Coronavirus infections are soaring across the country, yet Mr. Trump lies about the trend, disparages simple public health measures, encourages supporters to assemble maskless and cheek-by-jowl in his rallies, and embraces chants to fire Anthony S. Fauci, the public-spirited director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Mr. Trump’s dishonesty about the virus is putting thousands of lives at risk.
Yet, in the short term, his threats against democracy are even more dangerous. Throughout the campaign, Mr. Trump has made baseless claims about election fraud, besmirching the mail-in voting that many states expanded this year to allow people to vote safely in the midst of a pandemic. His lawyers have worked hard to try to make voting more difficult and more dangerous, especially in heavily Democratic areas: Of the more than 40 voting and ballot court cases brought this year by Mr. Trump’s campaign and Republican entities, none aimed to make it easier for people to vote. Now they are cranking up their efforts to challenge as many ballots as they can.
And as polls show him consistently trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Mr. Trump is advertising his hopes to have the courts, and eventually recently installed Justice Amy Coney Barrett and her colleagues on the Supreme Court, rescue him. Mr. Trump will do better among in-person voters than in the mailed ballots; some states will not count the mailed ballots until after the in-person votes, so he may try to declare himself a winner before all those mailed ballots can be counted.
“We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election is over, we’re going in with our lawyers,” Mr. Trump said Sunday in Charlotte, signaling an aggressive legal strategy to try to prevent Pennsylvania from counting mailed ballots that are received in the days after the election. He is speciously insisting that votes must be “counted, tabulated, finished” by Tuesday evening. Of course we’d all like results as soon as possible. But what is paramount in our democracy is not any artificial deadline but that every vote be counted. And by the way — if Pennsylvania is among the late-reporting states this year, you can blame Mr. Trump and his Republican allies in the state legislature, who thwarted efforts for timely processing of mail-in ballots. Now Mr. Trump wants to present the delays he is responsible for as an indication of fraud.
“This is as un-American as it gets.” Those are the words of Benjamin L. Ginsberg, for years the leading elections lawyer on the Republican side. In a Post op-ed, he writes that Mr. Trump and the Republicans are engaged in a “shameful effort” to discourage voting. “As he confronts losing, Trump has devoted his campaign and the Republican Party to this myth of voter fraud,” Mr. Ginsberg argues. “Absent being able to articulate a cogent plan for a second term or find an attack against Joe Biden that will stick, disenfranchising enough voters has become key to his reelection strategy.”
Here’s the good news: We hold in our hands the power to defeat this strategy of disenfranchisement, lies and lawlessness. We have to vote; and then, when polls close, we have to be patient as every vote is counted. That’s how democracy works.