The mask has been torn off

We all knew he’d float something like this eventually, but it’s still shocking to see a sitting President of the United States come out and say it:

U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning and called for the 2020 presidential election to be delayed due to mail-in voting.

Trump has been attacking mail-in voting for months as health and government officials are trying to make it easier and safer to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.

Health officials have said voting by mail can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but Trump has made clear he believes widespread mail-in voting would benefit Democrats in November’s election.

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” he tweeted.

Can he do this? Legally, he cannot:

The U.S. president does not have the power to change the date of the election. The day of the federal election is set by U.S. Congress and the Constitution makes no provisions for a delay to the presidential inauguration, which takes place on Jan. 20, 2021.

The 20th Amendment says that “the terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.”

According to NBC News, a change in the election date means a change in the federal law and it would need to go through Democrats-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate.

The key word is “legally.” I have no doubt any attempt to delay the election, at the national or the state level, would eventually be overturned by the courts. Even Trump’s own Supreme Court appointees have proven they won’t blindly do whatever he wants.

But Trump has spent the past four years insisting the 2016 election, which he won, was somehow marred by fraud because Hillary Clinton got more of the popular vote. (An election you can win without a plurality of the votes? What kind of banana republic is that?) He is gearing up to declare an increasingly likely 2020 defeat illegitimate, and everyone knows it.

Unlike in Canada, where a federal agency governs federal elections, American Presidential elections are administered at the state level. I can easily imagine a nightmare situation where Republican-controlled governments in crucial swing states (coughFloridacough) try to delay the election and throw the outcome into chaos. Even if the courts slap them down, that still gives them enough time to sow doubts about whether a Biden victory is legitimate. And Team Trump will run with that for years to come.

Before 2020, we could say the Trump years have been awful in many ways, but the most pessimistic predictions have not come true. In this blighted year, the worst-case scenarios about this man testing a 224-year-old democracy look increasingly plausible. Whatever concerns I might have about Trump’s opponents – not so much Biden himself, but the increasingly vocal far-left fringe of the Democratic Party – are mere annoyances by comparison.