Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 5, 2020
So, Donald Trump couldn’t stand it. He got impatient, or desperate, and had to declare himself the winner. Falsely.
We can’t know exactly Trump’s processing, but the act itself seemed a perfect, disharmonic note. It was surprising only that it came after 2 a.m. when he did not have an available Fox & Friends audience handy.
Even if Trump was at that moment on a track to win — he was ahead in those states with outstanding, uncounted votes — he can’t seem to help himself for creating chaos. If Trump were as confident as he seems, he could have just waited.
Therefore, his campaign folks must see that the uncounted votes were coming from Detroit and Philadelphia and other cities — places where Black voting is strong — where early voting and mail ballots were heavy and better for Democrats.
Maybe it made mathematical sense to try to call the game in the seventh inning.
Or it’s just the Trump impatience with anything that takes time and attention. It is the same way that he is treating a global pandemic: It’s too inviting to reach for the immediacy of hydroxychloroquine or even bleach injections rather than the harder, more methodical approach to actual problem-solving. Just assert that we’ll have a vaccine available for all 350 million Americans by this week, and then shrug when that date passes.
Trump can’t do slow and steady.
Worried about a nuclear North Korea? Just go and shake hands with a lying dictator without doing the appropriate background work. Concerned about updating a North American trade agreement? Dust it off, do a minimal negotiation, threaten people, and then when a Democratic House insists on changes, worry about the name and the signing photo op. Perfect.
The Trump Approach
Haphazard over Detail is how Donald Trump approaches problems of all sort, of course. Damn the consequences. The important thing is to win the media spotlight, to win the moment and we’ll deal with tomorrow later.
And so, a campaign that both candidates call a wrestling match for the country’s soul is somehow best settled by a bunch of hit-and-miss rallies that counter all public health advice and spread contagious disease among his own voters and by half-truths that get repeated in louder and wider ways.
In his case, challenging the legality of counting actual votes, cast in accordance with all state rules, may be something that Trump only sees as advancing his reelection probability. That taking such an action will also undermine trust in American democracy and in the institutions of voting seem side issues.
As a practical matter, to see the states simply ignore his call and continue with their election counts as normal is a refreshing reaction.
“If we count all legal ballots, the president wins,” campaign manager Bill Stepien told reporters yesterday, taking no questions about what he meant.
From listening to the seemingly endless legal analyses coming from actual lawyers and would-be expert television anchors, there seems little actual legal grounds for Trump’s challenges. He started challenging expanded mail ballot distribution and ballot application distribution months ago, losing several court challenges along the way because his argument grew from the possibilities of widespread fraud for which there was no evidence.
But then it moved on to challenging the actual count of votes that had arrived after the Nov. 3 Election Day, even if they had been postmarked as arriving on time. Those challenges, too, were rejected, though four Supreme Court justices did line up to support the idea that state judges could not overrule state legislatures on deciding those time limits. Next stop courts, and then calls for recounts, ala Florida 2000.
The U.S. Postal Service has indeed been slow in some states, and told a federal court that it had lost tracking information on 300,000 ballots.
Legally, what Trump wants is to stop the count of real, legal votes — the very epitome of American democracy.
Bottom line here is that Trump wants to win. He doesn’t seem to care he does so legitimately or not, anything that contributes to winning from voter registration suppression to vote intimidation to court-packing just before the election is okay so long as it helps him Win.
Thus, impatience rears when an obstacle sticks its head up.
And that sound of silence — well, those are Republican so-called leaders who are refusing to stand up and denounce this act as anti-democratic and anti-American.
In part, this is exactly what I thought this election was supposed to be all about — a referendum on Trump’s imperial approach in the White House. His idea of governance is more akin to that dictator fighting against huge crowds in the streets in Belarus in recent weeks than to coming to terms with Democratic congressional leaders.
Trump isn’t interested in governing. He is interested in Winning, and in being adulated by unquestioning, loyal crowds.
His call to halt the vote count comes amid a four-year record of insisting that only he can be right about pandemics, about economics, about tax policy, about tariffs, about snatching migrant kids from parents, about who’s protesting peacefully and who’s carrying guns.
That Trump would try to stop legal vote count alone should disqualify him from returning to the White House.