- With his election numbers in the gutter, President Donald Trump is clearly panicking about his prospects for re-election and is trying to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 elections.
- Trump has repeatedly provided false information about mail-in polls and made unsubstantiated claims that this leads to widespread fraud. On Thursday, he proposed postponing election day, which he legally cannot do.
- Demands for better access to democratic mail-in polls raise concerns about the coronavirus pandemic as the virus continues to grow in the United States.
- Trump botched his response to the COVID 19 pandemic, which is a big part of the reason his approval rating is falling. The president is now slandering some form of vote that could help curb the spread of the virus.
- The president reflects the tactics of the dictators and expresses serious concerns that if he loses, he will contest the election results.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
With more than 151,000 people in the U.S. are dead US GDP has dropped from COVID-19 9.5%, and a declining approval ratePresident Donald Trump continued to make wildly misleading claims about mail-in voting as part of a larger, clear effort to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
With his Reelection prospects are increasingly bleak and less than 100 days before election day, Trump tries to convince Americans that the Democrats are essentially trying to manipulate the election with a push-in mail-in vote. This way, if Trump loses on November 3rd, he can say the results are fake (much like his false claim that the polls are negative) "wrong news").
This type of behavior is usually not shown by leaders in democratic countries. Dictators like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, both of whom have essentially become President for life fight in their respective countries to undermine free and fair elections.
In short, Trump reflects the tactics of authoritarians who will do anything to stay in power with their baseless propaganda about mail-in polls.
"The strong man fears language as a symbol of identity and as a creator of community bonds," wrote Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of Italian at New York University, 2017 talked about Trump's words. "So he tries to use it instead to sow discomfort and discord among his people and to erase what and who he rejects from the nation from public records."
But it's nothing new from this president either. Trump took the same approach in 2016 when he stood behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the polls and was widely expected to lose. As a GOP presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly said the election was against him. Instead of striving for a mail-in poll, Trump suggested in 2016 Polling stations were not safe.
After a shocking victory over the electoral college, Trump made completely unfounded accusations that Clinton only won the referendum because millions of undocumented immigrants voted. Even after the victory, Trump continued to undermine the US democratic process.
The difference between 2016 and 2020 is that Trump is now in the White House. As commander-in-chief, Trump's words and actions have a significant weight and impact that go well beyond his turbulent term. Every president before Trump respected the peaceful transfer of power, but he threatens to derail this trend and trigger a constitutional crisis.
Despite what Trump said, election fraud is rare and is generally not a significant problem in the United States. And there is practically no evidence to support Trump's repeated allegation that mail-in polls will lead to widespread fraud.
A number of states have had general mail-in voting for years and it hasn't caused any major problems – including in Utah, a predominantly republican state that Trump won through a landslide in 2016 (the vast majority of counties in Utah mostly voted by post this year).
In 2016 and 2018, there were only 372 cases of potential fraud from around 14.6 million ballot papers sent by post (only 0.0025%) a recent analysis from the Washington Post.
However, this hasn't stopped Trump from spreading unsubstantiated claims about mail-in polls and the election process in general.
On Thursday, Trump proposed on Twitter to postpone the election. He refused to go back and instead scolded mail-in polls during a press conference on coronaviruses. He has no legal authority to postpone the election, but that's not the point. Much like his rhetoric about electoral fraud, Trump's Thursday tweet about election day delay was part of an insidious propaganda campaign to convince Americans that the process will be unfair to the president no matter what happens.
As Ben-Ghiat tweeted after Trump's claim, "his tweet about the delay in the election is a good example of his propaganda tactic: float the idea (trial balloon) and let allies reinforce it until something becomes possible."
Whether Trump's strategy works is still unclear, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous for the health of democracy in the United States.
Meanwhile, the US coronavirus pandemic continues to cause chaos as Trump denounces a form of voting that could help curb the spread of the virus and it is impossible to separate the two issues.
The reality is that, although it is important to the franchise, efforts to improve access to mail-in voting are currently associated with concerns about the proliferation of COVID-19.
The outbreak of the US corona virus got out of control months ago and more than 4.4 million cases have been registered nationwide – more than anywhere else in the world. Public health experts have criticized Trump's handling of the pandemic. The president downplayed the threat for weeks and consistently treated the virus as someone else's problem.
If he had taken the pandemic seriously from the start, Trump might not have left former Vice President Joe Biden behind in the polls, and there would be less reason for him to undermine the legitimacy of the elections.
Trump's self-destructive leadership style led him to this point. As he continues to stall, Trump appears determined to drag American democracy with him.