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Trump's election strategy: 'a clear and present danger'

Last week I wrote about how the GOP has become not the party of policy, defined by conservative principles and a vision for the nation’s future, but a “post-policy” party intent on securing and keeping power.

I also mentioned that Trump is the quintessential candidate to deliver a post-policy platform of grievances, ad hominem attacks and the demonization of protesters, as well as his signature “flash fiction,” wherein he shamelessly suggests that Joe Biden uses enhancement drugs while serving as a Trojan horse for the radical left. Trump also asserts that Biden is a candidate controlled by the “dark forces” of an anarchistic cabal, poised to take over the suburbs using low-income housing.

Trump’s now fully formed campaign of “law and order” has embraced the strategy of fear while insisting that the crises the nation confronts (economic fragmentation, civil unrest, a virus still raging), is not taking place on his watch, but represents “Joe Biden’s America.” It’s a stunning, upside down, revisionist, gaslighting reality.

The ideal venue for this post-policy posture was the pre-COVID-19, ego-driven MAGA rally (now being resurrected), the perfect vehicle for movie-star, red-carpet adulation that Trump so very much craves. In truth, the actual work inherent in the office — attention to detail, reflective analysis, deep dives into white papers, reports, data, daily briefings, governance — is antithetical to who he is: indifferent, incompetent, fundamentally quid-pro-quo transactional, while determined to remain in power at all costs.

Best evidence of the “whatever-it-takes,” “means-to-an-end” uber-strategy resides with that now familiar word, “rigged.” It’s a cynical, fallacious selling of the conspiratorial theory that if he loses the 2020 election it will be because the outcome was stolen by Democrats and does not reflect the legitimate will of the people.

What Trump intends to create on election eve is chaos, and he has already been sowing the seeds of a massive form of voter suppression while using mail-in ballots as his fulcrum. Recall his attempted disruption of the post office.

Trump knows full well that because of his extraordinary failure to flatten the virus curve, voters, fearful, will embrace voting by mail in unprecedented numbers. His position, however, is that only those votes tallied on election eve are reliable, knowing that because some states do not begin their tabulation of mail-ins ballots (in the millions nationwide) until the day of the election the vote count will be delayed and could, in fact, take days to complete.

Because Trump Republicans are more likely to vote in person, and Biden Democrats by mail, the delayed tally has been referred to as the “blue drift.” What will occur, as votes are reported from various precincts around the nation on Nov. 3, is called the “red mirage.” And despite all appearances, it is not a Republican landslide.

But here is the scenario that keeps Dems up at night: As election eve concludes and percentages are tabulated, Trump will step before his supporters and declare a premature “victory.” Balloons, confetti, cheering.

But as the blue drift begins to eat into the Republican count and the red mirage fades, Trump will again repeat, from his bully pulpit, the words “rigged” and “stolen,” pointing to the “fraud” that adheres to any vote by mail. Lawsuits (SCOTUS?) will quickly take the place of the ballot box. Meanwhile, Trump will pour gasoline on the fires of doubt while making appeals to his “base,” expecting their full-throated support in whatever chilling form.

This is the chaos Trump has trafficked in for the past four years. It’s his field of play, the familiar terrain of conspiracies and disinformation. How the public and elected officials process this all-but-certain delay will be critical.

Trying to avoid hyperbole, vote (asap) as if our democracy depended on it. And then get ready.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.