Charlie Sykes
The Bulwark Presents
Morning Shots with Charlie Sykes

Trump Just Made the Election About Democracy Itself

And now he's woken the sleeping giant in American politics.
July 31, 2020
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(Hannah Yoest / Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)

When Napoleon ordered the execution of the Duke d’Enghien, it was described as “worse than a crime, it’s a mistake.”

Thursday exposed the extent of Donald’s Trump’s own miscalculation on the election: He’s not necessarily planning a crime, but he is committing an epic blunder.

As you know by now, the president began his day with a tweet complaining about the possibility of fraudulent mail-in ballots and raising the possibility of delaying the November election. To underline his apparent seriousness, he made it his pinned tweet. But, as every constitutional scholar in the country quickly pointed out, he lacks to the power to move the election and there’s absolutely no support in Congress for such a move, so that leaves three alternative explanations.

(1) He wanted a distraction from truly ghastly economic numbers that had just been released.

(2) He is continuing to stigmatize mail-in voting in an effort to suppress that vote.

(3) As Amanda Carpenter writes, Trump is “gaslighting the nation,” to lay the groundwork for delegitimizing and possibly challenging the election. “Trump is spreading such lies and rumors about the 2020 election,” she writes, “because he’s afraid of losing it.”

You can see the talking point taking shape: Trump is not a loser, he is a victim.

On such reeds are Grievance Movements built and Trump is all-in on the strategy: As Peter Baker writes this morning:

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.