tweet is likely just the next tactic in his smear campaign against mail-in voting. Nevertheless, his attempts to undermine the election before votes are cast sets the stage for him to contest the legitimacy of the results if he loses.
According to the Washington Post, Trump revealed at a news conference that the only alternative to delaying the election is a “crooked election that could take months or years to resolve.” The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R), was quick to object to Trump’s tweet, emphatically stating that “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. We’ll find a way to do that again this November.” President Trump’s goal to sow doubt about the legitimacy of the election results was clear when he explained that people will be wondering if “all these stories [are] right about the fact that these elections will be fraudulent, they’ll be fixed, rigged. […] A lot of people are saying that probably will happen.”
No president in history has ever attempted to delay a scheduled election, according to the Washington Post. In fact, when it was suggested to Lincoln during the Civil War and Roosevelt during World War II, both presidents vehemently dismissed the ideal, respectively claiming that it would mean “our system has been defeated” and “we have become fascists ourselves.”
President Trump’s tweet to postpone the November 3rd election does not come from a desire to protect the public, but from a fear of losing. Just before posting his tweet, the CNN reports that data showing the worst U.S. economic contraction was published. As his popularity decreases, President Trump is desperately grasping at straws to delay a potential loss of power. When outright asked if he would accept the election results, Trump’s response was “No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time, either.”
President Trump claims that mail voting is corrupt and rigged; however, CNN reports that he himself had voted by mail twice before. Ironically, President Trump’s attack on mail-in voting may only end up discouraging his base from using it, reducing his chances of success even further. President Trump’s hypocrisy and contradictions are not new, which is precisely the problem. His actions have set a dangerous precedent for what a U.S. President can get away with and damaged the integrity of the position. Pre-Trump, it would have been unimaginable for a President to challenge election results, but now it would almost be surprising if he left peacefully.
President Trump’s tweet on July 30th, while likely to lead nowhere, furthers his rhetoric that Democrats are advocating for mail voting so they can skew the election. His actions serve to deepen the divide between Republicans and Democrats and undermine the legitimacy of any results of the November 3rd election. A low public confidence may translate to a low voter turnout, and the United States democracy will be diminished.