Trump Can’t Postpone the Election—But He’s Trying to Destroy Its LegitimacyBreaking News
tags: Donald Trump, 2020 Election
In short, Trump has a large degree of control over whether the election can be held safely, and he’s doing nothing to ensure that it will be. As long as he’s in office, there’s little prospect that any of this will improve—making a delay self-defeating. The American people know this too, which is why Trump’s approval rating has slid and poll after poll shows that if the election were held today, the president would lose to Biden badly.
Trump’s unpopularity is one of the peculiarities of his proposal to delay the election. There aren’t many historical precedents for such a move, but when they exist, they have been undertaken by politicians who are extremely well liked. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now an attorney and adviser to Trump, sought to postpone the 2001 election to replace him following the September 11 attacks, at a time when New Yorkers strongly approved of his performance, 79 percent to 16 percent. (Nonetheless, a plurality said he should step down as scheduled—which is in fact what happened.)
Such leaders could argue that their constituents needed and wanted continuity. Trump, by contrast, is a widely reviled politician. Most of the country feels that things are on the wrong track, and he knows it. This is, in fact, the likely motivation behind this proposal. It’s more a means of preemptively contesting the outcome of an election he fears he will lose than trying to actually move it.
After the election of 1864, Abraham Lincoln responded to critics who had suggested that it be postponed. “It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence in great emergencies,” he wrote. “But,” he continued, “the election was a necessity. We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.”
If Trump loses the election in November and wants to argue that he was cheated and the voting was not legitimate, he can’t start on November 4. He needs to lay the groundwork ahead of time—for example, by repeatedly warning that the vote will be fraudulent and rigged, and by telling his supporters that he tried to postpone it but was denied by “Them.”
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