Trump: When Relentless Voter Delegitimization Goes Wrong

Have Trump and the Republican Party overplayed their hand? Will Democrats’ actions meet the moment of the threat?

Donald J. Trump likes to dog whistle. Yes, you’re thinking of the dog whistling that he’s done over the years to appease the white supremacists within his base. That subsonic sound culminating into a deafening bullhorn shriek directed at the Proud Boys to “Stand down and standby” during Donald’s debacle of a debate between himself and Joe Biden.

Nope. Not that kind of dog whistle. There’s another siren song he’s been signaling. One could say he’s been playing this tune since the onset of Covid19, but in truth, the origins go back much further. Donald Trump has done everything in his power to delegitimize the 2020 presidential election. Not just in rhetoric, but in deed.

But that’s the thing about dog whistling. When you call, don’t be surprised if it’s not just YOUR dog that comes running. And these other dogs? They’re decidedly unfriendly and in full attack mode. Maya Angelou once famously said, “When someone tells you who they are, believe them.” For some of us, it’s been an arduous four years, fraught with hardheadedness and disbelief as we observed so many norms fall by the wayside, one by one. A hit dog will holler. But one too many hits and even the most dim-witted dog will get the message. I think we got the message. Donald Trump is a racist. Donald Trump is a fascist. Donald Trump is a criminal. There’s nothing Donald Trump won’t do to stay in office, and out of jail. There is no bottom for this dude.

We fucking get it.

“The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” stated Trump. He was talking about the Democrats’ push to put protections into the first stimulus bill for the United States Postal Service. Now why would Democrats want to fortify the post office? Oh I dunno, probably because of this little thing called a pandemic that’s already killed over 200,000 deaths all under Trump’s watch? You’d think in an unprecedented worldwide health crisis, during an election year you’d want the American people to have options to vote safely. That includes voting by mail.

Trump vehemently opposes mail-in/absentee ballots. Apparently even in a Pandemic. Especially in a pandemic.

Even the devil tells the truth sometime and this time Trump stated OUT loud what many Republicans would only say behind closed doors, in hushed whispers. This school of thought may not actually be true, but you’ll have to forgive them. The party that has refused opportunity after opportunity to be more racially inclusive instead has looked inward, focusing exclusively on the animus and vitriol of white victimhood. Not exactly a long term winning strategy as this nation’s melanin levels continue to increase and darken. President Lyndon B. Johnson once famously said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” Variations of this quote are at the very core of the mission statement directed at Republican rabble by their party’s elites.

So here’s the thing, Trump isn’t an abhorrent anomaly within the party; instead he is the culmination of everything the party stands for. How else can you explain his ascension? He didn’t wrest control from the Republicans, instead the Republicans worked tirelessly for decades to prepare the people for a leader like Donald. Whether they realized it or not. Traditional Republican elites are not so different from Trump, if you discount sociopathic narcissism, and base crassness. So believe me when I say, that the fear of increased voter participation is party wide and extends far beyond Trump.

And they’ve acted on that fear.

The gerrymandering, the poll closing, the disenfranchisement of Black and Brown voters is very real. This is an issue that spans the country and it’s been particularly vexing for years. For me personally, nothing distills the problem more succinctly than the 2018 governor’s race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp. It’s really too much to get into here, but by all means, deep dive into these hyperlinks. My personal take away is that Brian Kemp really needs to be in jail. For both his participation to obfuscate the truth in the 2016 presidential election, and for his craven thievery in the governor’s race in 2018.

Fast forward to the age of Covid 19, on April 7, the fear of the pandemic was at its zenith. Propelled by what we didn’t know, precautions against infection were already being politicized, and party affiliation ofttimes determined how seriously we took the situation. We were still knee deep in primary season, and many states decided to postpone their elections to mitigate possible infections and comply with stay-at-home quarantine protocols.

And then there was Wisconsin.

Republicans did the absolute MOST when it came to voter disenfranchisement on that cold spring day. There were just five polling places instead of 180. People waited in line for hours in the midst of a pandemic. Putting their lives on the line to vote. The governor wanted to either delay the election or give voters the option to exclusively use mail absentee ballots. Nope. The Republican controlled State Supreme Court said hell-to-the-NO. So get this shit, the main reason for this suppression was to set up a future battle for even MORE suppression down the line.

Forget Bernie and Biden, the real fight was the State Supreme Court race between conservative incumbent justice, Daniel Kelly, and liberal challenger, Jill Karofsky. The winner would cast the deciding vote on a case before the court that seeks to purge more than 200,000 people from Wisconsin’s voter rolls, where 2.6 million people voted in the last governor’s race. Crazy huh?

This situation set off alarm bells for Democrats and deservedly so. Republicans effectively weaponized the fear of a virus that disproportionately kills the poor, specifically Black and Brown people, the very same demographic they have consistently disenfranchised. I don’t know about you, but that’s some Lex Luthor, Legion of Doom level shit right there.

We are no longer within the realm of the hypothetical. Republicans now have a viable angle to exploit; however they can in the general election. Meanwhile Trump is setting up the narrative, almost daily that mail-in voting is somehow fraudulent. To the credit of most news media, that claim is debunked each time the lie is uttered. For all of Trump’s bluster, the reality of the pandemic has continually crashed in upon him, as most states embraced mail-in voting and early voting in some capacity.

Enter Louis DeJoy and the dismantling of the United States postal service. Mailboxes were removed. Sorting machines dismantled. Employee overtime denied. Mail delivery purposefully slowed. There’s really no way to sugar coat this. This summer’s attack on the postal service was a preemptive assault, a scheme to slow the delivery of mail-in ballots and as a result to invalidate ballots received too late to be counted.

So to recap, Republicans as a collective has used the pandemic itself to suppress votes, Donald Trump has gone beyond mail-in ballot disenfranchisement rhetoric and taken decisive actions to steal the election in broad daylight in front of everyone. Fortunately, he overplayed his hand. Public outrage to the attack on the USPS was almost immediate as it was visceral. It also forced the American people to course correct, myself included. At the onset of Covid-19 I decided mail-in voting would be the safest way to cast my ballot. It still is, but did I trust the post office with mailing back my vote to be counted? I did not. Luckily, I had the option of delivering it in person, and that’s exactly what I did. Here in Virginia, they do not wait till Election Day to count mail-in ballots, that process has already begun. That, and early voting as well. More on that in a minute.

Meanwhile, in the background the Biden team has decried for months that Trump would do anything to de-legitimize the political process and would refuse to leave office if he lost. At least with the former scenario Biden had legitimate proof. Both He and the American people have observed the relentless rhetoric unfold on a daily basis. As for the latter, Biden wasn’t alone in his fear. Every major news source has explored the question: will Donald Trump leave if he loses? They’ve been doing so for months now. You’d think there would be replication in the reporting… not so. Everyone seems to have a unique angle on the scenario. Everyone is reading the tea leaves slightly differently.

And then there’s the polls.

I’ll tell you this for free. Every since 2016 I’ve hated polls. Even Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. Y’all know why. Individually polls have this uncanny ability to simultaneously cater to both what you want to hear and negate what you don’t. They can set you up for failure. Trust me, I know. But. Collectively, in the aggregate, polls can tell a very different story. A truer story. Not long ago, I came across a rather interesting fact. One that can’t be understated. Biden leads Trump in the polls and has done so for the entirety of 2020. This is record breaking. Biden’s advantage is the steadiest in a race with an incumbent running since at least 1944.

So what does this mean? Validity. For the same amount of time that Donald Trump has verbally tried to de-legitimize our voting integrity, Biden has done something legitimate. He’s consistently beat Trump in the polls in an unprecedented way. Considering the litany of really, really bad press Trump has had these past weeks, the kind that would torpedo anyone’s presidential aspirations, there’s no reason to think these polls will change. Let’s go over the greatest hits shall we? Military and veterans are suckers and losers, behind close doors Trump readily admits Covid19 is deadly, but in public lies about it and states the exact opposite, and of course there’s the taxes. Can Trump survive this recent barrage of horrible news? Well that is the $750 dollar question. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

As important as this tidbit of trivia is, it’s only going to gain more significance as we near Election Day and beyond. Just like in 2016, it seems highly unlikely that Trump can win the popular vote. His only pathway to victory is through the Electoral College.

Which brings us back to the issue of early voting. Here in Virginia the first day of early voting was September 18. That Friday turned out to be both extraordinary and heartbreaking. By mid afternoon, the local news was reporting on the incredible four hour-long lines to vote early. This was the kind of sight you expected to see on the actual Election Day, not 45 days out. So of course intrepid reporters had to interview those waiting in line to better understand the phenomenon. Every response was a variation on the same theme. Voters wanted to make sure their vote was counted. Voters weren’t taking any chances. This election was too important for anyone to be deterred. Of course many of those in line cited the assault on the postal service as the main reason for early participation.

Later that evening the horrible crushing news hit. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had passed. The unthinkable had happened. And in less than three hours after the initial announcement a disrespectful Mitch McConnell signaled that the Republicans would pursue a conservative Supreme Court nominee to fill Ginsberg’s seat. Damn Mitch, not an ounce of class huh?

RBG’s death was our worst fears were realized.

As upset as I was, I didn’t shed a single tear. This was not the time to despair; this was the time to fight. And for me, the best way to fight was to arm myself with information. There were people out there on the Internet a hellva lot smarter than me on the case. Folks like Jacobin editors Andrew Perez and David Sirota. They quickly came up with some interesting tactics that seemed promising. By Saturday afternoon Politico was already referencing them for an article of their own on the ramifications of Ginsberg’s death and how the Democrats should move forward. By weekend’s end, Sirota and Perez had formalized and expanded their initial battle plans into an official article for Jacobin.

This was the article I repeatedly tweeted to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. This was the article I referenced when I wrote my Senators Mark Werner, and Tim Kaine. Once read and you feel as strongly about it as I do, I urge you to do the same and tell your friends and family.

Sirota and Perez are unabashedly progressive as I am. And that’s when it hit me. I was confident my call to action was being replicated all across the country. RGB’s rockstar icon status had galvanized the left like nothing else. As a double minority and as a Person of Color I didn’t have the luxury of clinging to ideological purity. I didn’t have the luxury to entertain the delusional exercise of false equivalency. Maybe my white counterparts can survive the transition from the United States to Gilead from the Handmaid’s Tale, but I’m not sure my Black ass can.

Democrats, regardless of inter-party subdivisions never got over Merrick Garland, but that umbrage pales to the outrage we feel over Ruth Bader Ginsberg. To have her seat filled by a conservative judge hell-bent on undoing decades of progress seems unconscionable.

So what’s really at stake with the confirmation of another conservative judge on the Supreme Court?

Here’s where I get brutally honest, so buckle up. The Affordable Care Act is in the Supreme Court’s cross-hairs once again. An added conservative judge could kill it for good. What’s this? Fifth time’s the charm? Now this is 2020, the year where pretty much anything can happen but… 27 million people lost their jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. It was a serious blow to the newly unemployed, for those that had insurance attached to their employers, just lost it along with their jobs. They’ve joined the ranks of those already uninsured.

So you mean to tell me, as of this writing, the Republicans who can’t seem to seal the deal with Democrats for a second stimulus package while the nation suffers is going to direct a right leaning Supreme Court to decimate the ACA? They’re going to jeopardize millions of lives, especially those with pre-existing conditions while in the midst of pandemic?

I don’t think so. That seems like political suicide.

So what’s next? Roe versus Wade? Reversing hard fought battles for LGBTQ, and People of color? Well yeah, we all should be scared on these fronts. We just don’t need to be scared just YET. Although dissenting remarks on the Obergefell case from judges Thomas and Alito are chilling to anyone who celebrates the hard fought rights for marriage equality. The sabre rattling is unmistakable. Thomas and Alito know conservative reinforcements are on the way and they’re definitely showing their collective Asses.

So as scary as that stuff is… it’s NOT what keeps me up at night. Donald has made every effort to de-legitimize the election for months, and the onslaught has been on multiple fronts, two of which I’ve already touched upon. The third is a contested election. Trump wants the election called on election night. Data shows, due to the unprecedented amount of mail-in votes that need to be counted, that may not be in the cards. A full count may take days. Or weeks. If you think Trump’s de-legitimizing rhetoric is high now, watch it go into overdrive come November 4th and beyond.

Let me be clear: Biden can win by one vote or 3 million, it won’t matter. Even in the face of a LANDSLIDE loss, Donald Trump’s play will to be to delegitimize those mail-in votes. That play won’t mean much if Biden’s lead is definitive. But if it’s close, rest assured Donald will litigate this through the courts. And he’s betting all his $421 million in debt to unknown foreign investors that it goes all the way to the Supreme Court.

And that’s where that self-preservation for himself over the American people will REALLY pay off. On this, both Trump and Mitch McConnell are of the same mind. To hell with stalled stimulus negotiations. Stimulus that this country desperately needs with folks unemployed, children food insecure, and massive evictions looming… with hardships on the horizon not seen since the Great Depression.

None of that shit matters. Only the Handmaiden matters.

Make no mistake; Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a conservative’s wet dream, whose bona fides are beyond reproach. McConnell’s salivating over the decades long prospect of Barrett’s contributions for the cause. Trump’s interest is decidedly much more short term. For me, it’s easy to envision Barrett owing fealty to the impeached President Trump. Like the kiss to a mob boss ring, behind closed doors, the only way she gets the job is to swear loyalty. If this scenario seems impossible or outlandish, remember, there’s precedent for this. Just ask James Comey.

Even without Barrett’s confirmation, the Supreme Court is already skewed to the right. Of course that fact hasn’t exactly been a boon from a conservative viewpoint in recent court decisions. Whenever there has been clear overreach by the Trump administration the court has squashed their directives. We’ve seen this with DACA, the ACA, and work protections for LGBTQ. Pure speculation on my part, but these decisions weren’t made in a vacuum. Instead the backdrop was a pandemic and civil unrest due to police murdering Black folk. This combined with the fact, that at every turn Chief Judge Roberts has made the effort to not politicize the court anymore than it already is and to protect the judicial branch’s integrity.

With only eight judges currently serving on the bench, there is the potential for deadlock if the Supreme Court has to weigh in on a contested election. The addition of Barrett destroys that balance. And as her assuredly contentious confirmation looms, best believe this will be an angle of attack from the Democrats. Will she swear loyalty to Trump? Or to the Constitution, the American people and the integrity of our electoral process? No answer she can give will assuage the flayed open nerves of 51 percent of the electorate currently against Trump.

And yet this is the gambit. This is the play Trump’s betting on. He’s hinted at it repeatedly since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. However, after contracting the Coronavirus he was no longer subtle. The message he sent was loud and clear: I’M NOT INTERESTED IN SIGNING A STIMULUS BILL FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. BUT BARRETT’S NOMINATION MOVES FULL SPEED AHEAD. We all know why.

So all this rhetoric from Democrats threatening that they will increase the number of Supreme Court Judges and pack the lower courts when they get control, doesn’t carry much weight if Biden isn’t elected. None of that matters if you don’t WIN.

So yeah, THIS is the shit that keeps me up at night.

I’ll say this for Trump. He’s quite the gambler. He’s betting on a lot of things going his way. He’s betting on that Regeneron. He’s betting on that Dexamethasone. He’s betting on that zinc, vitamin D, famotidine (the medication in Pepcid, for heartburn or acid reflux), melatonin and a daily aspirin. All the things that will help him recover and live. He’s betting on an election so close that his Supreme Court Hail Mary will work.

One thing he’s not gambling on is his ability to further deteriorate the integrity of the 2020 electoral process. Congratulations Donald! Mission Accomplished. Both Republicans and Democrats actually agree on something. Both parties don’t believe this election will be fair.

And that’s a serious problem.

On one side you have Republicans believing in widespread voter fraud, particularly the validity of mail in voting, a fear that Trump has taken glee in perpetuating. Which is ironic when you think about it. The influx of mail-in votes presents a unique opportunity. Experts have repeatedly sounded the alarm on electronic voting machines that don’t have a paper ballot component. If an electronic voting machine is hacked or tampered with there’s no way to back track and investigate the voter’s intentions. But mail-in ballots are PAPER ballots. And paper ballots can’t be hacked. The irony is that these mail-in ballots could potentially make the 2020 election the safest on record. With tons of data moving forward to secure future elections, AND provide an interesting lens on elections past. 2016 anyone?

To be fair, on one side the fear of an illegitimate election is significantly overblown. For the Democrats side, that fear is depressingly real. The voter suppression is real. The disenfranchisement is real. The attempted theft of your mail-in ballot by tampering with the United States Postal Service is real. The question is, what will the Democratic base do? How will they react to blatant malfeasance?

Well, this isn’t the year 2000. And this won’t be Bush Jr. against Al Gore and his subsequent premature capitulation. Personally I can’t see progressive firebrand Krystal Ball and Neo-Liberal Hilary Clinton ever agreeing on ANYthing. And yet here we are with Oprah throwing up her hands in all her meme perfection glory. 2020 y’all… making crazy bedfellows out of these two.

Do. Not. Concede.

That’s the rallying cry that unites Ball and Clinton. It’s a consensus that many in the Democratic base, particularly those on the left subscribe to. If this thing is close, don’t take the knee. Take it as far as you legally can.

So in closing, we’re in for it. We’re in for an election like no other, with the possibility of a definitive outcome not coming on November 3rd election night. But we have both Trump and the Republican Party to thank. Thank you for doing it all in broad daylight. Thank you for overplaying your hand. Thank you for the opportunity to document both rhetoric and deed. Each and every time. Something tells me all of this will come in handy in the most opportune time.

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Writer, Illustrator, graphic designer. AKA AlphaCMT.

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