Yesterday, I reported on a disturbing poll from the Washington Post that found that more than half of Republicans would be willing to postpone the 2020 election if Trump proposed it in order to make sure no non-citizens vote. The Constitution allows for no such act by the president and U.S. Code as passed by Congress has delegated such decisions to states, but what is most concerning is the trust that Republicans appear to have in a particular man, whether personally or for partisan reasons, rather than our constitutional system. It is the sort of trust in politicians and government uncharacteristic of Americans, and which could put freedom and limited government in jeopardy.
I say that it is uncharacteristic of Americans, but perhaps it isn’t anymore. The instinct to trust “our guy” over a system of the rule of law (not men), check and balances, separation of powers, federalism — in short, our Constitutional system — is present in dangerous doses on both sides of the aisle. Erick was right when he wrote about this bipartisan problem yesterday and pointed out that these headlines about polls like WaPo’s are all the rage now because “they focus on the Republicans right now because of Trump.” So let’s focus on Democrats who do the same.
A little over a year ago, the polling outfit WPA Research found that 67 percent of Democrats “would cancel the 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump if it meant President Obama could serve another term,” as The Hill reported. Fascinating here was the dislike not only in Trump — predictable coming from Democrats — but the comparative dislike of Clinton compared with Obama.
The usual caveats about the reliability of this poll in terms of question ordering and wording should be mentioned; they apply to both this poll and the WaPo poll of which the shocking results from Republicans were reported. That said, let me pose two questions that I posed elsewhere in response to criticisms of the WaPo poll yesterday.
First, if you believe this poll is incorrect, how far off do you think the results are? Second, how far from the truth do the results need to be before you’re comfortable? If only 30 percent of Republicans would postpone an election because Trump said non-citizens would vote, would that not concern you? If only 40 percent of Democrats really favored canceling the 2016 elections and letting Barack Obama serve a third term, would it no longer be scary? Where do you think the number really is, and is it a number that makes you comfortable?
Now, it appears that Republicans have a better excuse for postponing an election — and they were asked about postponing it, not canceling it, as Democrats were in the WPA Research poll. Republican responses correlated with concerns over the number of non-citizens they believed had voted in past elections. The assumptions about the extent of vote fraud were based on wildly speculative survey results, the methodology of which, as I mentioned yesterday, has been thoroughly criticized and can’t hold up to common sense — but at least there was a reason.
That said, I’m willing to bet that the crossover between the Democrats who responded that they would cancel the 2016 election and give Obama a third term and the Democrats who think that “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President.” According to a YouGov poll, that’s 55 percent of Democrats, even though there is no evidence that hacking of vote tallies occurred. Democrats can come up with concerns about the validity of election results just like Republicans can, and they can be just as bad.
That said, the real reasons for these responses is probably tribalism. To understand what I’m getting at, here’s another test: if your reasoning for postponing an election or holding a do-over is that it is likely fraudulent — say because of non-citizens voting or because Russia hacked voting machines and changed votes — then you will be okay with doing so regardless of which party proposed it. Republicans: if Barack Obama had postponed the 2016 election because he said illegal immigrants were going to vote in large numbers, would you have supported him? Democrats: if Donald Trump said intelligence reports confirmed a risk that Russian hackers could change votes and postponed the 2020 election until the danger was dealt with, would you support him?
That’s what I thought.
Abraham Lincoln famously said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” North Korea’s bellicosity may be grabbing the headlines this week, but if the American system of government continues to lose priority in comparison with a preferred strongman, it would be just as destructive to the Republic, if not more completely. Perhaps before we call the next election the most important in our lifetime, just like the last four, we can recognize that our country does not rise or fall from a single election, but by the continued effort of its citizens to preserve it beyond Election Day. It is time to relearn the lessons of history and liberty.