Image via Associated Press Donald Trump
Image via Associated Press

The president is aggressively working to undercut public confidence in the November general election. “What you’re seeing is someone who’s an autocrat or a dictator in action,” says a presidential historian. 

President Donald Trump’s familiar yet startling attacks on the electoral process — a pillar of democracy — come amid a resurgence of the coronavirus under Trump’s watch that forced Vice President Mike Pence to cancel upcoming campaign stops in Florida and Arizona and pushed several Trump-allied Republican governors to scale back reopening efforts.

But, is the president’s focus on voter fraud already de-legitimizing the election? Or a reaction to recent polls favoring the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden?

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Last week in Arizona, he predicted that the November election would be “the most corrupt election in the history of our country” while spreading false claims about potential voter fraud. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States with or without mail balloting. In the era of tribal politics and alternative facts, however, Trump’s claims have tremendous potential to undercut his supporters’ confidence in the election results should he lose.

Just two months ago, Trump offered another bold prediction, this time related to the coronavirus outbreak: “Maybe this goes away with heat and light. It seems like that’s the case.”

But with summer upon us, the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the U.S. late last week surged to an all-time high of 40,000. The Republican governors of two of the nation’s most populated states, Texas and Florida, rolled back reopening plans. Pence canceled upcoming campaign events because of coronavirus concerns. And health officials fear that a surge in hospitalizations across the South and West will strain public health systems.

The resurgence of the virus could have enormous practical and political effects, especially as state elections officials scramble to plan safe and effective voting procedures for the fall. A month ago, it looked as if the nation might have been well past the worst of the pandemic by Nov. 3. That’s far from certain today.

Will Trump’s Fireworks at Mount Rushmore help?

Trump is planning a massive fireworks display at Mount Rushmore on Friday, to commemorate the Fourth of July. In so doing, he is pushing past a decade-old ban on pyrotechnics in the South Dakota national park that was instituted to help reduce the risk of forest fires.

Then Trump is scheduled to return to Washington for more Independence Day festivities, which include a ceremony from the White House where he is expected to deliver remarks.

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How Visible Would Biden Be This Summer?

Biden’s team has repeatedly dismissed calls for him to play a more active role on the campaign trail in the midst of the pandemic, and a growing body of polling evidence suggests that the low profile paid off.

The former vice president has gone more than two months without holding a news conference, he’s not expected to host a traditional rally anytime soon, and he’s planning to accept his party’s nomination at a largely virtual national convention in August.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Trump’s ongoing fight against the integrity of the U.S. election system. His baseless charges of voter fraud and corruption seem to be getting louder as his poll numbers sink.

“Never,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley when asked whether any past U.S. president had ever used such language. “What you’re seeing is someone who’s an autocrat or a dictator in action.”

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