Donald Trump is now openly threatening states that are trying to expand vote-by-mail, all but ordering his regime to find a way to cut states off from federal money unless they obey Dear Leader's tweets.
During the impeachment of President Trump, an expert witness called by Democrats floated a theoretical scenario involving the president threatening a state hammered by a natural disaster, to illustrate the corruption of Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine.
What would we think if Trump dangled federal disaster aid as leverage to force a governor to do his political bidding, asked Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, adding: “Wouldn’t you know in your gut that the president had abused his office? That he betrayed the national interest?”
Trump has now done something very close to this. And the answer to Karlan’s question is: Yes, Trump is abusing his office and betraying the national interest:
Trump is referring to the Michigan secretary of state’s announcement that applications for absentee ballots will be mailed to 7.7 million residents. That’s to ensure that Michiganders can vote safely amid a pandemic that has brought more than 50,000 cases of coronavirus to the state and killed more than 5,000 people.
Trump’s new threat is not a precise parallel to Karlan’s scenario. But Trump is threatening to somehow withdraw federal aid unless Michigan drops vote-by-mail, a naked effort to extort Michigan into doing something that could help him politically. (Trump rage-tweeted a similar threat at Nevada.)
That last point is crucial. It has been widely reported that Trump’s advisers fear he’s losing Michigan, which he probably needs again, especially with Arizona at risk.
We also know Trump fears vote-by-mail can hurt his chances. Trump explicitly admitted that with such Democratic voting rights measures, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
And so, in lodging this threat, Trump is saying the corrupt part out loud — with a bullhorn.
Steve M. tells us what happens next.
It won't be just Trump contesting the election results between November and January -- it'll be his entire support network, starting with Fox News. Fox didn't seriously argue for the overturning of election results in 2008 and 2012, but this time will probably be different. The right regards vote-by-mail -- at least in contested states won by Democrats -- as voter fraud by definition. A Democratic win in any vote-by-mail swing state will automatically be declared fraudulent.
If Trump wins Michigan or Nevada, there'll be relentless calls on Fox to challenge the Democratic electors' right to vote in the Electoral College, and those challenges will be taken seriously by Republicans at the state level. In previous years, Republicans in Washington have treated such calls as boob-bait, useful for the building of party unity against the Democrats, but not for much more. This time, I think Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and others might insist that voter fraud allegations need to be taken very, very seriously. They'll also undoubtedly look for reasons to question Senate pickups by the Democrats.
I don't know if they can persuade much of America that the election was fraudulent. But at the very least, they can reframe the narrative so that the media begins describing Joe Biden's ascension to the presidency as accompanied by a "legitimacy crisis" -- even if, unlike Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000, Biden has won a clear victory in both the Electoral College and the popular vote.
Joe Biden might even get sworn in.
And the moment he does, he's going to be told by Our Pundit Betters™ that he needs to pardon Trump or face civil unrest that will kill thousands, if we're not already up to our necks in civil unrest from the Trump Depression and COVID-19.