Thursday, September 17, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He hinted about the election outcome he's hoping for.

In one of several tweets today that were flagged by Twitter as election disinformation, Trump claimed that because many Americans intend to vote by mail, to avoid exposure to the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic, the "Nov 3rd Election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED." He also said that this was what "some" were hoping for.

"Some" in this case includes Trump himself, who has openly said he will not accept the legitimacy of any election he loses. Trump's surrogates like pardoned felon Roger Stone and Michael Caputo have been stirring things up even more in recent weeks. Stone called on Trump to seize ballots and arrest his political opponents—a move more associated with sham elections held by dictators with no intention of leaving office. And Caputo has been openly talking about the possibility of "armed insurrection" and urging Trump supporters to buy ammunition

Republican officials—who for the most part have seemed resigned to wait out Trump's leadership of the party—and even members of Trump's own administration condemned the tweet.

In a theoretical legal sense, chaos over the vote count can only help Trump. If the states that provided Biden with a winning margin had a Republican state government—like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, or Ohio—then Trump could put pressure on those states to invalidate their own results. That would force the election into the House of Representatives. Because of a quirk in the Constitution, that vote would heavily favor Trump even though Democrats are almost certain to retain their large majority there, because the vote for President is done state-by-state. Wyoming's one Republican member would have the same vote as the overwhelmingly Democratic 52-person California delegation.

But Trump may simply be trying to give himself a reason to doubt the election results. After all, he also contested the results of an election he won, appointing a panel to discover the five million votes he claimed were cast by illegal immigrants exclusively for Hillary Clinton—which would explain away the fact that he lost the popular vote by nearly 3,000,000 votes. (It disbanded having found no voter fraud whatsoever.)

Undermining Americans' faith in the legitimacy of democracy itself is a major goal of adversary nations like Russia, and one of many points where Russian disinformation campaigns and the Trump campaign share the same message.

Why should I care about this?

  • Nobody tries this hard to trash an election they think they'll win fairly.
  • Nobody who refuses to accept the will of the American people is fit to lead them.
  • It's bad if the President of the United States is saying exactly the same thing as a hostile foreign country trying to destabilize Americans' faith in democracy.