Trump Takes the Low Road, Again


Don Newman

November 4, 2020

There was a moment Tuesday night, as the votes were piling up and being counted, that it was possible to forget. It was possible to get caught up in the moment and believe that what was unfolding was a traditional, exciting, close American presidential election where the outcome would not be known until sometime the following day. But that period came to a crashing halt around 2:30 am. It came to a crashing halt when President Donald J. Trump spoke from the White House. And then reality struck and it became clear what was at stake.

By opening his mouth to prematurely claim that he had won the election Trump revealed what many people have know for at least four years: He is patently unqualified to be the President of the United States or any other constitutional office.

Not only did Trump claim that he had won the election, he claimed that any further counting of the millions of still-uncounted votes should not be permitted. He said those votes were illegitimate. That counting them would be an attempt to “steal” the election and deny him a second term in the White House. Since it was clear that the vote counting was going to continue, Trump said he would be sending his lawyers directly to the Supreme Court to contest the results of the continued count.

When Trump spoke, there were at least 10 states whose vote counts were not complete. But the three states everyone was looking at were Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, allparts of the traditional “blue wall” of reliable Democratic states that Trump had breached four years ago to capture the presidency.

At the time he claimed that he had won Trump was leading in all three states. But most of the votes cast in early voting and by people who voted by mail had not yet been counted. Prior research showed that people who voted that way leaned heavily Democratic. That is why Trump didn’t want them counted.

The supporters Trump had invited to the White House clapped and cheered on cue. Just about everyone else was gobsmacked. The people who were reporting and commenting on the results on the various television networks were universally critical.

Even the lickspittle amplifiers working on the Trump-friendly Fox News were critical. In a matter of minutes, the man who has led the world’s leading democracy for the past four years had turned his country into Venezuela.

Why should we be surprised? Trump has been signalling that he would do something like this if the election was close and he was behind. Now he is doing it. What is even more concerning is that Trump also has suggested that some of his crazier supporters would resort to violence if he appears to be losing the election.

His first prediction is coming true. People are braced for the possibility of the second coming true as well. Stores in Washington, New York and other American cities have their windows boarded up to guard against the rioting and possible looting that could accompany it.

It will be up to Trump to signal to his followers what to do. But for the past four years, any time Trump has had a choice to make he has taken the low road.

Why would he change now?  With his performance at 2:30 am at the White House, he has already started down the low road. Let’s hope he doesn’t go too far.

Policy Columnist Don Newman, Executive Vice President of Rubicon Strategies in Ottawa, is a former Washington correspondent of CBC and CTV, and a lifetime member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.