Here's the 'real threat' Trump poses this election year — and why we must be ready

Here's the 'real threat' Trump poses this election year — and why we must be ready
Gage Skidmore

Many of President Donald Trump’s critics fear that if he loses in November, he will refuse to accept the election results. But journalists Joshua A. Geltzer and Dahlia Lithwick, this week in an article for Slate, argue that the greatest threat to democracy in the United States isn’t that Trump will disregard the country’s laws, but that he will undermine faith in the system itself.

“When it comes to the most likely ways in which Trump might resist a valid defeat at the polls, it’s not the legal but the cognitive aspects that are poised to sow the greatest chaos,” Geltzer and Lithwick write. “Recognizing the most glaring threats requires a look back at Trump’s most brazen moments of resistance to election results, all of which are largely forgotten now.”

The “real threat,” according to Geltzer and Lithwick, “lies not in formal guardrails, but in our confidence.”

The journalists go on to cite some of Trump’s “brazen moments” of the past, including Trump’s claim that Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas “illegally stole” the Iowa Caucuses during 2016’s Republican presidential primary. And two years later in the 2018 midterms, they add, Trump tweeted that Russian government operatives were “pushing very hard for the Democrats.”

“Trump appeared to be laying the groundwork for calling into question the midterm results as skewed by foreign election interference should his party suffer a debilitating defeat at the polls,” Geltzer and Lithwick explain.

It was also in 2018, they add, that Trump tried to discourage a thorough vote count in Florida.

“Election night left two prominent Republicans running in Florida — one for governor, one for senator — with a slim lead, but there were more ballots to be counted,” Geltzer and Lithwick recall. “As that counting continued, Trump tweeted yet again, baselessly claiming that ‘large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere’ and that America ‘Must go with Election Night!’ Never mind that ballots remained uncounted; Trump simply wanted to stop counting when the results conformed to what he wanted to see.”

A thorough vote count in Florida showed narrow GOP victories in those races. Ron DeSantis was elected governor, defeating Democrat Andrew Gillum — and Rick Scott was elected to the U.S. Senate. But Trump tried to discourage a thorough vote count before Floridians were certain of the election results.

Those events in 2016 and 2018, according to Geltzer and Lithwick, offer a preview of the type of thing Trump might try to get away with in November.

“The real challenge isn’t legal; it’s cognitive,” Geltzer and Lithwick argue. “Trump, actively aided by Attorney General William Barr, has devoted months to undertaking a domestic influence operation to lead Americans to distrust the legitimacy of any election in which Trump doesn’t win. For this to work, they need you to distrust the legitimacy of the laws that provide answers.”


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