After wink-winking via Twitter about delaying the upcoming presidential election, Donald Trump is facing yet another round of dramatic condemnations from the conservative establishment. “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” the president wrote, insinuating that such a move may be necessary due to his mistrust in vote-by-mail, a process that will likely see unprecedented use due to the ongoing pandemic.
While the first stab at coordinated intraparty opposition to Trump melted down as soon as he became president, this time around, the “Against Trump” crowd is not playing around, or so they claim. The National Review, the flagship conservative magazine that spearheaded the 2016 attempt to kick Trump out of the party, published an editorial board denouncement of the president’s “incendiary and absurd idea [that is] unworthy of being spoken—or even thought—by a president of the United States.” The piece—which hit almost every square on the National Review’s pet-phrase bingo card, including a reference to the “epic struggle” of World War II, the phrase “the warp and woof of American democracy,” and citing the U.S. as “the world’s greatest republic”—insinuated that Trump’s proposition undermines “faith in an election that can, should, and indubitably will take place on its appointed day.”
In perhaps the most headline-grabbing condemnation, Steven Calabresi, cofounder of the Federalist Society, an association of America’s top conservative lawyers, legal scholars, and judges whose members Trump has tapped to fill many of his more than 200 judicial appointments, wrote a New York Times op-ed declaring, “I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election.” The money quote came a few sentences later, when Calabresi dropped the political F-bomb—a word long written off by conservatives as hand-wringing when it comes to Trump. “Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist,” he wrote. “But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.”
Then, of course, there were the loyal sycophants. Far from seeing election meddling as a red line, as the rest of the Republican establishment seemed to, they hardly even bothered to soften the blow or explain things away. Appointing himself as “the single most qualified media person to explain Donald Trump,” Rush Limbaugh took to the air to say the president’s proposal is merely “a play” to own the libs, concluding, “So, the left now has to…choose—delay the election, mail-in voting? Mail-in voting over the wayside, or do we delay the election?”
Tucker Carlson, who typically uses his 8 p.m. program to craft elaborate excuses defending the president’s comments and policies, was hardly any different. In his most sober tone, the Fox News host did acknowledge that it should be clear an Election Day change “will not happen” and called it “unwise to suggest changing the election, voter fraud or not.” But he also invited Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign, onto the show to paint mail-in voting as fraudulent and a potential “disaster.” Carlson’s colleague Stuart Varney made a similar case against mail-in ballots, saying the method will result in “confusion and endless challenges. That is a mess. What do you think? Delay the election?”
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