“We have to win the election,” President Trump told a crowd of sometimes mask-less supporters in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, back in August. “[M]ake sure your vote gets counted. Make sure, because the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”
Did you get that? The president of the United States is leaving no room for the possibility that he will lose this election fairly or that Vice President Joe Biden will be elected legitimately.
That is, to put it lightly, an unprecedented, outrageous and dangerous undermining of our constitutional republic and the democratic values it upholds.
As the election inches closer, it becomes clearer with every passing moment that Trump will not go gentle into that good night. Practically since the day he was elected, he has been using and abusing our democratic institutions for his own benefit, and he shows no signs of letting up.
But are we taking him seriously enough?
Last week he encouraged voters in North Carolina to be “poll watchers,” to catch Democrats in the act of “thieving and stealing and robbing,” seemingly advocating for voter intimidation.
Just this past weekend, Trump again suggested to supporters that they vote twice — imploring them to vote by mail and then also attempt to vote in person as a backstop to test the system. That followed an earlier message to supporters last week to do the same.
“Let them send it in,” he said in North Carolina, “and let them go vote, and if the system is as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated they won’t be able to vote, so that’s the way it is.”
Steve Simon, Minnesota’s secretary of state, described that idea this way: “It’s like advising someone to try to rob a bank to see if the security is as good as the bank says it is. Knowingly voting twice is a felony. Period.” That didn’t stop Attorney General Bill Barr from exacerbating Trump’s attempts to undermine the election, when, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, the country’s top lawyer actually said he didn’t know what the law was in each state.
Back in July, Trump also suggested moving the election to a later date, which is not something he can legally do.
At the time, a Democratic National Committee spokeswoman dismissed the seriousness of Trump’s suggestion, calling it “nothing more than a desperate attempt to distract from today’s devastating economic numbers.”
It even cajoled some Congressional Republicans to put Trump in his place. Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters, “He can suggest whatever he wants. The law is what it is. We’re going to have an election that’s legitimate, it’s going to be credible, it’s going to be the same as we’ve always done it.”
But I’m not so sure about that. Trump has given us every indication that he’ll do whatever it takes to stay in power, the law and the Constitution be damned. Why are we so confident that the system can withstand his repeated blows, when he’s successfully manipulated the system to stay in power thus far?
This is, after all, a president who has already indicated he may not accept the election results, telling Fox, “I have to see.”
And in the latest effort to save himself in the case of Biden’s victory, he has asked the Department of Justice to take over a defamation lawsuit filed against him by E. Jean Carroll, a woman who claims Trump raped her in a dressing room in the mid-1990s, in hopes that Barr’s involvement will be more favorable for him.
From undermining the Russia investigation to his quid pro quo offer in Ukraine, resulting in his impeachment, Trump has proven over and over again that there is no out-of-bounds when it comes to his own self-preservation.
You don’t even have to buy former fixer Michael Cohen’s theory — that Trump will resign so that Vice President Mike Pence can become president to pardon him — to believe that Trump will not participate in a peaceful transition of power in November if he loses.
Instead of dismissing Trump as merely “desperate” to distract us, or professing blanket confidence in our provably vulnerable systems, we have to hope Congress, the Justice Department and state attorneys general are taking this threat to our democracy very seriously, and are ready for whatever Trump inevitably throws at us.
Because it’s not a conspiracy theory when he’s told us exactly what he wants to do.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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