Arwa Mahdawi – The Guardian
By sowing doubt – baselessly – about the legitimacy of postal voting, the US president has laid the groundwork to contest the result in November
‘Trump admitted last week that he does not want to give the USPS additional money because he does not want to make voting easier.’ Photograph: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images
He has been accused of cheating on all three of his wives and cheating his workers out of pay cheques. As a teenager, he reportedly paid someone to take his SAT exams so he could cheat his way into university. It is suspected he cheated on his taxes. He is rumoured to brazenly cheat at golf.
As his niece, Mary Trump, has said, Donald Trump embraces “cheating as a way of life”. And now he is embracing it as an election strategy: Trump is openly and unabashedly attempting to rig November’s presidential election.
The only way the US can have a free and fair election during a pandemic is if there is widespread postal voting – something Trump and his lackeys are doing their best to prevent. Step one: install one of the president’s cronies and mega-donors, Louis DeJoy, as the postmaster general of the United States Postal Service (USPS). Step two: implement cost-cutting measures that slow mail delivery. The richest country in the world now has a postal system so unfit for purpose that the USPS recently warned 46 states and Washington DC that it could not guarantee that all of the postal votes cast in November would be counted.
Trump is not even trying to hide what he is doing: he admitted last week that he does not want to give the USPS additional money because he does not want to make voting easier. The corruption is so blatant that, if it were going on in any other country, the US would have invaded and promised to install democracy.
While US politicians are adept at telling other countries how to run themselves, they seem at a loss in relation to Trump. The good news is that the Democrats are trying to do something. On Sunday, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said she would recall the chamber later this week from its summer holiday for a vote on legislation prohibiting the USPS from changing the level of service it had in place on 1 January. On Monday, DeJoy agreed to House Democrats’ demands that he testify about the changes he is making to the USPS.
The bad news is that legislation and hearings are of limited help. Trump does not need to completely undermine the USPS’s infrastructure, because he has already undermined trust in the system. He has spent the past few months claiming rabidly (and falsely) that postal voting substantially increases the risks of voter fraud. His base seems to believe him. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Republicans believe that postal votes will not be counted accurately, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Meanwhile, only 45% of Americans say they are confident the total vote count will be accurate, down from 59% before the 2016 election. Trump has masterly laid the groundwork to contest the election.
And Trump is definitely going to contest November’s results. Even if he wins by a landslide, he will argue that the voting was rigged and the landslide should have been bigger. If he wins by a tiny margin, he will shout “Unfair!” and argue that the votes for Biden were fraudulent. And if he loses? Well, it will get very messy. In a Fox News interview last month, Trump refused to say that he would concede. “I will tell you at the time,” he said. “I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?”
- Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist