Trump’s voter suppression strategy

Last July 30, two bombshells were dropped in Washington DC. The first was the announcement that the U.S. economy shrunk at an annualized rate of 32.9% in the second quarter, the biggest decline since 1947. On a non-annualized basis, GDP shrunk roughly 9.5% between the first and second quarters of 2020. The economy saw its worst quarter in at least 145 years!

But while annualized 32.9% represents the loss of a third of the economy, that’s not exactly true. Why? The Commerce Department reports quarterly GDP at an annual rate to allow easy comparisons to other time periods. Remove the “annualization,” and we see the economy contracted an abysmal 9.5%, which is still worse than the financial meltdown in 2008, when the GDP shrunk by 8.4%.

Double whammy

The contraction was announced as the U.S. suffered its second week of increasing unemployment, hinting signs of faltering recovery, a recovery that Trump had been hoping would rescue his re-election bid in November. Now everything seems to have gone south. A double whammy had just hit the White House.

This prompted Trump to tweet: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

Never in the history of the United States has a presidential election been postponed, delayed or cancelled. Not even during the civil war, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the First and Second World Wars or any event in American history. The Americans had always exercised their right to vote on the designated Election Day, come hell or high water.

For the first time in U.S. presidential elections, a presidential candidate suggested delaying or postponing the upcoming election of November 3, 2020, which begs the question: Why is president Donald Trump suggesting delaying or postponing the election? He claims that the “2020 election will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent” vote in history. However, he failed to present evidence to support his claim.

But the fact that he is making false claims that the election is being rigged against him are part of his strategy to cast doubts on the veracity of the presidential election process. They aren’t true, but they will prime his base to reject the results, and could thus throw a monkey wrench on the electoral process and could cause constitutional crisis in determining the next president of the U.S., which by itself would give Trump some avenue to challenge the results of the electoral college in the event that the results are very close.

Although Trump has no authority to delay an election, the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting if it ever reaches that point. However, lawmakers from both parties said almost immediately there was no likelihood the election would be delayed and even some of Trump’s allies said his message reflected the desperate flailing of a badly losing candidate.

But without legal basis as it was, Trump’s message did provide an opening — long feared by Democrats — that both he and his supporters might refuse to accept the presidential results. In questioning it ahead of time, Trump is priming his base to doubt the legitimacy of whatever outcome emerges in the first weeks of November. And that’s all that Trump needs to pursue his presidential ambition to the hilt.

Sowing doubts

During the news conference that follows, Trump was asked to explain his motivations. At first, he suggested “he was trying to avoid a drawn-out counting process that might stretch for days or weeks if large numbers of voters cast ballot by mail.”

Eventually, he acknowledged the real impact of his message: “sowing doubts early in whatever outcome emerges in November.” “What people are now looking at is … are all these stories right about the fact that these elections will be fraudulent, they’ll be fixed, rigged,” he said.

But there is no evidence that mail-in voting leads to fraud. Indeed, American elections have proceeded smoothly during wars and depressions without delay.
But early on, Trump has previously sought to stoke fear and lay the groundwork to question the election’s results by promoting the idea that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud and a “rigged” election, which the Democrats have warned his efforts are meant both to suppress voting and to provide a reason to refuse to leave office should he lose.

Up until July 30, Trump had previously denied Democratic suggestions that he would attempt to delay the election, claiming they were unfounded conspiracies. But now the cat is out of the bag, he has openly raised the idea of moving the date of the voting.

Although attempts by Trump to picture mail-in voting as prone to manipulation, it is by far the least vulnerable to fraud and “rigged” election. For one thing, it’s not open to Russian penetration and manipulation like what happened in 2016. Secondly, it’s been used by many states and no anomalies or irregularities have been reported. It’s the best way to prevent voter suppression since ballots are mailed directly to voters. But like Trump has said in a tweet, “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” It just shows that voter suppression – a favorite strategy of Republicans – doesn’t work with mail-in voting. However, by putting the success of the election in mail-in voting, what would happen if the mail-in voting runs into massive delay in the postal delivery for which mail-in voting is wholly dependent upon? What if the mailed-in ballots were not delivered on time? Can the process be sabotaged? If so, how?

New Postmaster General

Well, Trump has already put in place the mechanism to sabotage the mail-in voting by nominating Louis DeJoy, a Republican Party fundraiser, to the position of U.S. Postmaster General. DeJoy’s qualifications include donating $2 million to Trump’s re-election campaign and about $70,000 to the Republican National Committee.

Prior to his appointment on June 16, 2020, DeJoy was president of LDJ Global Strategies, a boutique firm with interests in real estate, private equity, consulting and project management. Currently, he serves on the Elon University board of trustees.

It’s interesting to note that DeJoy lacks the qualification of managing a postal delivery operation. This led Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) to note that DeJoy’s career as political operative and close ties to Trump and the Republican Party would threaten the non-partisan nature of the Postal Service. As a matter fact, DeJoy is the first postmaster in two decades without prior experience in the U.S. Postal Service. Critics point to apparent financial conflicts of interest, including DeJoy’s investments in USPS contractors and competitors, such as UPS and trucking company J.B. Hunt.

The fix is in!

Upon assuming office as Postmaster General, DeJoy didn’t waste time taking measures to reduce costs and slow the mail service, which seems to serve one purpose: have an adverse impact on the forthcoming presidential election. And true enough, according to news reports, “massive mail delays hit the postal service as Donald Trump’s new postmaster-General orders overtime ban and sorting machine shutdowns to save cash – raising more fears over November election.” Indeed, the fix is in! It’s just a matter of execution.

It also reported that the U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail, sparking fears the problem could continue into November and affect the election.

An internal report from the postal service warned almost half the states are not providing adequate time for workers to deliver ballots ahead of the election.
Many states affected are battlegrounds that could determine election result.

It was also revealed that delays are the result of changes put in place by DeJoy, who had nixed overtime pay, leading to backlogs in delivery, shutting down sorting machines early, which could affect post marks used by election boards.

Biggest areas affected are big cities, which are heavily Democratic.

It has become apparent that Trump’s appointment of DeJoy dovetails with Trump’s voter suppression strategy, which is to prevent timely counting of mailed-in ballots thus casting suspicions of irregularities and fraud.

Trump could then challenge the electoral process and would attempt to have the ballots recounted, which is a slow and expensive process. In short, he’ll do anything to prevent the ballots from being counted in a timely manner. Meanwhile, it would put his base on edge waiting for the results of the election.

Déjà vu
And if the results of the electoral votes are in favor of Biden by a razor-thin margin, Trump could petition the Supreme Court to rule in any dispute regarding the certification of electoral votes just like in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore presidential contest when the Supreme Court settled a recount dispute in Florida’s 2000 presidential election. The Supreme Court ruling awarded Florida’s 25 electoral votes to Bush, thus giving Bush a total of 271 electoral votes, one more than the required 270 electoral votes to win the Electoral College and the presidency. It’s déjà vu all over again.

And this is where Trump hopes the conservatives in the Supreme Court would support him. But with the voting record of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts tilting either way – he’s the ”swing vote” in the court — there is no guarantee that Trump would get a 5-4 vote in his favor like what Bush did in 2000.
The question is: Will Trump’s voter suppression strategy work this time?