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What To Expect When You're Expecting A Rigged Election

Voters line up at Riverside High School for Wisconsin's primary election Tuesday April 7, 2020, in Milwaukee. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (Morry Gash/AP)
Voters line up at Riverside High School for Wisconsin's primary election Tuesday April 7, 2020, in Milwaukee. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (Morry Gash/AP)

Anyone who witnessed the president’s epic meltdown on Monday can see that he’s terrified. For good reason.

After more than three years of divisive, inept and nakedly plutocratic rule, the fiddler’s bill has come due on his regime. The deadly coronavirus has now infected more than half a million people in the U.S. and claimed 26,000 American lives and counting.

Reporting from the New York Times, the Washington Post and others have laid out irrefutable evidence that Trump is to blame for the lethally slow and incoherent federal response. At every step, his staggering ignorance, his mistrust of science, his bombastic and bottomless insecurity has cost America time and money and lives.

Outside the bubble of his shame cult and its for-profit propaganda machine, a clear narrative has taken shape. Americans no longer trust Trump — to protect them or to tell the truth.

Trump’s re-election strategy boils down to one word: suppression.

On Monday, as the president fumed and flailed, Bernie Sanders formally endorsed Joe Biden for president, consolidating Democratic support behind the man Trump feared running against so much that he pressured a vulnerable foreign ally, Ukraine, to smear Biden — a flagrant abuse of power for which Trump was impeached.

The polls show Biden leading Trump by more than 10% nationally, and in virtually every swing state. On Tuesday, Barack Obama — in whose shadow Trump angrily lurches — formally endorsed his former vice president.

It’s not hard to see where this is all headed. With an economy in free fall, a unified opposition and a scandal he can’t spin away from, Trump’s re-election strategy boils down to one word: suppression. The president will seek to suppress the truth and then the vote.

The historical record on this could not be any clearer.

For weeks, Trump sought to “keep the numbers down” when it came to coronavirus cases, even if that meant failing to provide the sort of large-scale testing that would have located outbreaks and rendered the “invisible enemy” visible. Trump even called for American citizens to be detained aboard a cruise ship where the virus had run rampant.

His efforts at suppressing the truth are now backfiring in real-time, in emergency rooms and ICU units all across America, where people are dying, gasping for air and isolated from their families.

Rather than focusing on saving lives, Trump and his GOP enablers are viewing the pandemic through the lens of re-election, which means looking for opportunities to disenfranchise voters.

The president no longer even bothers trying to hide his motives. When asked about a measure to expand voting by mail, as a response to the health risks of voting in person, Trump sputtered, “they have things, levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never had a Republican elected in this country again.”

President Donald Trump listens during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Monday, April 13, 2020, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)
President Donald Trump listens during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Monday, April 13, 2020, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Thanks to a partisan ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, overturning the Democratic governor’s attempt to delay its primary election, Wisconsin voters were forced to choose last week between voting during a pandemic, or not voting at all.

While Democrats search for ways to make voting more accessible, GOP operatives have floated proposals to dispatch police and retired military officers to urban polling places, so they can challenge voter registrations.

This sort of voter suppression has become a standard feature of GOP politics. The party of Lincoln has used a battery of tactics to discourage citizens from exercising their franchise: blocking voter registrations over trivial typos, removing citizens from the voting rolls, instituting onerous voter ID laws, shutting down polling places, limiting early voting.

We already know that the Trump campaign will spend more than a billion dollars to spread micro-targeted, digital disinformation. We know the candidate will lie whenever necessary, and will openly court foreign interference in the election — without a peep from his allies.

Democrats, reporters and citizens of good faith should be thinking, right now, about how to insure the integrity of the upcoming election.

Democratic lawmakers should refuse to pass another penny in stimulus funding without safeguards, such as passing one of the many election security bills that Republicans have blocked.

The idea that a major American political party has to publicly embrace cheating to stand a chance at winning is shameful.

Governors and state legislatures should be following the example of Virginia’s Ralph Northam, who signed a series of bills designed to make it easier to vote in his state.

And the press should be dedicated to covering voter suppression efforts as a threat to our national security, not some fringe dispute.

The idea that a major American political party has to publicly embrace cheating to stand a chance at winning is shameful. But it’s the fate to which Republicans resigned themselves when they anointed a con man as their king.

In November, Americans will have a chance to cast out the current occupant of the White House, as well as his cronies. They’ll need a free and fair election to do it.

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Steve Almond Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Steve Almond's new book, "Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country," is now available. He hosts the Dear Sugars podcast with Cheryl Strayed.

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