President Trump’s repeated claims (without any evidence) that mail-in-voting creates election fraud, buttressed by his recent (and, amazingly, acknowledged) efforts to impede the United States Postal Service’s activities because he perceives that an efficient November mail-in voting process will assist the Democrats’ electoral prospects, is simply the latest evidence of his willingness to do anything to remain in power. (Mr. Trump did backtrack a bit late last week to indicate that he would agree to a Coronavirus relief package that contained funding for the post office. Even if money is allocated, I fear it may have little effect unless accompanied by nonpartisan oversight ensuring that the funding is promptly spent in a manner that actually facilitates nationwide balloting.) Consider the malevolent genius of it. Mr. Trump has picked an election element – mail-in-voting – that is particularly vital in this COVID era, and labeled it the source of election fraud. (He could actually more credibly claim that elections held on Tuesdays have historically been subject to a certain level of fraud.) If Mr. Trump loses to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, he hopes to have instilled a belief in at least a segment of his millions of followers – who seemingly believe anything he, his cohort and his propagandists at Fox News and other alt-right media trumpet – that the election was stolen from him (and them) by fraudulent mail-in voting. What happens if he refuses to concede despite a tight but discernable loss? Even if he departs, his claims of fraud are an attempt to create popular unrest with the potential to cripple a Biden Administration while continuing a media spotlight for Mr. Trump – the latter unquestionably his primary focus. But even if Mr. Trump wins, the recent demonstrations in Portland and elsewhere are a clear portent that if those opposing Mr. Trump believe that the Administration’s actions have stolen the election from them, riots will ensue across the nation. Mr. Trump will use these as a pretext to impose autocratic restraints upon those who oppose him. A close outcome in either direction accordingly seems likely to threaten the American way of life. I would suggest that in order to reclaim our future, Mr. Biden must not only win; the Democratic ticket must determine a way to win by decisive margins in a sufficient number of the battleground Electoral College states (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin) to yield an impressive Electoral College margin. I would submit that the Democrats need to wage their political war between now and Election Day on two fronts, and that at this stage, their overall success perhaps depends less upon the conventional – persuasion – and more upon the unconventional – education.
The conventional is straightforward: political professionals and pollsters of all stripes seemingly agree that although polls are starting to tighten, if all legally-eligible voters that wish to vote in November are actually able to vote and have their votes counted, Mr. Biden will defeat Mr. Trump in the Electoral College. I would assert that deep antipathy among the electorate toward Mr. Trump is “baked in.” Mr. Biden doesn’t need to win over any current Trump supporters to secure the presidency; he needs only a persuasion campaign to stave off material erosion in his current level of support. Unless either Mr. Biden or presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee and U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris commit a grotesque gaffe during their respective debates with their Republican counterparts, the Electoral College victory seems near at hand. Apparently reassuring – but I fear not enough by itself to secure a stable American future.
In my view, to facilitate Mr. Biden’s victory and enhance its legitimacy, the Democrats and their allies need to mount an extensive and effective education campaign – admittedly bordering on propaganda, to counteract the Trump and related alt-right barrage – to educate the electorate in the six battleground states regarding the states’ respective mail-in voting processes. Even where local officials are well-meaning, neither local governments nor battleground state Democratic organizations have the funding nor the expertise required to develop and broadcast sufficient effective informational spots to reassure an electorate that polls show has increasing reservations about mail-in voting. I see literally 25 different spots: Four for each of the battleground states, to be run in the states’ respective progressive and independent markets, which in turn address: (1) the given state’s voter registration requirements and deadlines, how to register online (all six allow online registration), and how a voter can obtain assistance for an in-person or online registration process; (2) the period within which the given state’s registered voters can request a ballot online, how to request a ballot, and any state nuances regarding the ballot’s completion; (3) a notice of the date by which registered voters should mail in their ballots to be confident that the votes will arrive in time to be tabulated; and (4) a notice that the date by which registered voters could confidently expect that their mailed-in votes would be tabulated has passed coupled with the observation that any eligible voters wishing to vote that haven’t already sent in their ballots should plan to vote in person, together with Coronavirus safety tips and information as to how the voter can find his/her voting place. A last spot should be run predominantly on Fox News and other conservative outlets in conservative markets nationwide and describe, primarily through Republican election officials, the incredibly low incidence of historic mail-in voting fraud and lay expectations that tabulation delays will necessarily attend anticipated massive mail-in voting.
The effort, expertise, and cost to create, produce and broadcast accurate infomercials in the appropriate outlets would be an enormously expensive proposition – generally beyond the grasp of any campaign. At the same time, if the content is appropriately cast, such spots would seem outside the proscriptions of campaign finance law. At one point during former New York City, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign for the presidency, the New York Times reported that Mr. Bloomberg indicated that he “wouldn’t rule out” spending as much as $1 billion to defeat Mr. Trump. During his campaign, Mr. Bloomberg showed that he has not only the funds but the team expertise necessary to create effective campaign spots.
Mr. Bloomberg: Where are you?