President Donald Trump, lagging in the polls and grappling with an economic collapse and public health crisis, on Thursday floated the startling idea of delaying the Nov. 3 presidential election.
The suggestion drew immediate pushback from Democrats and Republicans alike in a nation that has held itself up as a beacon to the world for its history of peaceful transfer of power.
Trump floated delaying the election as he pushed unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic would result in fraud.
“Do we have any reason to believe that Mr. Trump would accept the outcome of the election?” asked Yale historian and expert on authoritarian regimes, Professor Timothy Snyder, on Sunday. “The tweet of July 30th was a very clear statement, but he has literally, dozens of times before said he wouldn’t.”
“There is nothing in his career that indicates he actually likes democracy,” Snyder continued. “In this particular tweet, we have a dangerous mixture, where he’s talking about a problem he created himself, insofar as we do have problems with voting in the U.S. They have to do with things like African-Americans not being enfranchised, they have to do with the things of foreign intervention. And even the problems he mentioned, which is postal voting, which is good and of itself, that might be slowed down because of his own postmaster general. So, he’s talking about problems he caused himself, then claiming they’re an emergency, and using that as a reason to claim power himself. That’s a manufactured emergency and that is, in fact, a prime historical fascist tactic.”
Snyder, who authored of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” describing the key ways to spot authoritarianism, went on to explain that a fascist is someone who will often manufacture a crisis, blame it on the other side, and then use the crisis to his own benefit.
Snyder said that Trump has already manufactured his crisis and is now trying to create the solution that would best protect him and his power.
“Another element of this, which is worth paying attention to, is the way the tweet ends,” he continued. “People can console themselves by saying Mr. Trump can’t himself cancel the election. That’s true, but what he is doing, as of July 30th, is calling upon others to create a mess, so that the election won’t go through smoothly. That’s what the three question marks at the end mean. He can’t do it himself.”
As of the time Trump sent that tweet, Snyder said that anyone who continues to support Trump knows they are doing so in defiance of democratic values of America.
“As of July 30th, if you support Mr. Trump, if you’re planning on voting for Mr. Trump, if you contribute to the campaign, if you’re a delegate, you know perfectly well, this is a man who doesn’t believe he can win by the normal vote count,” said Snyder. “You know you are taking part now in a campaign which is no longer a democratic campaign, but which is something else. You know that his main task for you now is not to win an election. He’s basically conceded defeat already. His main task for you now is to find someone who can mess up the election so we can cling to power. I think that’s a big moral question where a lot of Americans should be thinking about the choices they’re about to make.”