Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He attacked American democracy because he might not win the next election.

As his re-election chances get grimmer, Trump has been returning to the 2016 playbook of attacking any election he might lose. Today he doubled down on the practice of states making it easier for citizens to use mail-in absentee ballots. 

In two tweets this morning, Trump told a number of lies in quick succession about what the state of California is planning to do, but the takeaway was that 2020 will be a "Rigged Election" because Americans can vote this way. (Trump himself has voted by mail since taking office, and was impeached for trying to get a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election.)

The amount of misinformation—and the damage that it could do to the legitimacy of the election—was so great that Twitter took the unprecedented step of attaching a fact-checking warning to the tweets. 

Clicking on that link led to a quick summary of some of the basic facts about mail-in voting that Trump lied about.

The warning was a dramatic step for Twitter's management, which has agonized over how to handle posts from Trump that routinely violate their rules about personal attacks, spreading misinformation, and promoting hate speech. Just this week, Trump has been tweeting conspiracy theories about the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, baselessly accusing a former GOP congressman of her murder. Her grieving husband begged Twitter to delete those posts, writing that Trump had "taken the memory of my dead wife and perverted it for perceived political gain."

Trump responded by complaining that Twitter was "completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!" 

Trump doesn't actually have any power over Twitter, which is a private company. All social media platforms enforce rules about what people can post. 

Why does this matter?

  • Saying that any election the leader doesn't win was "rigged" is what dictators do.
  • Threatening private companies with government punishment because they exercised their own free speech rights is un-American.
  • It's not a sign of good mental health when the most paid-attention-to man in the world thinks shadowy forces are trying to silence him.
  • It's bad if presidents don't know or don't care what the limits on their authority are.