Sunday, August 09, 2020


Hi -- I'm back. Yas and Crank, you did amazing work while I was away. Thank you again.

I had a relaxing week except when I was reading the news. On Thursday I read Dmitri Mehlhorn's "How to Steal an Election" at The Bulwark, and while I'd already been thinking about many of the ways the Trump campaign and the GOP can sabotage the election, seeing all the possibilities in one place had me wondering how overmatched the Democrats might be right now, especially when the Trump crony running the Postal Service is clearly undermining the delivery of mail in America on Trump's behalf. In addition to that, Mehlhorn reminds us that
for the first time in four decades, the GOP is legally allowed to spend tens of millions of dollars to deploy tens of thousands of “poll watchers”recruiting especially off-duty soldiers and law enforcement—to intimidate voters in cities and in communities of color by threatening them with arrests and fines for voting “improperly.” (This tactic will be allowed this cycle because the 1981 consent decree with the GOP expired recently).

These tactics ... [could] be augmented by Department of Homeland Security agents authorized for deployment by Attorney General Bill Barr. Some observers believe that the federal law enforcement “surge” into cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, and Milwaukee is designed to prepare for vote suppression in cities and among voters of color. In a worst-case scenario, DHS agents could start arresting citizens in response to violent “provocations” incited by right-wing provocateurs (who have already staged attacks in Virginia, California, Minnesota, and throughout the country). If polling-place closures lead to long lines in Democratic areas, these combined forces could drive many or all voters away before they get a chance to vote.
And even if Biden voters are able to cast ballots in sufficient numbers to give him a win, Republican-controlled legislatures in swing states could pass
new resolution[s] stating (because of “security risks” or some other pretext) that only certain types of ballots be counted.

This could theoretically be done immediately prior to the election—or even immediately after the election, in a fashion that would disqualify provisional and mail-in ballots.

This could swing the election in any state where Trump is ahead in the count before counting absentee or provisional ballots. In a particularly brazen version, the state legislature could simply declare that Trump won that state.
And if brute force doesn't work, there's always bribery.
Following the breakdown of talks on Capitol Hill to reach a bipartisan deal, Trump signed four orders that he said would extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits, defer some employees’ payroll taxes, continue a temporary ban on evictions and reduce the burden of student loans....

Trump said Americans earning less than $100,000 would be eligible for a payroll tax holiday through the end of this year, after which they would be required to pay the deferred taxes. But he said that if he is reelected in November, he would forgive the deferred taxes and make the cut permanent.
This seems to me like a clear violation of federal law:
18 U.S. Code § 597. Expenditures to influence voting

Whoever makes or offers to make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate; and

Whoever solicits, accepts, or receives any such expenditure in consideration of his vote or the withholding of his vote—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
But I am not a lawyer or a particularly smart person, and I've been told that this doesn't qualify as bribery in the legal sense.

Joe Biden led Trump by huge margins in late-June and early-July polling. I've been assuming that he can't sustain that massive lead (and now the race has narrowed slightly), but I thought he was certain to win an election with a reasonable level of fairness, and that he could overcome even a significant degree of Trumpian funny business. I still think Biden would win a fair election, but now I assume it's somewhat more likely that the election interference will be massive, and therefore Trump will steal the election one way or another. He and his allies, many of whom are much smarter than he is, have a remarkable number of tools at their disposal, and no reticence about using them. I'm not seeing enough pushback. So I need to be persuaded that Trump won't pull this off.

No comments: