Boss Trump can’t sus­pend elec­tions, but Congress should do more to pro­tect them

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

Oh, good­ness, he’s fi­nally done it.

The ul­ti­mate weapon of ev­ery au­to­crat is to sus­pend elec­tions, deny­ing the peo­ple a fair chance to throw the bum out, and Don­ald Trump fi­nally has gone there.

On Thurs­day, Trump dared to float the idea of de­lay­ing the Novem­ber elec­tions be­cause — and this is non­sense — the pan­demic would make fair elec­tions im­pos­si­ble.

Just the day be­fore he had in­sisted, once again, that mail-in vot­ing dur­ing the pan­demic in­evitably would be rife with fraud — again based on noth­ing. And ear­lier in the week, Trump’s post­mas­ter gen­eral, Louis DeJoy, con­trib­uted to this des­per­ate, last­minute at­tempt to sub­vert the demo­cratic process by an­nounc­ing that he’s go­ing to shut down post of­fices.

Be­cause if the in­tegrity of mail-in elec­tions can, in fact, be trusted now, Trump and lack­eys want to do their best to de­stroy that in­tegrity and trust.

If you can’t win in an elec­tion — and ev­ery poll says Trump stands lit­tle chance of that in Novem­ber — the next best thing is to kill the elec­tion. John Lewis fought for the vote

Much of this, iron­i­cally, played out on Thurs­day at pre­cisely the same time for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and oth­ers were eu­lo­giz­ing the late Rep. John Lewis, the great fighter for civil rights, by call­ing for stronger pro­tec­tions for our right to vote.

As a young man, Lewis suf­fered through beat­ings, jail­ings and death threats to se­cure that right.

If there is a gen­eral ner­vous­ness about mail-in vot­ing, which is sure to be pre­ferred by mil­lions more Amer­i­cans be­cause of the pan­demic, the an­swer is not to do a Vladimir Putin and sus­pend elec­tions, which Trump can’t do any­way with­out con­gres­sional ap­proval. There is no way Democrats would agree — and we sure wish we could say the same about Repub­li­cans.

The an­swer is to fur­ther bol­ster the in­tegrity of those elec­tions.

That means, as we ar­gued ear­lier this week, in­clud­ing a min­i­mum of $3.6 bil­lion for lo­cal elec­tion se­cu­rity ef­forts in the next coro­n­avirus eco­nomic re­lief pack­age, as House Democrats have called for.

It also means go­ing to bat for the postal ser­vice, which was $8.8 bil­lion in the red last year.

Congress should elim­i­nate a re­quire­ment that the postal ser­vice pre-fund bil­lions of dol­lars in health care ben­e­fits each year for fu­ture re­tirees, an obli­ga­tion im­posed on no other fed­eral agency. Congress should, in ad­di­tion, give the postal ser­vice $25 bil­lion as part of the next stim­u­lus pack­age, as pro­posed by House Democrats. The funds would keep the agency afloat, cover COVID-19-re­lated ex­penses and en­sure the timely de­liv­ery of mail-in bal­lots in Novem­ber. Span­ish flu couldn’t stop us

In 1918, the Span­ish flu was rav­aging the United States, killing hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple. But no­body se­ri­ously talked about sus­pend­ing that year’s midterm elec­tions.

There were bans on public gath­er­ings. Can­di­dates couldn’t give the usual speeches. And on elec­tion night, news­pa­pers were pro­hib­ited from post­ing the re­sults on bill­boards out­side their of­fices — a cus­tom back then — be­cause that might draw a crowd.

The turnout was lower than usual. About 40% of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers cast bal­lots, down from the 50 to 52% of pre­vi­ous midterm elec­tions. But we had an elec­tion.

Trump knows he’s talk­ing through his MAGA hat. He knows the Nov. 3 elec­tion will take place no mat­ter what he and his fel­low sell­outs of democ­racy might like. His real in­tent is to sow distrust in the very in­sti­tu­tion of free elec­tions, in the same way he trashes judges who rule against him and four-star gen­er­als who stand up to him.

But we are Amer­i­cans. We be­lieve in sel­f­rule, even in the hard­est of times.

“I have said this be­fore, and I will say it again,” Lewis once said. “The vote is pre­cious. It is al­most sa­cred. It is the most pow­er­ful non-vi­o­lent tool we have in a democ­racy.”

EVAN VUCCI/AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day floated the idea of sus­pend­ing the Novem­ber elec­tions be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

John Lewis

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