We are living in dangerous times and honestly that danger only grows when we turn a blind eye to it. One saying that’s always rang true to me comes from Maya Angelou, when she once said, “When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them.” Those are words that are especially prescient in right now to our south with the American presidential election starting to get into full swing.
Many have worried about how Donald Trump would deal with staring an election loss in the face and our minds have forced us to think about possibilities that we never would have needed to in the past. But today we’ve had two stunning stories come out at the same time that really put those words from Angelou into focus. With these two stories we’re seeing Trump & Co. telling us exactly who they are and what they plan on doing, and they are warning that cannot be ignored. The first story started to break last night and came into further light today:
Ever since Kanye West declared that he was going to run for the Presidency, we knew that something didn’t smell right. Forget the fact that he decided to say this so late, too late to get on the ballot in most states anyway and ensuring his long shot would have zero shot of success. But some suspected that maybe something else was up here. Sure many politicos have mused and suspected major candidates running others as stalking horse candidates, trying to improve their own odds by getting someone else to run to attract votes from their opponents.
But we have never seen anyone actually do this in a leading democratic country in such a major race, for many good reasons. Probably most importantly the fact that it could be illegal or at least blow up on the main candidate and cost the more votes than it ever would have gained. In the end, you would never think to do such a thing because most candidates are ethical enough to never try it and for those who may be less-than-ethical, the risks of doing it would far outweigh the advantages.
Yet here are two stories laying out the increasing fishiness of the West candidacy. First, we find out that West is reportedly having regular conversations with the Presidents son-in-law and main advisor Jarod Kushner, something that would simply never happen involving someone who was seriously running against the President. Seriously, given Trump’s personality, if the West candidacy was for real and Kushner was talking with him that much giving him advice, do you really think that he would stand for that? He gets pissy over anyone who he thinks betrays him, and we’re to believe that he wouldn’t care if his son-in-law was actually sabotaging his chances to get re-elected? Are we to believe that if this was for real that Trump wouldn’t have fired him and sent him into the wilderness somewhere? Come on, the fact that Kushner is still in the White House tells you a lot right there.
But as if to back up the stalking horse nature of the West campaign, PBS came out with a solid story about how West has been trying to get on the ballot with the help of Republican operatives and donors. From Vermont, Wisconsin, Ohio and Colorado, PBS shares bizarre stories of Republican-linked operatives going out of their ways to help West get on the ballot for the Fall election. As Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is quoted saying in the piece, “it’s not unusual for a political party or party activists to try to keep a candidate off a ballot, the reverse is “bizarre and unusual.””
As he also correctly pointed out, if it was just happening in one state you might be able to sluff it off as an odd story. But when you consider that this is happening in multiple states across the country, it’s clearly something more. Add to that the fact that when Forbes pointed out to West last week during an interview for their piece that he won’t be on enough ballots to win, and therefore seemed more like a stalking horse in the race hurt Democratic nominee Joe Biden, he simply responded, “I’m not going to argue with you.” That’s pretty clear isn’t it? He’s telling us what he is so maybe we should believe it, right? Another example of this came earlier this morning straight from the lips of Donald Trump himself and speaks to issues that have suddenly started to happen with the US Postal Service:
Well, that doesn’t leave it to any doubt now does it. He said it clear as day that the USPS needs funding to keep running properly and without that money they might not operate well enough to be able to handle with the crush of mail-in ballots, which are necessary due to COVID-19. And he says it without any shame, any hiding or any confusion. If that wasn’t clear enough, today another story came out about the state of the USPS that builds onto his words:
Yes folks, suddenly on the eve of this election when the USPS is expected to get flooded with demand, they are removing sorting machines across the country. And no, not unstaffing them, or putting them out of service for the time being. They are outright removing them from postal facilities, meaning that when a rush of mail comes, they can’t be put into service to help deal with it. That is on top of other major cuts that the new Postmaster General in the US, a Trump donor turned appointee, has thrust on the organization over the past month with devastating consequences:
Now if that all was happening all by itself in normal times, you could openly question the motives of the elected government leaders doing it. You could wonder if there was a bigger plan or goal at play but most people hellbent on doing such things wouldn’t come out and just say it. Yet when Trump went on Fox Business this morning, he just came out and said it. Like the worst kind of villain in an old James Bond movie, Trump went on national TV and said the quiet part out loud, almost with pride as if there was nothing that could be done to stop it. Again it was an example of Trump telling Americans exactly who he is, but the question remains if the American people as a whole will take him at his word this time.
Today’s developments are as stark as they are clear. For the longest time we have known that Trump wasn’t bound by ethics, morals or legal norms. We knew that before he was elected and of course the office he was elected to didn’t change that. Instead he has tried to change the norms of the office and now he’s trying to change the norms of free and democratic elections. He’s making it clear as day that he doesn’t care how he wins as long as he wins. But what we’ve seen today goes beyond the concept of “the ends justifying the means”.
What we saw Trump own up to on live TV is the kind of thing we would see a dictator pulling to try to save his power. This is the kind of thing we just saw play out in Belarus, leading to their citizens storming to the streets demanding their democratic rights be respected. For generations we’ve seen those kinds of actions happening in far away countries, banana republics and failed states. We’ve watched them on TV confidently saying to ourselves “that could never happen here”. Yet here we are, on Thursday August 13th, 2020, and we just saw that happening not in some far-off place, but right on our doorstep in our neighbours yard. These are dangerous days indeed and it’s starting to feel more and more like we’re watching the dying of liberal democracy in the United States in slow motion. The best chance to reverse that slide is for Americans to believe Trump when they show him who he really is and work to defend the democratic values that thousands of Americans have died to defend around the World. Because if they don’t believe him how and act appropriately, they may not get the chance to do it later.