He can’t do that, they said.
There are laws against that sort of thing. There are rules. It says so right there. You’re silly for worrying about it.
And yet, we’re worried anyway. Not because a President can, on his own authority, delay an election, but everything he can do short of that.
Look at what he’s doing already. Look at what’s happening already. The lackeys running the post office are delaying the mail, using various management means at their disposal to stall delivery. Even where ballots are being delivered to election offices, states that haven’t been voting by mail for years are encountering delays dealing with the sudden flood of absentees, which themselves are subject to more challenges than in-person votes.
Look at what’s happening with the Census. The Administration was blocked in its attempt to ask an exclusionary citizenship question, but plans to track down straggling respondents — folks who didn’t or couldn’t respond to the initial letters — are being cut short by a month, likely resulting in an undercount in Blue regions. The Census determines Congressional apportionment, so we’re looking at the next ten years of voting with that one.
Look at what was happening in Portland. Those Feds on the streets were repurposed DHS goons, pulled from their regular gigs harassing Brown people.
Look at what’s happening with The Wall, the parts of it that haven’t blown down yet. Money to build it wasn’t directly approved, but stolen from the Pentagon budget.
He couldn’t do that either — Laws! Rules! — but he did anyway. And he got away with it.
And these are just the things we know about. It’s a big government. We don’t know what other shit is going down right now. We may never know. You may presume a lot of documentation mysteriously disappearing in the ten weeks between the election and inauguration.
Should we be so lucky.
Is the man personally familiar with each and every move being done in his name? No, of course not. He watches television all day, when he’s not playing golf. It’s not a conspiracy of coordination but aspiration, everybody wanting to please the boss.
You don’t even have to be a Fed to play — it’s never been about the concentration of power in the Oval Office, but among a particular group, national and local. We’ve seen that happening too, polling places being scaled back, but somehow mostly in the places where other people live.
And all this following years of determined effort to deny select citizens their right and ability to vote in the first place, something we would have seen with or without a pandemic.
He can’t do that! Don’t worry!
No, he can’t do that, that one thing he mentioned. And if that was the one thing that could prevent us from holding a free, fair, and honest election, no, we wouldn’t worry.
No, it’s not that. It’s everything else. It’s his willingness, his determination, to flout the rules, flout the laws, and dare anyone to sue him over it, as he’s done throughout his life. It’s the willingness of many people, in positions great and small, to help him in that effort.
It’s the very real possibility of the election collapsing under an avalanche of chaos.
We’ve seen that before, with the merest flutter of a hanging chad. Took the Supreme Court to clear that up.
Oh, on a party-line vote.
But fear not! The term ends one way or another on January 20, and the rules say the Speaker of the House takes over if there’s no butt in the chair behind the Resolute Desk. You can look it up!
Imagine we’ve reached that moment, after ten weeks of utter chaos, deliberate chaos. Well, isn’t that the point? Our long, grand tradition surrounding the Peaceful Transition of Power? Won’t Donald Trump, of all people, observe the traditions of his august office, as he — and his craven institutional supporters — have all along?
“Family is binging ‘Game of Thrones’ for the first time,” tweeted James Poniewozik the other day, “and I don’t know why this never occurred to me, but the first season is basically the story of a guy who really, really believes that political norms will protect him.”