In Donald Trump’s telling of it, the result of the 2020 election, which has not been held yet—and he might even win—is not legitimate. It’s a note Trump struck in 2016, when it looked like he almost certainly would not win, and it’s a scorched earth approach to democracy that he’s only made more extreme this time around. There’s no way to frame Trump’s approach to the upcoming vote as anything other than the stuff of strongmen and authoritarians. This is how elections are treated in Ankara and Moscow. On Wednesday, Trump was given the umpteenth chance to take the high road and reassert a sense of calm and order to the electoral process by saying something gallingly obvious: the winner of the election will be president. When asked by a reporter about that possibility, whether the president of the country could reassure Americans that there would be a peaceful transfer of power next year, Trump opted for disorder.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump responded during a White House news conference. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster. “I understand that, but people are rioting,” responded the reporter. “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” the president said. “The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anyone else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”
“Get rid of the ballots.” A real thing an American president just said.