US: Grand Theft Election

Trump is working on stealing the result of the election in November. His main contention of political substance – that it is a “law and order” election – is shadowed by the actions he is taking to prevent an unhindered, fair vote, from taking place.

He is planning to steal the result of the election, if it seems he is not winning it. It is not impossible that he will succeed.

The undiluted criminality that has characterised Trump’s presidency has produced a list of violations of the law and the Constitution that is now ludicrously long and varied.

It makes sense then, that he would pursue the destruction of the electoral system because, as presently structured, it holds the prospect that it might not re-elect him.

Furthermore, Trump has repeatedly confirmed his intention to either: rig the result; prevent the election from taking place, as scheduled; or refuse to accept its result.

In short, he proposes, if necessary, to steal the November 3rd election of President of the United States.

The peculiarity of the system for electing the president could see Trump again lose the popular vote, but be awarded the presidency by the electoral college.

This antiquated system involves many variations, from state to state, and ambiguities in interpretations of the rules and powers of various state level actors. It provides considerable opportunity for interference and manipulation. Trump’s operation, in this context, is already under way.

The vote is now 60 days away. There are three main fields of campaign action, aside from the internet and social media space.

It is impossible, at any given stage, to predict the form action on the internet will take and its impact. All we can say is that US entities will spend billions of dollars on it and there will also be intervention by entities outside the US. For example, Facebook removed some Russia-based entities yesterday.

The other three areas are much more visible: Trump and the Republicans’ manipulation of the electoral process; the argument about the substance, the issues, of the election; and the forthcoming debates between the candidates.

First, no aspect of the process of voting is not being manipulated, mainly through restrictions, by the Republicans: postal votes, removal of places of voting, gerrymandering of electorates and conditions on registering as a voter, to name only the main obstacles for voters. These are targeted particularly at poor voters, voters of colour and people from remote communities.

On a larger institutional and constitutional level, Trump last week instructed that US intelligence agencies responsible for the security of the conduct of the elections to stop providing to Congress oral briefings on their work and findings.

A couple of weeks ago, the EU indicated its concern about the probity of the conduct of the US elections by deciding to send over a team of monitors. Presumably the US intelligence agencies will be forbidden to speak with those monitors and one can only wonder at what access they will be given to the process of voting and counting of the vote.

Secondly, the substance of the election is profoundly shaped by the four years of endless lies by Trump and his administration about virtually all relevant events and policies.

At issue is the truth of any aspect of the: conduct of government; public good; economic welfare of the US, and; role and influence of the US in the world.

Currently, this reality is clearest and most pressing with respect to Covid-19. The US now has the largest case number in the world (6.5 million of 25.6 million) and will soon reach 200,000 deaths.

Trump’s handling of the pandemic, or rather his ignoring of it, is widely recognised as being the major factor in producing these circumstances.

His most significant gestures currently towards this problem have been: to push the Food and Drug Administration to race a trial vaccine into human application before it has been adequately tested; to seek to corner the global market for the production of vaccines for exclusive US use; and to censor the Centers for Disease Control’s reporting of US infection and death rates.

In other words, his answer to a truly serious problem is to seek to: manipulate the reality of it; lie about what he has done and failed to do; and seek to conceal this.

Trump has now decided to run a “law and order” campaign. He has created situations of social conflict that have increasingly become armed and in which deaths have occurred to justify this theme. His characterization of the problem is laced with racism, antipathy between urban and suburban/rural areas and, of course, xenophobia.

Trump’s and the Republicans’ campaign is a vicious one. And, notably enshrines a cult of Trump.

They wrap themselves in the flag but they are, in fact, not remotely interested in the inherent diversity of America. Their stance posits the existence of “real” Americans. They know who they are. They are the members of the cult, the audience at Trump theatre. The rest are enemies of America.

This determination to divide America involves far more than the identification and vilification of political opponents. It has much more in common with fascist politics than with vigorous differences of approach expressed within a democratic system. We know this because of its racist elements and of its easy dalliance with violence and, of course, because of Trump’s own words and postures. He is much more guided by “blood and soil” than “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union”.

The third element in play, in the 60 days ahead, is the debates between the candidates.

Trump and Biden are scheduled, by the Commission on Presidential Debates, to meet on September 29 and on October 15 and 22. Pence and Harris are scheduled for October 7.

Given Covid-19 restrictions, the opportunity for public rallies and other larger forms of direct interaction with voters will be limited. Media and online communication will assume even greater importance than usual.

Polls suggest at present that overall, Biden is leading Trump and that a majority of people have had more than enough of Trump. But there is anxiety and confusion in key portions of the electorate, especially in states that have proven to be determinative for the electoral college outcome.

The debates will surely attract a lot of attention. Trump is, at root, a crude entertainer and this will bring an audience, in addition to his base. But what sort of show will it be?

It is widely expected that Trump will run a “vicious” campaign (the New York Times‘ characterisation) and that this will be evident in Trump’s approach to Biden during the debates.

Biden is a deeply decent man and the contrast between him and the brutally indecent Trump should be evident.

Biden must attack Trump’s record, especially on the two main issues of Covid-19 and the conflict in the streets of America. Trump will lie about those and accuse Biden of having radical left-wing, anti-police, pro-anarchy policies, for example.

Trump’s ramblings in the past few days about shadowy, malign figures in black, manipulating and supporting Biden, have been astonishing, even to his enablers on Fox.

How Biden handles Trump’s expected onslaught, in standing up to the insulting bully, could determine the electorate’s perceived outcome of the debates, either way.

The Pence/Harris debate is easier to envisage. Pence will make a series of personal attacks on Harris, basically pandering to his evangelical base and the misogyny of which he so evidently approves. Harris will re-run her prosecutorial role, as last seen to devastating effect on William Barr during the Congressional hearings and seek to expose Pence as an empty facilitator of Trump.

The core point is not how the electoral debate will be conducted; how will the clash of policies, outlooks, style play out; or who will “win” it. That would be normal.

But this is not normal. What we are looking at is Trump’s determination to steal the outcome if he can’t win it.

This election is viewed around the world as having a potentially profound impact on the prospect of cooperative solutions being found within both domestic and international politics to the extraordinary range of problems with which we are all confronted.

As the Editorial Board of the New York Times has stated: a further four years of Trump would be a global disaster.

print

Richard Butler AC Former Ambassador to the United Nations, Executive Chairman of UN Special Commission to Disarm Iraq, Professor of International Affairs.

This entry was posted in Top 5, World Affairs and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Please keep your comments short and sharp and avoid entering links. For questions regarding our comment system please click here.
(Please note that we are unable to post comments on your behalf.)