(NEW YORK) The Civil War. The Spanish flu. The Second World War. Each of these crises has exposed the United States to great loss of life and disrupted the daily lives of its citizens. But none of them prevented American voters from going to the polls on the scheduled date.
Never mind: Donald Trump stood out from all his predecessors on Thursday by becoming the first President of the United States to discuss the postponement of a presidential election. He raised this hypothesis at the end of a tweet where he reiterated his unfounded fears of fraud in connection with the expanded use of postal voting in this time of pandemic.
“2020 will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history. It will be a real shame for the United States, ”tweeted the president, who lags behind in the polls on his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
And to add this question that aroused the disapproval of Democrats and Republicans: “Postpone the election until people can safely vote normally ??? ”
Experts were quick to make it known that President Trump had no power to postpone the next presidential election, which has a date of November 3.
According to the Constitution, only Congress can amend the federal law of 1845 according to which the presidential ballot must take place “on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November”. An amendment to this law could also require the adoption by the Senate and the House of Representatives of a constitutional amendment changing the date of the end of the presidential term.
In short, in the current state of affairs, the scenario evoked by Donald Trump is virtually impossible. But his twittering still troubled many.
Like authoritarian rulers
“I find his statement horrifying,” James Gardner, a law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a specialist in electoral laws , told The Press . “The kind of things he says are the ones you hear from authoritarian leaders around the world. This is a very common tactic among authoritarian leaders. ”
In a column published at the end of the day by the New York Times , Steven Calabresi, co-founder of the Federalist Society, an association of conservative jurists, called for the impeachment of Donald Trump, calling his tweet “unconstitutional” and “fascist” .
During their respective presidencies, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt were both suspected of wanting to pretend a military conflict in which their country was engaged to cancel a presidential election. They defended themselves vigorously. “The election is a must,” said the 16 th president before the election of 1864, held during the Civil War. “All these people have not read the Constitution. I read it, ”said the 32 nd President, referring to the rumors about the cancellation of the 1944 presidential election, held during WWII.
After alluding to these presidents, Professor Gardner said that “the reaction of normal presidents in the face of difficulties or crises has been to urge Americans to do all in their power to achieve a common goal.”
“It’s a very different kind of reaction,” he added of the presidential tweet.
Donald Trump released his tweet minutes after a historic drop in US GDP in the second quarter (-32.9%) attributed to the pandemic. At the end of the day, he again questioned the legitimacy of the postal vote, while refusing to answer directly the question of whether he was seriously calling for the postponement of the presidential election.
“I don’t want to have to wait three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election means nothing,” he said at a White House press conference . “This is what will happen. ”
“Crazily irresponsible” allegations
No Republican of a certain stature has endorsed the idea of postponing the November ballot.
“Never in the history of the country, through wars, recessions and [Civilian] War, have we had federal elections that were not held on time,” said Mitch McConnell, chief of staff. the majority in the Senate, during a radio interview. “We’ll find a way to do it again this November 3rd. ”
Democrats attributed the president’s tweet to the realization that he risks being summarily kicked out of the White House.
“Donald Trump is terrified. He knows he’s going to lose to Joe Biden, ”tweeted California Senator Kamala Harris, one of the former vice president’s potential running mates.
But this early morning tweet didn’t just spark controversy over the presidential election postponement hypothesis. It also contained allegations about postal voting which are “false and insanely irresponsible,” according to Justin Levitt, law professor at Loyola Marymount University and former head of the Justice Department’s election cell under Barack Obama.
The safeguards for in-person and postal voting are not perfect, but they are very good.
For postal voting, they include signatures on envelopes and ballots, barcodes and watermarks, among others.
“It is extraordinarily difficult to rig the system in a local election and virtually impossible to do so in a state or nationwide election. It would take a plot on an unprecedented scale, ”he added.
Justin Levitt hopes that the number of Americans who refuse to believe in the hypothesis of such a conspiracy will far exceed the number of Americans who join it.
Obama denounces deployment of federal agents
Barack Obama at the funeral of John Lewis, former Democratic representative from Georgia and emblematic figure of the civil rights movement
Barack Obama had already on certain occasions abandoned the reserve normally observed by former presidents towards their successors. But he had never criticized Donald Trump so scathingly as he did on Thursday at the funeral of John Lewis, a former Democratic representative from Georgia and an iconic figure in the civil rights movement. “Today we see with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans,” he said at a ceremony in which Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also took the lead. speech. “George Wallace may be gone, but we can see our federal government deploying agents who use tear gas and batons against peaceful protesters,” he added. George Wallace is the former racist governor of Alabama who fought laws and Supreme Court rulings ending racial segregation in the southern states of the country. Donald Trump has given the green light to the deployment of federal agents in Portland, Oregon, and several other American cities.