To think of a sitting president publicly stating his intentions to refuse the results of an election is terrifying. For it to actually be happening in the United States of America makes me question if I’m even living in a democracy anymore.
In a press briefing on Sept. 23, Donald Trump was asked whether he planned to accept the election results and commit to a peaceful transferal of power if his opponent wins the presidency. If you assumed he'd be cordial enough to say yes, you’d be mistaken.
His response was: “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster.”
It’s important to understand why Trump is making these claims and why they’re likely to amp up in the weeks leading up to, and even after, the election — he's setting the stage for a massive electoral upheaval in case he loses.
With the unfortunate passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Trump and his administration are in a race against the clock to appoint a more conservative justice. More time in office gives Trump more of an opportunity to get Amy Coney Barrett in Ginsberg’s place, which would tip the court even further to the right.
It seems his strategy is to discredit the validity of mail-in ballots, a form of voting millions will potentially be using this year. In the same press briefing , Trump added, “get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very trans- — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly; there’ll be a continuation.”
False narratives are all but unfamiliar to Trump, a figure whose cult-like following ironically advocates for “the facts” and the dismantling of “fake news.”
He is attempting to discourage his supporters from voting by mail because he does not want to wait the days, weeks and months it could take for mail-in voting to tell him he has deservingly lost.
According to a 2017 report from The Brennan Center for Justice, the risk for ballot fraud lies between 0.00004% and 0.0009% based on data from past elections. Trump’s repeated claim about fraudulent mail-in voting has been linked to no actual proof, yet so far has only earned him a warning from Twitter for spreading false information.
As polls show Democrat Joe Biden in the lead, Trump is likely attempting to stifle the “blue shift,” the idea that given the increased mail-in voting and the fact that Democrats are more likely to mail in their ballots than Republicans are, we will see more votes for Biden coming in later as mail-in ballots are being counted.
And if Trump can’t even get past his highly-contested win against Hillary Clinton in 2016 due to the amount of alleged "voter fraud," I doubt he’ll have the mental capacity to cope when he loses to Biden.
Experts even warn of Trump potentially claiming an early victory a la the Bush v. Gore election in 2000 in an attempt to once again push an inaccurate victory narrative on his followers and the general public. Thankfully, Twitter and Facebook have both put out multiple statements saying they will be taking this kind of behavior very seriously in order to keep the platforms free of misinformation.
It’s unbelievable to think social media is having to regulate an off-the-wall presidential election. Unfortunately, what’s easier to believe is that an extreme upheaval that will occur if all doesn't play out in Trump’s favor.
Twitter can't stop Trump from getting on stage and calling on his supporters to contest the election if he loses. Those who have been fed lies about the election possibly being illegitimate will not go unheard in November in that case.
At a rally in Wisconsin last month he warned the crowd, “the only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”
As always, Trump’s words threaten the U.S. as we know it. This is no hyperbole — his supporters will believe the hysteria. This November it's going to put our country at risk of domestic terrorism and radical violence.
Gabrielle Martinez is a 19-year-old mass communication sophomore from Gonzales.