Trump and Republicans have been successful in imposing a raft of measures designed to deter voting (voter ID requirements, limits on early voting, closing poll locations in poor areas, purging voter rolls), but they have usually disguised their activities under the bogus heading of “fraud prevention.” Voter fraud is exceptionally rare, whether in person or by mail. (In recent cases, such as the attempt at fraud by Republican operatives in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, the suspects were caught.) Perhaps Trump forgot that just the other day he was praising voting by mail in Florida. Now, he is apparently content to make it difficult if not impossible for millions of people concerned about their health in the pandemic to vote from home.
The irony, of course, is that Republicans are now spooked about absentee ballots and thereby risk losing out when their own voters cannot get to the polls (or face long lines) on Election Day. That is why many state and local Republican groups are pulling their hair out in response to Trump’s anti-absentee vote rhetoric.
Asked about Trump’s comments at her news conference on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Trump is “afraid of the American people. He’s been afraid for a while. He knows that on the legit, it’d be hard for him to win. So he wants to put obstacles of participation.” She vowed, “But we do not agonize, we organize.”
Trump’s war on the U.S. Postal Service is not just un-American and anti-democratic, but foolish. A great many people, including veterans and the elderly (especially in rural areas), depend on mail. VoteVets, a progressive veterans group, put out an ad making this point:
Democrats should not shy from hardball here. Why does Trump hate vets and the elderly? Why is Trump afraid of voting?
Former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) surely can raise the visibility of the issue, since it goes to the heart of the Trump plague. He would rather destroy government or co-opt it than put the interests of the people over his own (getting dirt on an opponent from a foreign government, using his office to promote hotels, refusing to protect U.S. troops rather than confront his BFF Vladimir Putin). He would rather shift blame to others or simply lie than use the powers of the federal government to set up a national testing and tracing system to address the pandemic. He would rather endanger children by returning them to classrooms in hopes of improving the economy than spend money, if local conditions require, to have them attend school virtually or through a hybrid system.
This is anti-government animus at a whole new level. It is a deliberate scheme to wreck the operation of government so he can stay in power. This is the conduct of tin pot dictators.
Other than highlight and condemn Trump’s shenanigans, what can Democrats and other pro-democracy Americans do? First, every Democrat, especially in rural areas or those with a significant percentage of veterans and elderly voters, should force Republicans to explain why they are complicit in destroying the Postal Service. Second, Democrats need to make an all-out push not just for early, in-person voting but also early return of absentee ballots. In addition, most states have an option to drop off absentee ballots at an election location. If seniors or others need help doing this, volunteers must be organized to drive them to drop-off locations. Third, states and localities need to be pressured to create ballot drop boxes in multiple locations, near shopping areas and other accessible places.
If the Michael Bloombergs and Tom Steyers are looking for something useful to do, they can blanket the airwaves with a simple message: Vote early — from home or at the polls. Drop it off in person, if you can.