Tag Archives: Donald Trump

If Biden Loses, This Will Be Why

Can Biden Plan for a Pandemic Presidency? - The Atlantic

It would be a stretch to say that Joe Biden is in trouble. He is ahead in the polls, including in states where Donald Trump won last time. Unlike Trump, who is nearly broke, Biden’s campaign is raking in corporate donations.

Of course, Democrats couldn’t have asked for a weaker incumbent. Nearly 200,000 Americans dead of COVID-19 after the president downplayed the threat and failed to provide relief, tens of millions of people newly unemployed months away from the election, polls showing that a record number of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, supplemental unemployment benefits expired with no sign that they will ever be renewed. Almost any other candidate would be poised to trounce Trump by double-digit landslide of historical proportions.

Not Biden.

The two crazy old white men with bad hair are in a dead heat in key battleground states like Florida. As one would expect during a normal year—when the president had not just killed a bunch of voters and made a bunch of others jobless—the race is tightening. Biden is still ahead by seven points nationally but that’s not significantly better than Hillary Clinton was doing at the same point in time. A worried Bernie Sanders has been advising Biden to nix his vague rightward pivot and articulate stronger stances on bread-and-butter issues.

More than any other single factor, I am focused on the enthusiasm gap. Anyone who counts yard signs and bumperstickers can see that Trump’s supporters are fired up while Biden’s are dutifully going through the motions, motivated primarily by their desire to unseat the incumbent.

Like most elections in recent years, 2020 isn’t about swaying swing voters on the fence. It’s a turnout game. Whoever gets more of their baked-in supporters to the polls wins. Not only are Biden’s supporters not all that into him, more of them are scared of the coronavirus than Trump’s people—and that could make all the difference when they decide whether or not to leave their homes on Election Day.

Then there’s the debates. Biden could exceed expectations. But those expectations are there for a reason. Biden has never been a good debater; he was awful during the primaries. He is well past his expiration date. He is easily rattled (“lying dog-faced pony soldier”) and Trump is a master rattler. Debates could destroy Biden.

            Setting aside the almost inevitable constitutional crisis caused by the system’s inability to deliver and process an expected 80 million mail-in ballots, there is a real chance Donald Trump could straight out win.

            At this point, there are still several things that Biden could do to maintain and even expand his lead over the president. If I were advising him, I would tell him to do the following:

            Nail Down the Base. The progressive Democrats who supported Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren during the primaries are not, contrary to statements by the old liberal centrists, “purity ponies” determined to punish the Democratic Party because their preferred candidate didn’t win. They are driven by policy—and so far the Biden campaign has refused to throw them any red meat. Democrats can truly unify the party in November by getting Biden to campaign on at least one major issue dear to progressives, like Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, or swearing off wars of choice. It would be smart to add in some minor promises with symbolic residence, like prosecuting CIA torturers, Closing Gitmo, eliminating drones, refusing to prosecute Julian Assange and allowing Edward Snowden to come home. Progressives don’t need the whole cow. But you do have to throw them a bone, or risk losing them the way Hillary did in 2016.

            Weasel Out Of the Debate. If he followed this advice, I would be even more determined not to vote for him. Denying voters the right to watch candidates answer questions about themselves and their stances is profoundly undemocratic. Still, ethics aside, debating can only help Trump. If I were Biden, I’d refuse to prove to the country what every honest person who has been paying attention knows: he is suffering from dementia.

            Announce an Agenda for the First 100 Days. Biden likes to compare himself to FDR. Like FDR, he should announce his agenda for his first 100 days in office. That way, should he win, Republicans won’t be able to argue that he didn’t earn a mandate for specific changes. During this time of medical and socioeconomic crisis, Americans crave specific solutions to their problems. While it is true that staying vague frustrates the writers of GOP attack ads, it also feeds the suspicion that Biden, like Obama, is all hat and no cattle when it comes to trying to legislate big changes.

            Personnel Is Policy so Appoint Personnel Now. Progressives were let down in a big way by the choice of right-wing prosecutor Kamala Harris as Biden’s vice president. Biden supporters’ most frequently uttered talking point is that he would appoint better qualified cabinet members than Trump has, but keeping losers like Lawrence “Women Can’t Do Math” Summers among his closest advisors and compiling a foreign policy team so full of neoconservatives that only Dick Cheney is missing doesn’t inspire confidence. Writing a blank check doesn’t make sense anymore. Let’s see some of those cabinet appointments now, before we vote.

            Campaign in Person. Last but not least and probably most controversially, Biden needs to hit the road like COVID-19 never happened. Elections are job interviews and Donald Trump seems to want the gig. Biden doesn’t. He needs to appear in public, distance socially, no mask, heavy schedule of in-person appearances. Most Americans venture out in public every single day these days and manage not to contract COVID-19. Surely Biden’s handlers can figure out how to do the same for their candidate.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

High Crimes against Journalism and Decency: Jeffrey Goldberg’s Insane “Trump Called Troops Suckers” Piece Is a New Low

9-11-97

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote an article for The Atlantic that could harm Donald Trump’s chance to win re-election. Setting aside the controversial content of the remarks attributed to the president, it is important to note that this is an atrocious example of journalism.

You could almost call it “fake news.”

And corporate media is taking it at face value.

You may think Trump is a turd—I do. You may want him to lose the election—I do. (I also want Biden to lose, but that’s another column.) You may believe that Trump probably said what Goldberg reports—I think there’s a good chance. But everyone who cares about journalism ought to be deeply disturbed by the nonexistent sourcing for this story and its widespread acceptance by media organizations that ought to know better.

It’s easy to see why Democratic-leaning media corporations jumped all over Goldberg’s piece: it hurts the president and it reinforces militarism. But they’re degrading journalistic standards to manipulate an election.

According to Goldberg, four anonymous sources told him that Trump called American marines who died in World War I “losers” and repeatedly questioned why anyone smart would join the military or be willing to risk their life by fighting in one of America’s wars.

Anonymous sources have their place. I have used them. But basing a news story entirely on accounts of people who are unwilling to go on the record is journalistically perilous and ethically dubious. There are exceptions, as when a Mafia source fears physical retribution.

There is no such claim here. Most media organizations’ ethical guidelines are clear: news without attribution is not news. It is gossip.

            The Los Angeles Times, a publication my readers know that I hold in low regard, nevertheless takes a stance against anonymous sources. “When we use anonymous sources, it should be to convey important information to our readers. We should not use such sources to publish material that is trivial, obvious or self-serving,” the paper’s ethical standards say. “An unnamed source should have a compelling reason for insisting on anonymity, such as fear of retaliation, and we should state those reasons when they are relevant to what we publish.”

            The Atlantic piece falls way short.

Likewise, writing that strips statements of necessary context is anti-ethical. Trump, writes Goldberg, “expressed contempt for the war record of the late Senator John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. ‘He’s not a war hero,’ Trump said in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. ‘I like people who weren’t captured.’” He goes on to note that Trump wanted to deny McCain the honor of lowering flags to half-mast after McCain died.

Goldberg frames Trump’s comments as part of a general bias against the military and portrays his attacks as unprovoked. Truth is, long before Trump made those comments he had been engaged in a well-documented, long-running feud with the Arizona senator. McCain based his political career on his military service and the five years he spent as a POW in Vietnam. McCain was Trump’s enemy, and there is considerable evidence that McCain—known for a sharp tongue—started the war of words. Trump gave back in kind.

“Nor did he set his campaign back by attacking the parents of Humayun Khan, an Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004,” Goldberg continues in another context-free passage. Khan’s father famously spoke against Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. “You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” Khan said. In Trumpian terms, Khan started it. But Goldberg’s omission makes it look like Trump attacked a fallen soldier out of the blue.

Goldberg does this a third time: “When lashing out at critics, Trump often reaches for illogical and corrosive insults, and members of the Bush family have publicly opposed him.” Both sides have insulted each other; as far as the record shows, Trump is usually running offense, not defense—but Goldberg falsely portrays the enmity as a one-way street.

One of the praiseworthy aspects of this president is his relatively restrained approach to military interventionism, coupled with his willingness to directly engage adversaries like North Korea and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the latter which recently signed a peace agreement with the United States. It is logical for Trump, who is skeptical of illegal wars of choice like Afghanistan and Iraq, to question why people would volunteer to fight and possibly die in such a pointless conflict. For Goldberg, militarism is a state religion. Questioning it is intolerable.

Goldberg’s piece, the tone of which reads like the pro-war hysteria following 9/11, reflects the aggressively militaristic neoliberalism of the Democratic Party in 2020.

Goldberg references Trump’s 2017 visit to Arlington cemetery with then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. “A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan … Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, ‘I don’t get it. What was in it for them?’ Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.”

            Joining the military, of course, is hardly a non-transactional decision. Soldiers get paid. They get medals. They get free college. They are revered and thanked for their service. Military service gives you a leg up when you run for political office.

Moreover, Trump’s question is one Americans should be asking more often. Why would a 29-year-old man volunteer to travel to Afghanistan in order to kill the locals? No one in that country threatened the United States. No one there did us any harm. Afghans don’t want us there. Why did Robert Kelly go?

Goldberg seems obsessed with Trump’s description of fallen soldiers as suckers. “His capacious definition of sucker includes those who lose their lives in service to their country, as well as those who are taken prisoner, or are wounded in battle,” Goldberg writes. But is he wrong?

            LBJ suckered us into Vietnam with the Tonkin Gulf incident, which historians of all stripes accept was a lie.

            George H.W. Bush suckered us into the first Gulf War with a tale of Iraqi soldiers rampaging through a Kuwaiti hospital and pulling babies out of incubators. Another lie.

            After 9/11 George W. Bush suckered us into Afghanistan by saying Osama bin Laden was there—he was not.

            Of course Bush lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. More suckering. (At the time, Goldberg spread the lie that Saddam Hussein was allied with his enemy Al Qaeda.)

            Assuming that anything in Goldberg’s piece was true, Trump was right.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Fascism Is so Much Simpler Than Democracy

In 1933 the German parliament passed a law that turned itself into a rubberstamp in favor of Adolf Hitler. In 2020 the Republican Party decided not to issue a platform. Instead, they turned themselves into a rubberstamp in favor of Donald Trump.

Trump and Biden: Equally Awful

Trump, Biden in virtual tie in Texas in new poll - HoustonChronicle.com

Front and center in the raging debate among liberals and progressives over whether they should support Joe Biden or opt out of the two-party trap by voting third-party or not at all is the assumption that Biden would do less harm both to the world and to American leftism than Trump.

Even many hard-core Bernie-or-Busters accept the premise that Biden wouldn’t be as bad as Trump. They believe the additional damage that would result from a second Trump administration is an acceptable price for teaching the DNC a lesson and building a progressive movement.

But it’s not true that Biden wins the harm mitigation sweepstakes.

For every respect in which Biden would be better than Trump—or less awful—there is a compelling counterfactual that carries equal or greater weight.

If Trump wins, for example, we can count on his uniquely toxic combination of anti-science propaganda and organizational ineptitude to unnecessarily prolong and increase the body count of COVID-19. The WHO says that millions could die in the dreaded second wave; a disproportionately high number of those people could be Americans. Let’s guesstimate half a million dead here in the U.S.?

The net cost of Trump is equal to the total number of deaths here under his second term, minus the number that would occur under Biden. Since Biden can’t do anything about the pandemic until late January when he takes office and herd immunity appears to be closer than we previously believed, whether a ridiculously incompetent Trump or a refreshingly competent Biden is president after January probably doesn’t make a big difference. There’s a chance we have seen the worst of COVID-19. Still, it’s fair to say that thousands more Americans will succumb to the coronavirus under Trump and Biden.

On the other hand, Biden is likelier to start wars than Trump and Trump is likelier to end them. Biden voted to bomb Bosnia and invade Afghanistan. He was a big cheerleader and enabler for the Iraq war. Currently he’s threatening to start a hot war with Venezuela and new cold wars against China and Russia. He also promises to keep increasing the defense budget. Donald Trump was the first American president in decades to directly negotiate with the Taliban, with whom he signed a peace agreement to bring home all American troops from our longest war.

When we assess which candidate would do the most harm, even the breathtakingly disgusting body count from COVID-19 doesn’t come close to the over 1 million people who died in the Iraq war alone. Will Biden go to war against Iran? North Korea? Anything is possible. Biden’s record is clear; he is an extremely dangerous man. And even if you don’t care about all the brown people he would kill as president, remember 9/11. Our wars come to our shores sometimes.

Despite the usual election year hysteria, there is no daylight between Trump and Biden on most major issues. Neither old white man promises to restore the $600 a week supplemental unemployment insurance. Neither is in favor of the Green New Deal. Neither wants student loan forgiveness. Neither would sign Medicare For All. Both prioritize corporations over individual citizens. Neither would significantly liberalize immigration policy.

Even on the issue of the year, police violence, Trump and Biden are competing to see which one is more palatable to the Blue Lives Matter crowd. “You know me,” Biden assured the far right in a recent speech, referencing his authorship of the notorious mass incarceration crime bill and the USA-Patriot Act that destroyed fundamental privacy rights. “You know my heart, and you know my story, my family’s story. Ask yourself: Do I look to you like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” When someone tells you they are an authoritarian, believe them.

The real difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump has nothing to do with policy. No matter which evil man wins, we are in for a lousy four years.

This election comes down to personality. How do you like your monsters? Obnoxious and buffoonish? Or polite and affable? I prefer truth in advertising: Americans are up in arms about crappy American policies precisely because Donald Trump puts an appropriately nasty face on them.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

 

Hope and Change 2: the Biden Years

Every candidate attracts unrealistic expectations but the Democratic idea that Joe Biden is going to fix everything that is wrong under Donald Trump has brought magical thinking to a fever pitch. Newsflash: if things get any better, it won’t be much better.

There Isn’t That Much Difference between Democrats and Republicans

Everyone is criticizing President Trump, and rightfully so, for the fact that he is so crude, belligerent and bullying to those he disagrees with. However, progressive people who are hesitant about the candidacy of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are getting similar reactions from fellow Democrats.

Never Trump, Never Biden: the Progressive Case for Voting Third Party or Boycotting the Election

Republicans will vote for Trump no matter what. Democrats will vote for Biden no matter what. This column is for progressives weighing the pros and cons of succumbing to the two-party trap, and voting for Biden.

Unless you’ve been sucking through a ventilator in a COVID-19 ward for the last few months, you know the argument in favor of swallowing your disappointment that neither Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren are the Democratic nominee, resisting the temptation to punish the DNC for rigging the primaries, and forgetting Joe Biden’s right-wing voting record and Kamala Harris’ penchant for locking up innocent people of color and throwing away the key: Trump is a monster, his second term will bring fascism to America, Biden will be more amenable to pressure from the left than Trump.

Except for the part about Trump being a terrible human being, the call to sell out is all based on nonsense.

Reelecting Trump would send a nasty symbolic signal to the world but his actual presidency will almost certainly be characterized by the plagues of lame duckery. Second terms are worthless. Presidents don’t get anything done during their second term. Even FDR floundered. Whatever you think of Trump, does this president strike you as a brilliant Machiavellian tactician who has been holding back his most extreme instincts for four years? Smarter than Reagan, Clinton or Obama? Should Trump be reelected, he will almost certainly be impeached again. Allies like Mitch McConnell will drift away. He may face prosecution.

Some progressives are vulnerable to the argument that, though far from ideal, a neoliberal warmonger like Joe Biden nevertheless represents an improvement over Donald Trump. That argument fails.

Left-of-center electoral politics in the United States is not like football, a game in which a team moves the ball down the field in incremental steps. Mainstream corporate-owned Democratic Party politics is not on the same continuum as progressivism. Neoliberalism isn’t watered-down progressivism; progressivism isn’t a more robust form of neoliberalism. They are opposing ideologies. Progressives and centrists are enemies. When neoliberal centrists achieve power, progressives find themselves in the political wilderness. Obama didn’t have a single progressive in his cabinet. Biden doesn’t have any progressive top advisors.

Corporate Democrats ignore progressives. They crush them. Two major protest movements emerged under Obama, Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Obama deployed the surveillance state to eradicate both. Ask Julian Assange and Edward Snowden how amenable corporate Democrats like Obama are to progressive demands for change. It would be idiocy to expect anything different from Biden, who just appointed an out-of-control former prosecutor during a period of unprecedented protest against police brutality.

Would Biden be better than Trump? Only in temperament. Qualitatively, Biden presents a friendlier face for a pro-business domestic agenda that features few substantial differences with the Republicans. Under his proposed Democratic administration, we can expect to see a continuation of a tax structure that favors wealthy individuals and corporations, shrinking union power and rising income inequality, a horrible for-profit healthcare system, and systemic police violence directed disproportionately against people of color and the poor.

Understandably, there is trepidation about the possibility of Donald Trump naming a successor to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who is ailing. Even if Democrats control the Senate after January, and Biden pushes through a liberal—which, given his record, is unlikely—the overall balance of the court will not change. It is a conservative court and it will remain one.

In foreign policy, there is far less cause for optimism. From Bosnia to Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya to Syria, Joe Biden has enthusiastically voted for and convinced his fellow legislators to support brutal foreign interventions. Though disgusting, Trump’s record is nevertheless far better than Biden’s. Trump has expanded Obama’s drone wars and supports the bloodthirsty Saudi regime in the proxy civil war in Yemen. Yet he also negotiated a deal for total U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and repeatedly expresses his willingness to negotiate with such adversaries as North Korea and Iran without pre-conditions.

Neither Trump nor Biden will do anything that progressives really care about. Neither will support the Green New Deal or, for that matter, doing anything real about climate change. Neither is in favor of student loan forgiveness. Neither will take the profit incentive out of healthcare.

Some progressives worry about “wasting their vote” on an outfit like the Green Party. What could be more of a waste than voting for someone who is against everything you care about?

In high school civics class they told you that a single vote can make a difference. They lied. Not in a national election. Not at the state level of a national election. In the closest battleground state of 2016, New Hampshire, Clinton beat Trump by 2,701 votes. Sure, if you and thousands of other folks vote the same way, outcomes can change. But you have no control over other people. You have one vote. That’s all. Even if you live in Ohio, you personally can’t change anything. So live free.

On the other hand, withholding your vote from the Democratic Party can have a positive impact. Several million primary voters cast ballots for Bernie Sanders in 2016 but stayed home in the general election. Primary voters are fanatics—only 12% turnout compared to about 55% in the general election—so when they don’t show up it’s a boycott, not apathy. After Hillary lost, party insiders concluded they would have to move left in order to motivate progressive base voters. Many contenders in the 2020 Democratic primaries espoused elements of Bernie Sanders’ platform. Without the 2016 progressive boycott, that never would have happened.

If you are trying to send a message with your vote, voting for a third party is likelier to register with analysts than staying home on election day.

Voting for Biden sends only one message: you approve of him and his politics. Why, after getting the milk for free, would he pay attention to any of the cow’s complaints?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Delay the Election? Presidents Often Do Things They Can’t Do

Trump Won't Steal the Election, but Your Governor Might | The NationThe stock response to President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the general election might be delayed because voting during a pandemic would involve a record number of mail-in ballots, a format he argues is unreliable and susceptible to fraud, is that he doesn’t have that power.

NBC News is typical: “The president has no power to delay an election.” [Emphasis is mine.]

What the president understands, and most mainstream commentators fail to accept, is that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission. That goes double when the powers in question are limited by a document that lies in tatters, repeatedly ignored.

            Liberal politicians and news outlets point out that the Constitution assigns the scheduling of elections exclusively to Congress. Republicans tepidly (and troublingly) stopped short of denying Trump’s power to push back the big day, while insisting that the election ought to take place on time. “Never in the history of this country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time. We will find a way to do that again this November 3rd,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

In an era of rampant cynicism it is sweetly naïve and the amusingly charming to see Americans put so much faith into the constitutional checks and balances they learn about in high school civics class. “‘Trump can’t delay the election,’ experts say,” reads a headline in The Washington Post.

            Since when has a 221-year-old piece of paper stopped presidents from doing anything?

I think first of war powers. Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that the right “to declare war” resides exclusively with Congress. Such key founders as George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton—men whose right to define original intent can hardly be questioned—believed that presidents could not dispatch troops without legislative approval except in cases of immediate self-defense. Congress signed off on sending soldiers and sailors to the Quasi-War with France in 1798, naval conflicts with the Barbary States of Tripoli and Algiers, and clashes with Native American tribes in the West.

Congress has since abdicated its war-making powers to the executive branch. Congress hasn’t issued a formal declaration since World War II. Yet we have fought countless wars. Presidents have launched military attacks against Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Serbia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these wars of aggression were legalistically constructed as “police actions” or “peacekeeping missions” under the aegis of the UN. The fact remains, this is not what the drafters of the Constitution intended. And it has never been amended. Presidents do what they want; lawyers twist logic to justify their illegal slaughters.

President Abraham Lincoln earns democracy points for holding the 1864 election during the Civil War. Yet he suspended habeas corpus and ignored a ruling by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court saying that he didn’t have the power to do so. George W. Bush’s Military Commissions Act of 2006 also suspended habeas, for anyone the U.S. government arbitrarily defined as an “enemy combatant.” Until the Supreme Court ruled against him two years later, Congress was complicit with the MCA. Even after the court ruling, the internment facility at Guantánamo Bay remains open; 40 men remain there, not one of whom has ever been charged or tried under basic constitutional standards.

FDR almost certainly didn’t have the constitutional right to send 127,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps during World War II. Yet he did.

From domestic surveillance by the NSA that violates the agency’s founding charter to asset forfeiture programs that allow the police to seize money and property from people who have never been charged, much less convicted of a crime, Americans live in a society oppressed by a political class that takes no notice of constitutional limits it deems inconvenient.

Does the president have the legal right to delay an election? No.

Does he have the power? Yes, unless We The People refuse to accept it.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

First They Came for the Dirty Hipsters

President Trump deployed paramilitary goon squads to Portland and other American cities in order to harass peaceful protesters. Fascism has officially arrived in the United States. But reaction from Joe Biden and ordinary Americans remain muted.

It Could Easily Happen Here, Soon

What is a coup d'état? - CNN Video

You don’t want to lose your job. How would you feel if getting fired would mean that you would spend the rest of your life in prison? You would do anything to keep working.

Anything.

That’s the position in which Donald Trump finds himself.

The president is the target of a myriad of congressional, state and federal investigations into his business practices. Trump could resign in exchange for a deal with Mike Pence to pardon him as Ford did for Nixon, or hope for a victorious Joe Biden to do the same in the spirit of looking forward, not backward.

But a presidential pardon wouldn’t apply to the biggest threat to Trump’s freedom: the New York-based inquiries by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, New York’s attorney general and the Manhattan D.A.’s office into hush payments that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made to Playboy model Karen McDougal and the adult-film actor Stormy Daniels, violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause and into Trump’s business practices in general.

It’s highly unlikely that, as long as he continues to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump will be frog-marched into a police van. Many legal experts argue that presidents enjoy at least temporary immunity from prosecution. Department of Justice memos dating to 1973 state that, as a matter of policy though not law, a sitting president should not be indicted.

If Joe Biden maintains his double-digit lead in the polls, however, Trump stands to lose his executive immunity from prosecution early next year. At age 74, even a five-year prison term could effectively become a life sentence. What would Trump be willing to do to avoid that?

In the back (not all the way back) of Trump’s mind has to be the possibility of canceling the election.

There has been speculation, from such notables as Hillary Clinton, that Trump might refuse to leave the White House if he loses to Biden. Indeed, Trump has fed rumors that he plans to discredit the results in case of a loss. He says mail-in balloting would be plagued by fraud and foreign interference and refuses to commit to accepting the results. If I were the president, I would reject this option. Refusing to leave would be far from certain to allow him to remain in office more than a few weeks or months.

            Another crisis scenario making the rounds has Republican governors loyal to Trump refusing to certify the results in their states. Under one of the more arcane sections of the Constitution the final result would be determined by the House of Representatives under a one state delegation–one vote scheme. Most states are majority Republican so Trump would probably win. Trump shouldn’t go with this plan either. Relying on feckless governors in the House of Representatives process would leave too much to chance.

Only one approach comes close to guaranteeing that Trump remains at the helm for the foreseeable future and thus out of the clutches of New York prosecutors: canceling the election entirely.

On or about November 1st, he takes to the airwaves.

“My fellow Americans,” he intones, “we are a time of unprecedented crisis. We are deep in the dreaded second wave of the coronavirus. It would be reckless and irresponsible to ask people to go outside and stand in line, risking death, in order to cast a vote that can easily be cast next year, after we have a vaccine. Moreover, the streets of many of our cities have been overrun by rioters and looters. We can’t have an election without law and order. Therefore, we will delay the vote until our safety can be guaranteed. God bless America.”

Never mind that the riots will have been provoked by Trump’s own federal government goons, the so-called Federal Protective Service, or that the pandemic will be raging because of his own incompetence, denial and inaction. His argument will ring true with his Republican base and a few moderates. As usual, Democrats will be stunned, clueless and impotent.

Trump has set the stage for a too-dangerous-to-vote argument.

Black Lives Matters protests were winding down before he sent FPS to Portland and Seattle. Thanks to these violent agents provocateurs the crowds of angry protesters are growing, buildings are burning and people are getting killed. He wants to send thugs to Chicago and other cities as well. By October they could be all over the country, spreading chaos.

After downplaying the threat of COVID-19 for months, the president has radically reversed course. He is wearing a mask in public, urging others to do so and resuming coronavirus-themed press briefings, replacing public health officials as the face of the crisis response. The new messaging: COVID is deadly. Mail-in ballots, the social-distancing alternative to IRL voting, has been discredited by the GOP; anyway, it’s too late to implement it now. Just watch: he may call for schools to remain closed, another switch.

There is no legal mechanism for canceling a federal election. The Supreme Court can’t do it. There are no exceptions, not even for nuclear war. The U.S. system will have broken down.

            What will happen next? We have seen it many times in many other countries. Trump and his associates will not be able to allow the media to talk, the courts to rule or the politicians to criticize his coup.

Trump, former president and now dictator, will censor and suppress dissent to protect his regime. Martial law will be declared. Media outlets, including social media online, will be seized and censored. Lists of potential critics and opponents—leading Democrats, academics, intellectuals, pundits, even political cartoonists—will be drawn up. Those on the list will be arrested, or worse.

            They say it—fascism, authoritarianism—can’t happen here. But if you’re Donald Trump and you think you’re about to lose and go to prison, what other option do you have?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)