I’m worried. But I’m not sure what to be more worried about — President Trump’s executive order cracking down on alleged “censorship” by social media sites such as Twitter, or his ongoing effort to set the table for challenging the upcoming election if it doesn’t go his way.
Trump’s edict, or pronunciamento, or presidential bull (presumably without the assumption of presidential infallibility) issued last week was in obvious retaliation against Twitter (which had just, for the first time ever, had the nerve to append a warning to his tweets, inviting readers to “get the facts”). That was just a tantrum.
But who deserved that treatment more than Mr. “Fake News” himself, whose relationship to truth has always been casual and indirect, at best.
He lies about his family; he hides his finances; he created a fake charity and fake “university” (both of which were ended by the State of New York); he lied about 9/11, when he, and only he, allegedly saw “thousands” of Muslims cheering as the towers came down.
He lies about the COVID-19 pandemic (“We have it under control.” — Jan 22. By April, “it miraculously goes away." — Feb. 10. “We’re very close to a vaccine.” — Feb. 24. Then, suddenly, “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” — March 17.
Oh, and he lies about those he sees as his enemies: Barack Obama was born in Africa, Hillary Clinton got “millions” of illegal votes in 2016.
Speaking of 2016, he announced before Election Day that the election was “rigged” against him. Asked whether he’d support his opponent if she won (as all presidential losers in modern times have done), he said, “We're going to have to see.”
Which raises the chilling prospect that he would not only refuse to accept a loss, come Nov. 3, but that there might not even be an election that day.
When Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner was asked earlier this month whether he was willing to “commit that the elections will happen on November 3,” he replied: “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan.”
Now, Kushner may not be as top a top adviser as, say, Trump’s fairy godmother, Kellyanne Conway (she of “alternative facts”), or as his daughter, Ivanka (who, according to her father, created “14 million jobs” in two years), but he’s in the inner circle.
History informs us that even on Nov. 8, 1864 — in the middle of the Civil War, with casualties mounting and the outcome far from clear — President Lincoln faced the voters on schedule.
But Trump keeps harping about all the states that want to use mail-in ballots to keep people safe from COVID-19. California, he said falsely, is sending them to “anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there. … Anybody that walks in California is gonna get a ballot.”
Do I really believe that Trump is going to find a way to either cancel the election or hang onto power even if he loses?
But, for the first time in my life, it’s not unthinkable. Not even Richard Nixon, a certifiable crook, managed to shake my faith in our electoral system.
Donald Trump has.
Reach Glenn Richter at firstname.lastname@example.org.