As he battles COVID-19 from the comfort of his hospital room at Walter Reed Medical Center, President Donald Trump is continuing his relentless attempt to upend his year’s presidential election. In addition to claiming voting by mail leads to voter fraud (studies have already disproven this) and accusing “radical left Democrats” of attempting to steal the election, Trump is now urging his supporters to join something called the “Army for Trump,” to “fight for Trump” at the polls.
“Volunteer to be a Trump Election Poll Watcher. Sign up today!” Trump tweeted on Monday afternoon, following up with the hashtag #MakeAmericaGreatAgain and including a link to armyfortrump.com. The site lists a number of ways for Trump’s “Army” to fight for his re-election, including the option to host a “MAGA Meetup” in the middle of a pandemic that has killed over 210,000 Americans and rendered the Trump administration virtually ineffectual. Another option? To “enlist” as a member of Trump’s “election day team,” where, depending on where you live, you can be involved in the very normal-sounding “precinct coverage.”
In a country that is already starkly divided, having a president who seems hellbent on capitalizing on that division by further militarizing his supporters is alarming. By urging his supporters to go to the polls and keep a “watchful eye” on voters, and by galvanizing an “us versus them” mentality, Trump is doubling-down on his shameless attempt to suppress the vote. And, unfortunately, it seems to be working: Trump supporters disrupted early voting in Virginia; officials in Philadelphia are creating anti-voter intimidation plans; voters in Fairfax needed to be escorted past groups of Trump supporters in order to cast their ballots.
Trump isn’t alone in his efforts, though. America has a long history of attempting to keep people — particularly young people, Black, and brown people — from voting. And a recent history of it, too. In August of this year, Republicans filed a lawsuit to keep people from voting by mail with the use of a designated contact, i.e. a person authorized to pick up and drop off ballots. And just last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a “disaster proclamation” that only allows counties to have one ballot collection location, under the guise of “ballot security.”
Trump’s rationale to create this electoral atmosphere is equal parts dangerous and obvious: Even before the disastrous debate and his subsequent COVID-19 diagnosis, Trump has been consistently trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in election polls. Biden now leads Trump by 10 points, according to the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, and according to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, 72% of American adults believe the president didn’t “take the appropriate precautions when it came to his personal health.”
These numbers are so dire that even Trump can see the writing on the wall, which is why he is working so tirelessly to shroud the 2020 presidential election in a veil of doubt. On numerous occasions, Trump has refused to say that he will concede the election if he loses and facilitate a peaceful transfer of power. He has also claimed that the only way his opponent will win is via voter fraud, setting the stage for a contended election that could be, if Trump has it his way, decided by the Supreme Court, where at least two, but as many as three presiding Supreme Court Judges will have been appointed by Trump.
From gerrymandering to voter suppression to the refusal to designate voting day as a national holiday, which would ensure people don’t have to choose between a paycheck and the ability to vote, the GOP doesn’t actually want people to be able to exercise their constitutional right to choose their elected officials. In that sense, Donald Trump is the perfect leader for the party.