Trump’s call to delay election is the opening act of a coup
A sign at a polling place in Columbus, Ohio, tells voters that the state's primary election was postponed on March 17, 2020. President Donald Trump would like to see this sign hanging at every polling place in the country on Nov. 3 according to his latest tweet. | Joshua A. Bickel / The Columbus Dispatch via AP

Donald Trump’s proposal to postpone the 2020 election is nothing less than the opening act of a coup. The aim is not to actually delay the vote, as only Congress has that authority. Rather, this move is aimed at undermining confidence in the legitimacy of the results should Trump lose on November 3rd and, further, to sabotage efforts to expand vote-by-mail. This is a full-frontal assault on American democracy which must be blocked by a landslide vote against the Republican Party on Election Day.

In a tweet riddled with lies and falsehoods Thursday morning, Trump floated the idea of postponing the election to some unspecified future date. Repeating his worn-out line that allowing to people send in their ballots via the U.S. Postal Service will lead to an “INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT” outcome, he questioned whether the election should be pushed back until everyone can “safely” vote in person (even as he continues to insist it’s safe to force students and educators back into classrooms).

Extensive research has proven that there is no such thing as widespread vote-by-mail fraud. There’s simply no evidence to support the president’s claim. To use his own words, that’s fake news. Like restrictive voter ID laws, voter roll purges, polling place closures, artificial voting machine shortages in minority districts, and other suppression tactics, the effort to sabotage vote-by-mail is another part of the GOP scheme to shrink the number of people casting ballots—especially among communities of color, immigrants, and young people.

Trump timed his dictatorial trial balloon to distract attention from disastrous data released Thursday that showed the U.S. economy shrank by 32.9% in the April-June quarter. He took to Twitter to discuss supposed election fraud just 15 minutes after news broke of this worst-ever-recorded result . Millions of workers are going to be jobless for a long time to come thanks to his administration’s shameful management of the COVID-19 crisis, and there’s nothing Trump can do to distract people from the crushing circumstances he’s brought on them.

The president also knows he can’t actually postpone or cancel the election unless he’s willing to engineer an actual armed takeover. Only Congress has the authority to alter the date of balloting, and the Constitution says that Trump and Pence’s term ends on January 20, 2021, no matter what. So he’s not really serious about moving the election date.

But there is another nefarious motivation at work here—one which goes beyond trash-talking vote-by-mail or even diverting attention from his failures on the COVID and economic fronts. His tweet is meant to plant seeds of doubt about the election’s legitimacy into the public consciousness. He wants to inject the idea that the outcome (should he lose) will not be fair, reliable, or decisive. He is testing the waters now to assess how much people might resist should he later refuse to recognize the results.

It’s a sure bet that Trump and his cabal are plotting out multiple scenarios for holding on to power, whether he wins or not. With an outright victory for Trump in both the popular vote and the electoral college looking unlikely according to current polling, they are cooking up a million ways to throw shade on a close race. If there is a small margin, whether in his or Biden’s favor, expect Trump to declare himself the winner. The right-wing media machine will ratchet up the pressure on Biden to concede, and Republican governors and secretaries of state will try to pull off repeats of the vote-stealing that handed Florida to George W. Bush back in 2000.

This must be shut down now. Before we see the final acts of a Trump coup, it must be made clear that U.S. democracy will be defended and that the would-be dictator’s days in the White House are numbered.

This means doing everything possible to get people registered to vote in places where there is still time, educating friends and neighbors on the rules around vote-by-mail or absentee ballots if they’re available in your area, and preparing people to safely cast their ballots in-person if necessary. The get-out-the-vote effort cannot wait until the morning of November 3rd. With coronavirus making mobilization more difficult and dangerous than ever, there’s no time to spare.

Block the Trump coup. Make sure his loss is so huge on Election Day that there will be no way for him to cast doubt on the outcome. Nothing less than a landslide defeat will do.


C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.