Donald Trump has suggested a delay to the US Presidential election – due in November. In a Tweet that could constitute an unprecedented power grab, Trump has stated that he believes it would be good to extend the time he rules over the people of the United States further than constitutionally permitted before he has to face them again in an election. This is the latest major threat to American democracy posed by an incumbent of the Oval Office, and if he does get his way, it would be the beginning of the end of democracy in America.
Trump blames the wide availability of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election. Due to coronavirus, the increased access to mail-in voting is a necessity for many people who otherwise would be unable to vote, however, Trump is at least theoretically correct in his numerous claims that such ballots are more easily predisposed to fraud. But evidence that such fraud has occurred, or even would be possible to carry out on a scale of more than a few hundred votes without being detected, is practically nonexistent.
This did not however, stop POTUS from posting a series of Tweets about the issue over the past 24 hours. Indeed, around a quarter of the ballots were mail-in in 2016 and no fraud to do with them was detected, so there is strong evidence that the system is robust. Nevertheless, Trump seems determined, by any means necessary, to strip away the right to vote for those unable to travel to polling stations on election day.
Critics of Trump are suspicious of the reasoning he has given on Twitter for wanting a delay to the election. His government’s response to the pandemic has led to a surge in the polls for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and many polling organisations have forecast that Biden, who is more than eight points ahead at the time of writing, is very likely to win. Trump critics have stated it is possible his motive could be to delay until coronavirus in the United States subsides, in hopes of the return of favourable polling numbers.
At best, we have seen Trump seize on an issue he doesn’t fully understand, and is making a bid to eradicate the problem as he sees it, however real a threat it may actually be. Maybe a delay to the election built on the public health concerns that coronavirus brings would not be a bad idea – the United Kingdom delayed local elections for a year – but this is not a motive Trump claims to have, and if he did claim it, while it would be a welcome change of tune, it would be at the expense for him of contradicting a large amount of other things he has said about coronavirus. Contradiction does not seem to bother this politician though. At worst, American democracy, under threat for a while, could be in the final throws of its life over the next few months if Trump is able to have his way.
Jack Harrison is a Liberal Base columnist and student at the University of Cambridge. He was the author of the blog Minority 2017 from 2017 to 2019. He can be found on Twitter @JackH1010.