Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, it has. In the space of a week, President Trump bypassed Congress, declaring he has seemingly limitless powers to decree whatever he wishes in the guise of a “national emergency;” and he started systematically dismantling the U.S. Postal Service to try to deny millions of Americans their right under state law to vote by mail in the upcoming Presidential election.
These latest norms that President Trump is defying go well beyond his past transgressions. They undermine our constitutional structure and electoral process. They are the actions of an autocrat trying to hold on to power at any cost, and they must be called out, condemned, and stopped. Indeed, they threaten the very future of our democracy.
To those who thought it couldn’t happen here, it is. We have a President incapable of addressing a national health crisis that has now claimed more than 170,000 American lives, an economy in free fall where 30 million Americans are now unemployed, and a national debate over systemic racial injustice that continues to generate mass protests. But while the country burns, Trump fiddles.
The President failed to strike a deal with Congress on a new emergency aid package, choosing, instead, to issue ineffective and seemingly illegal executive orders providing a fraction of what’s needed to help unemployed families get through this continuing crisis. So much for constitutional “checks and balances” and co-equal branches of government.
Now, he’s fixated on one thing in particular — staying in office by any means necessary. First, he floated the idea of delaying the election, which drew widespread denunciation and collapsed under constitutional mandate. Now, he’s railing against mail voting. He’s going to extraordinary lengths to try to prevent mail-in votes from being counted, stripping the U.S. Postal Service of resources to intentionally slow mail deliveries — which hurts all Americans who depend on the mail to receive prescriptions, benefit checks and other necessities. It is cold comfort that his Postmaster General yesterday responded to the public outcry by claiming he would hold off on further cuts until after election day. He’s already proven himself capable of doing plenty of damage at the President’s behest.
Citizens Union has long championed voter access and voter turnout. It supports mail voting as one means of achieving these dual objectives. The President’s false narrative associating mail-in balloting with pervasive election fraud has been debunked time and time again. There is no evidence of any such thing in the many states that have mail-in voting, including Florida, where Trump himself votes by mail and won in 2016. But the President has chosen to question the legitimacy of this election’s results before a single vote has even been cast.
The peaceful transition of power has always been a hallmark of our democracy going back to George Washington. That we now have a President who seems hell-bent on challenging this election’s outcome, no matter how baseless, portends anything but a peaceful transition this time. We must brace ourselves for the worst. And prepare to defend our most precious right — living in a democracy where every one of our votes is to be counted and our voices are to be heard and respected.