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‘Basically the move of a dictator’: Late-night hosts decry Trump’s suggestion to delay election

President Trump on July 30 proposed a delay to the 2020 presidential election. Late-night hosts had a lot to say. (Video: The Washington Post)

With less than 100 days to go before the presidential election, Trevor Noah suggested Thursday that things haven’t been going too well for President Trump’s reelection effort.

“Guys, I don’t want to overreact,” the Comedy Central host told viewers Thursday night with a mock grimace, “but I’m starting to worry that Trump’s not going to make America great again.”

But Trump, as Noah tells it, has now come up “with a brilliant new strategy for the election.”

“Just don’t have one,” the host said.

On Thursday morning, Trump floated the idea of delaying the November election while making unsubstantiated claims that widespread mail-in voting would cause fraudulent results, tweeting, “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

Trump’s tweet came at the beginning of another tumultuous day for the country amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. As the number of virus-related deaths continued to rise, a report revealed that the economy experienced a historic contraction between April and June. Meanwhile, Trump is still trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, in the polls.

U.S. economy contracted at fastest quarterly rate on record from April to June as coronavirus walloped workers, businesses

The president’s suggestion — which the Constitution does not empower him to do — drew unprecedented pushback from top Republicans and prominent conservatives as well as Democrats, historians and legal experts, The Washington Post reported. The rebukes continued well into the night as TV comics, frequent Trump critics, rushed to ridicule the president, likening his behavior to that of a totalitarian leader.

Trump encounters broad pushback to his suggestion to delay the Nov. 3 election

“This is basically the move of a dictator, but Trump is just casually throwing it out there in a tweet with a bunch of question marks like he’s on a group text trying to bail on happy hour,” Noah quipped, before slipping into his impersonation of the president. “Hey y’all, November 3’s not great for me. Maybe we reschedule for 2021? Thoughts? What do you guys think, huh?”

On their NBC shows, Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon also seized on the way Trump communicated his eyebrow-raising proposal.

“Oh great, so not only is he casually suggesting incinerating American democracy, he’s doing it like he’s offering hors d’oeuvres at a party,” Meyers said.

Fallon urged Trump to “stop with the question marks.”

“The last thing our country needs right now is a cliffhanger,” he joked.

While experts have stressed that Trump cannot change the date of the general election, a power that is held by Congress, the late-night hosts noted that not being allowed to do something has not stopped the president in the past.

Trump can’t delay the election, experts say

“We’ll still have the election on November 3, but he’ll probably just add a hundred days to August,” Noah said. “And sure, maybe the court overturns it, but that might not happen until August 73rd.”

Meyers was equally skeptical.

“It’s not enough just to consult your pocket Constitution, shrug off the president’s tweet and move on satisfied that we’ve outmaneuvered him with a fact check,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re just like AV club nerds explaining to the school bully why it’s illegal to steal our lunch money while he repeatedly dunks our heads in the toilet.”

The chances are slim of getting Trump to familiarize himself with the Constitution, Meyers added.

“If you locked him in a room and told him to read the Constitution, you’d come back five minutes later to find it tucked into his shirt like a bib while he wolfs down on a bunch of uncooked Goya products,” the host said.

Trump did not indicate Thursday whether he would seriously push for a delay, nor did he imply that he thinks he could take action without congressional approval. Later in the day, the president told reporters at a news conference that he does not want to delay the election, but he said the alternative is a “crooked election,” again seemingly suggesting that he is prepared to contest the results if he loses.

What Trump has said about delaying the election or not accepting its results

Despite Trump escalating his rhetoric about the election in recent weeks, Thursday’s tweet still caught Fallon by surprise — and left the host with more questions.

“Americans are like, ‘How long a delay are we talking about here?’ ” he asked. “ ‘Months, like your response to covid? Years, like your response to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin? Or decades, like a hug for Don Jr.? Just give us a hint.’ ”

On the other hand, Noah said he had predicted the trajectory of Trump’s time in office several years ago when he compared the president to an “African dictator.”

“People acted like I was crazy, but this is how it starts,” Noah said. “First, they just suggest that maybe you postpone the election, then they suggest that some of the votes are not valid, and pretty soon they’re saying, ‘You know what’s really unfair? That there are two political parties. Why are there two political parties? Let’s just have one. Then, you don’t have to worry about making all these decisions anymore.’ ”

Still, Noah reminded his viewers that delaying the U.S. election is “an absurd suggestion.”

“For starters, both candidates are like 200 years old,” he said. “I mean, we’ve got to keep things moving.”