It is a matter of law that Donald Trump cannot delay the US presidential election.
Only the passage of an act by the US Congress can change the date of an election, and there is zero chance that this divided Congress will do that.
“Never in American history – not even during the Civil War and World War Two – has there been a successful move to ‘Delay the Election’ for President,” tweeted the respected historian Michael Beschloss.
Donald Trump knows that – so his tweeted claim that the vote would be “the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history” is about naked self-interest and politics rather the integrity of the US electoral system.
With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020
First of all, Donald Trump is a master of changing the subject.
The tweet came barely 15 minutes after the release of GDP figures revealed the full economic catastrophe wrought by COVID-19.
For a president who has banked his hopes of re-election on the strength of the economy, he would rather we all be talking about anything but the financial despair facing Americans.
Secondly, Trump knows the opinion polls show he faces a tough fight to win that election and secure a second term in the White House.
His tweet continues a theme of laying the groundwork for him to claim, if he loses in November, that the election has been stolen from him and his followers.
He still claims that his loss of the popular vote in 2016 – by some three million votes – was the result of fraudulent voting in some states. There is no proof to support his claim.
In recent weeks he has even refused to confirm that he will accept the result of this year’s election.
The tweet is aimed at reinforcing in the minds of his base support this idea that the establishment is out to get him and them.
It is dangerous, especially as there is a very high chance that the impact of COVID-19 on voting could introduce delay or confusion over the declaration of a winner in November.
There is very little evidence of the widespread voting fraud – by mail or anything else – that Trump continues to allege.
And, as if we needed any confirmation of what really is at the heart of this, Trump says that absentee voting – as opposed to mail-in voting – is “good”.
Absentee votes are also received and cast by post – and Donald Trump himself, registered to vote in Florida, is an absentee voter.
What’s good enough for him, it seems, is not good enough for every other American.
It is notable too that Trump’s latest attention-grab came as his three predecessors were honouring an icon of American democracy at the funeral of congressman John Lewis.
The image of presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama celebrating a life of service, in the church where Martin Luther King preached, a contrast to the current incumbent of the White House, tweeting in service of himself.