In his first public political event since March, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) warned of a doomsday Election Day scenario.
“Trump may well announce that he has won the election before all of the votes are counted and that large numbers of mail-in ballots should be discarded,” Sanders said speaking from an auditorium at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
In Sanders’ dystopian telling, Trump could declare victory before all the mail-in ballots are counted, baselessly call absentee voting fraudulent, and rely on Republican state legislatures and the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the election outcome in his favor regardless of the voters’ will.
The only way to ensure this doesn’t happen, Sanders said, is to give Joe Biden a landslide victory.
“This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” Sanders said. “This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy ― and democracy must win. ... As someone who is strongly supporting Joe Biden, let’s be clear: A landslide victory for Biden will make it virtually impossible for Trump to deny the results and is our best means for defending democracy.”
Sanders’ speech, although scheduled in advance, came just a day after the president refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose this November.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said on Wednesday after a reporter asked him directly if he would peacefully pass the baton to Biden. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster. We want to get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”
Trump has repeatedly and without evidence questioned the integrity of mail-in ballots, thereby sowing distrust in election results. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a historic increase in mail-in ballot requests this year.
On Wednesday, Trump made clear that he wants to quickly replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week, in part because he wants an even more solidly conservative Supreme Court should the election be decided by the high court.
Let’s be clear: A landslide victory for Biden will make it virtually impossible for Trump to deny the results and is our best means for defending democracy. Sen. Bernie Sanders
Republican lawmakers spent time on Thursday assuring the public that there would be a peaceful transfer of power should Trump lose. But close allies of the president, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), have entertained the idea of the election being decided by the courts.
Sanders, who endorsed Biden shortly after ending his own presidential bid in April, has kept a low profile in recent months. Back in the Senate, he has been proposing coronavirus relief bills, and he has used his campaign platform to support progressive congressional candidates.
The senator made a prime-time appearance at the Democratic National Convention, where he said that “if Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.”
Sanders’ speech on Thursday didn’t mention Biden’s record or his platform, instead focusing entirely on Trump’s attempts to undermine the election, from those allegations of widespread voter fraud with zero evidence to the slowdowns at the U.S. Postal Service.
Biden’s campaign and those in Sanders’ circle worked to present a united policy platform at the DNC in August. Though the platform fell short on many of the issues Sanders campaigned on, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist has emphasized that his first and only priority over the next several weeks is to defeat Trump at the ballot box.
He repeated that call Thursday.
“No matter how rich and powerful you may be, no matter how arrogant and narcissistic you may be, no matter how much you think you can get anything you want, let me make this clear to Donald Trump: Too many people have fought and died to defend American democracy,” Sanders said. “You are not going to destroy it. The American people will not allow that to happen.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.