Nothing in the Constitution gives President Trump the power to delay the November election, and even fellow Republicans dismissed it out of hand when he broached it on Thursday. But that was not the point. With a possible defeat looming, the point was to tell Americans that they should not trust their own democracy.
The idea of putting off the vote was the culmination of months of discrediting an election that polls suggest Mr. Trump is currently losing by a wide margin. He has repeatedly predicted “RIGGED ELECTIONS” and a “substantially fraudulent” vote and “the most corrupt election in the history of our country,” all based on false, unfounded or exaggerated claims.
It is the kind of language resonant of conspiracy theorists, cranks and defeated candidates, not an incumbent living in the White House. Never before has a sitting president of the United States sought to undermine public faith in the election system the way Mr. Trump has. He has refused to commit to respecting the results and, even after his election-delay trial balloon was panned by Republican allies, he raised the specter on Thursday evening of months of lawsuits challenging the outcome.
Mr. Trump has put on the line not merely the outcome of this fall’s contest but the credibility of the system as a whole, according to even scholars and operatives normally sympathetic to the president. Just floating the possibility of postponing a presidential election, an idea anathema in America and reminiscent of authoritarian countries without the rule of law, risks eroding the most important ingredient in a democracy — the belief by most Americans that, whatever its manifest flaws, the election result will be fundamentally fair.
“It undermines the faith of the public in our electoral process,” said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who testified on Mr. Trump’s side last year during the House impeachment hearings. “Any constitutional system is ultimately held together by a leap of faith. Citizens must trust the process if you want them to yield to it. What the president is doing is seeding distrust about the legitimacy of even the holding of the election.” [Continue reading…]