Sunday, November 1, 2020

Trump: Elections, What For?

"We’re going to have to see what happens" was the response of President Donald Trump on September 23 when asked if he would accept the result in the November elections. This is the same defiant stance he held during the first presidential "debate" on September 29 when Chris Wallace asked him if he was committed to a peaceful transition of power.

Trump responded by questioning the legitimacy of the election based on alleged fraud in mail-in ballots and encouraged his supporters to go to the polls as "observers" to verify the integrity of the vote. This translates into a strategy of intimidation of his opponents and voter suppression, or simply an effort to discourage citizens from participating in a process declared shady before it even begins.

Perhaps with the increasingly clear awareness that he is highly unlikely to win “fair and square” based on the popular vote or the Electoral College, his strategy is to sow distrust over the results. He also said in the debate that he was counting on the possible intervention of the Supreme Court to grant him victory after bringing the electoral process to litigation. And during Senate hearings on her nomination to the high court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett refused to say whether she would recuse herself from potential cases related to the November election if she is confirmed.

I am hopeful - and confident - that Biden and Harris will emerge victorious after all the votes are counted given their wide lead both nationally and in many key swing states through November 1. But from his most recent statements and as well as from other public statements via Twitter, I am anything but confident that Trump will accept an electoral defeat. Actually, I fear that his obstinacy could very well produce a constitutional crisis in the weeks following the November 3 election.

If Biden doesn't win by such a substantial margin that he can be declared the winner on election night, perhaps the most likely and terrifying scenario is that Trump will declare himself as such with only the votes already counted. This would happen before the mail-in ballots are recorded - and given the continued threat of the pandemic, such voters promise to be more numerous than ever this year. In such a late “blue shift” scenario, Trump and his supporters would accuse Democrats of fraud and turn to the Supreme Court and Senate (and the National Guard?) to intervene on their behalf.

Source: Geoffrey Skelley

Indeed, this is exactly the scenario that Trump senior advisor Jason Miller attempted to pass off as normal in an appearance on ABC News' "This Week" on Sunday, November 1. 

"If you speak with many smart Democrats, they believe that President Trump will be ahead on election night, probably getting 280 electoral [votes] somewhere in that range, and then they’re going to try to steal it back after the election. We believe we will be over 290 electoral votes on election night, so no matter what they try to do, what kind of hijinks or lawsuits or whatever kind of nonsense they try to pull off, we’ll have enough electoral votes to get President Trump re-elected."

This is not how elections work in the United States of America! 

No state certifies final results at midnight on election day and all states will be counting legitimate votes well after then.

Source: Geoffrey Skelley

The threat that Trump represents to American democracy should provoke chilling memories in Cubans (both on the island and in the diaspora) if we recall three facts from their own history:

(1) the chronic electoral sabotage practiced by the presidents in power during the Republic (1902-1958) who always put their own political and economic interests (and those of their parties) above national interests,

(2) the demonization of the independent press and other institutions of civil society by the Castro regime now for more than half a century, and

(3) the cult of the personality built around the messianic figure of Fidel Castro, which made it easier for him to declare (and for the majority of Cubans to accept) with absolute anti-democratic demagoguery: "Elections, what for?"

In the years since his 2016 election, Trump has systematically politicized or worked to delegitimize the key institutions for democracy in the United States, now including the presidential elections themselves.

Using his own words ("We're going to have to see what happens"), Trump is repeating the same demagogic message that Fidel Castro sounded so ominously and to such disastrous effects so many years ago.

Are we listening? Are we prepared to resist?

Note: An earlier version of this post was published as part of a dossier on the 2020 US election and Cuba in Hypermedia Magazine.

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