For months now, President Donald Trump has sought to raise questions in his supporters' minds about the accuracy of the 2020 election results, suggesting with zero evidence that there was some sort of effort to steal the election because of the likelihood of increased mail-in balloting due to coronavirus fears this November.
On Wednesday night, he threw all subtlety out the window -- refusing to say he would accept a peaceful transition of power "win, lose or draw" this fall. Because of course he did.
While Trump's inability to say he would accept the elections results is bad -- like, really bad -- his full quote in response to the peaceful transition of power question is actually more damning, and telling, about the man who currently leads the country.
Here's his full quote (bolding is mine):
"Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that. I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster. ... We want to have -- get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very trans- -- we'll have a very peaceful -- there won't be a transfer, frankly; there'll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it."
Let's give Trump the benefit of the doubt that when he said "get rid of the ballots" he was referring to mail-in ballots rather than, you know, all the ballots. Even so, consider what he is saying in the bolded part of that quote.
After saying he can't commit to a peaceful transition of power, Trump, essentially, says that if mail-in ballots are eliminated, then things will be "very peaceful" because "there won't be a transfer, frankly; there'll be a continuation."
So, if Trump is guaranteed to win, then the election is all good! Because he won't need to give up power! He will simply continue to hold onto it! At this point, it's probably worth remembering the oodles of times that Trump has "joked" about serving more than the two terms set out in the Constitution.
"We are going to win four more years," Trump said last month. "And then after that, we'll go for another four years because they spied on my campaign. We should get a redo of four years." (Note: There is no evidence of the "spying" Trump alleges.)
Then there was this earlier this month: "And 52 days from now we're going to win Nevada, and we're going to win four more years in the White House. And then after that, we'll negotiate, right? Because we're probably -- based on the way we were treated -- we are probably entitled to another four after that."
Add it all up and we have a President who is now on record saying: a) he won't commit to a peaceful transition of power unless b) all mail-in ballots are eliminated because c) that would mean he would win again and d) has repeatedly raised the possibility of staying on beyond even the eight-year term limit on the presidency.
Here's the other thing: Trump knows that we can't "get rid of the ballots" (again, we are assuming he meant mail-in ballots). First of all, lots of mail-in ballots have already been cast -- early voting is underway in several states -- and they can't be, uh, un-cast. Second, there are lots and lots of people -- more Democrats than Republicans, if polling is to be believed -- who plan to vote by mail in order to avoid waiting in lines inside polling places amid the still-raging coronavirus pandemic.
So, what Trump is doing is creating the perfect excuse to never concede: He is saying that the vote will be fair and he will agree to a peaceful transition of power if there are no mail-in votes. Which he knows literally cannot happen. And so, if he loses, he already has his fallback plan in place: The acceptance of mail-in ballots means the entire election was a hoax and a fraud. And why should he admit he lost an election that was rigged against him?
In his comments on Wednesday night, Trump did more than just reject the idea of a peaceful transition of power. He said that he will not accept the election unless he wins or unless an impossibility -- the rejection of all mail-in ballots -- is carried out.
If you don't think that's a uniquely dangerous position to hold for the continued strength of our democracy, well, you're just not paying attention.