Donald Trump may have already irrevocably tainted the 2020 election.
No other modern US President has entered a reelection race claiming in advance that the result is likely to be massively corrupt and unfair. Trump falsely claims there’s huge fraud in postal voting (a necessity in a pandemic), but an equal threat to the vote’s legitimacy may be the US Postal Service’s diminishing capacity to deliver all the mailed ballots on time, after it removed post boxes, cut staff hours and slowed mail under the direction of a new pro-Trump postmaster general. More funding might smooth election mail operations, but the President opposes granting that money because it would boost mail-in voting.
“The Democrats know the 2020 Election will be a fraudulent mess. Will maybe never know who won!” Trump tweeted on Saturday morning. He is characteristically betting that the repeated telling of an audacious falsehood will make it stick, and as usual, it’s clear he’s thinking about his own benefit, and not any deeper duty to protect America’s democracy — a question that would not even be asked of most previous Republican and Democratic presidents.
Democrat Joe Biden is nine points up in the latest national poll. Should he lose and refuse to accept defeat in November, Trump will not just fracture the legitimacy of the election — he will destroy any hopes Biden may harbor of uniting the country against the pandemic, since millions of the President’s supporters will buy his claim he was cheated. If Trump wins, tens of millions of Democrats will believe that White House pre-election maneuvering stole the presidency.
Either way, trust in elections — the bedrock principle of democracy itself — will be catastrophically eroded.