Donald Trump can’t win a free and fair election. The political press, Democratic voters, and advocates don’t necessarily agree with me on this but Donald Trump clearly does. His campaign stopped trying to win the election weeks ago, switching to a strategy of preparing for court battles, gaming the refs, inciting his supporters to violence, and finding new ways to suppress the vote in battleground states. Last week Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
Campaigns that are winning an election or in a competitive race don’t behave like this. But for anyone who has worked on a losing campaign (or several losing campaigns), Trump’s actions feel all too familiar. Campaigns that are losing, especially undisciplined campaigns, will often take ridiculous measures to try and stay relevant. Candidates who find themselves losing often say and do increasingly irrational and harmful things as Election Day draws closer. (Georgia Senate candidate Matt Lieberman’s recent Twitter threads are a good recent example of this.)
I’ve seen a lot of discussion suggesting that Trump’s antics are meant to depress Democratic voter turnout. If Trump says he won’t accept the results of the election and won’t agree to a peaceful transfer of power why bother voting at all? But I’m much more interested in what effect Trump’s rhetoric has on his own voters. Telling your base constantly that the election is rigged, and that they’ll have to take up arms and start a second Civil War to keep you in power doesn’t seem especially motivating to me. I’m surprised that more reporters haven’t dug into this with the Trump supporters they seem to love talking to in diners.
We can’t change the media narrative around the election but we can communicate to voters that Trump is losing and behaving like a loser. Trump and the Republicans are preparing for endless court battles because they’ve given up any hope of winning outright. Trump is trying to steal the election. We know the playbook because Trump can be counted on to always say the quiet part out loud, and part of that playbook is refusing to admit defeat or declare victory outright before the results are in.
Voters must be prepared to mobilize post-election to protect the integrity of the process and ensure that a peaceful transfer of power takes place. If we focus on the fact that Trump is losing, we can communicate this truth without stoking despair.
Driving the Conversation
Trump Wants to Discredit the Election. This Nerd Could Stop Him. (New York Times)
Trump Campaign Official Deletes Tweet That Ignited Firestorm Over Ballot Snafu (Talking Points Memo)
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American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the issues and ideas that will define the Presidential transition period from November 3rd, 2020 to January 21st, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Got questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most. Did someone forward you this email? Don’t forget to subscribe!