Pardon me if I repeat myself but, sometimes, I repeat myself.
I realized that as I was web surfing for a possible column on what would happen if President Donald Trump loses reelection in November but doesn’t want to leave.
A search quickly showed me that, in a way, I already wrote that column early last year. Call this Part Two.
That headline topped a column I wrote in May of last year after Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University in what were happier days for him, proposed that his presidential friend receive two additional years on his term to make up for the work time he allegedly lost in the Russia investigation.
The president thought that was a dandy idea, as he tweeted with glee. By contrast, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, warned in an interview that the party should “inoculate against that” by voting him out with numbers too big to resist.
After all, Trump himself had promised as early as his final presidential debate in 2016 to “totally accept” the election results before adding, after a pregnant pause, “... if I win.”
And he did. He lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College, which holds the only votes that count in the presidential election under our Constitution.
But now the question has returned, along with lagging poll numbers for Trump in the battleground states, this time behind former Vice President Joe Biden.
And so has an old Trump target: allegations of voter fraud. Just as he blamed his popular vote loss on “millions” of illegal ghost voters, a charge that a bipartisan commission he appointed found to be a hoax, he now is alleging “fraud” in mail-in ballots.
Although Trump has argued that absentee ballots, like the ones he has used, are safer from fraud than the mail-in ballots that have been expanded during the coronavirus pandemic, fact-checkers have found both forms of mailed-in voting use the same verification and certification process.
Still, Trump raised the old questions anew with his response Wednesday to a question from Brian Karem, self-described “loudmouth” senior White House reporter for Playboy and analyst for CNN: “Win, lose or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferral of power after the election?”
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” the president responded. “You know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
Very strongly? Yes. A disaster? Hardly.
“Get rid of the ballots,” Trump continued, “and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” Trump said, continuing his answer to Karem.
Get rid of the ballots? There will be a “continuation?” Meaning he would keep on being president?
This time, Trump’s foe isn’t just liberals or antifa. It’s our trust in our electoral system.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later clarified that, “The president will accept the results of a free and fair election,” but for the skeptics among us that only raised the question of who decides what’s “free” and “fair” and how.
It was somewhat comforting to hear Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and other lawmakers chime in with assurances that there will be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.
But considering how McConnell and Graham, among other Republicans, flipped easily on earlier vows to “honor the calendar” in denying even a hearing to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, only to ignore that principle to rush a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, well, you can’t blame us bystanders for wanting to see their promises in writing.
Neither party has a monopoly on such shenanigans, of course. But in this moment a startling new report in The Atlantic has caused unusual concern. It claims that the Trump campaign and some GOP allies are considering possible ways to dance around the Electoral College, should Biden beat Trump.
First, allege rampant fraud, the story says, then ask legislators in battleground states with a GOP majority to bypass the state’s popular vote and choose electors loyal to the party and current president.
A similar plan was considered to break the 2000 election deadlock in Florida, before the Supreme Court intervened. Trump was strikingly candid in citing a close election this year as a good reason to rush through appointment of his candidate to fill Ginsburg’s seat.
But, of course, there won’t be a need for such ploys if either side can get a big enough landslide to the polls. For now, Democrats are left with the same song by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks that I suggested last year for their campaign against Trump: “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”
Clarence Page, a member of the Tribune Editorial Board, blogs at www.chicagotribune.com/pagespage.
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