Will Trump “shoot the moon”?

In the card game of Hearts, the expression “shooting the moon” simply means that a player is attempting to take all thirteen heart tricks and the queen of spades thus making him the sole winner and everyone else losers1. Now, I doubt that Trump is playing Hearts, but Trump is a gambler, and the question in the present context has to do with an attempt to take over our government or, at the least, win another term in office. Let’s look at his actions.

First, Trump has publicly stated he is a poor loser and is unwilling to declare that he will honor the results of the election later this year.2 He has publicly admitted that he could challenge the results of the elections if he loses.

Second, Trump has consistently attempted to undermine public confidence in our elections. (This should concern everyone as confidence in our elections is all that preserves our Democracy. Without it, our Democracy dies.) Even before his election in 2016, Trump constantly made claims about illegal voting in the U.S.3 After his victory in the electoral college (while losing the popular election by nearly 3 million votes) Trump claimed that there were millions of illegal votes for Hillary Clinton4. This claim has been repeated over and over and over. The problem we face is that while these claims are clearly false, his base, which is a solid one third of the voting electorate, truly believes them. This belief in the lies about massive voting fraud erodes confidence in the election process and cultivates support for Trump’s use of such claims to justify declaring an election invalid in the event that he loses5.

Third, Trump, with the help of the Republican dominated Senate, has succeeded in stacking the federal courts with 197 judges (including 2 on the Supreme Court) based more on political alignment than on judicial qualifications. These judges could play a very important role in the outcome of an election in the event there are legal challenges to it6. Challenges to the election could result in significant delays in certifying the election results. This year, the law requires the Electoral College to convene on December 147 (which is only 41 days after the election) to cast the votes for president. That’s not much time for the possibly hundreds of lawsuits to make their way through the (possibly politicized) courts. Electoral College ballots are to be counted by the new Congress on the first week of January so that the new president can be sworn in on January 20. What happens if fewer than all 538 electors are certified by the states by December 14? Failure of the states to certify electors for the Electoral College could result in a true constitutional crisis for our country. Who, then, would determine who is to be the next president?8

Fourth, Trump has made every effort possible to suppress voting. (He has publicly admitted that making it easier to vote in America would hurt the Republican party.) He is mounting legal challenges to vote by mail (on the grounds that voting by mail can be used to rig the elections) at a time when voting in person risks exposure to the deadly COVID-19 virus sweeping the nation. He is constantly discouraging voters against absentee voting claiming that absentee votes are not counted or are miscounted, lost, thrown away or destroyed. He has encouraged state officials to enact and enforce unnecessary rules on voting procedures such as limiting the times available and restricting the excuses for absentee voting.

Fifth, Trump has embarked on a (questionably unconstitutional) program of intimidation, deploying unidentified federal agents in military garb and in unmarked vehicles to harass and arrest protesters in Portland, OR and he threatens to do likewise in other cities that are governed by local Democratic leaders.9

We cannot ignore these actions or their implications. They clearly lead us to the conclusion that Trump may well be posturing to “shoot the moon”. If he is and if he should win, all confidence in our elections will be lost and it will spell the end of our Democracy. We must do everything possible to fight voter suppression, to ensure voters are registered, to ensure they are able to vote and to get out the vote on November 3.

We must fight to ensure the legitimacy of our elections and to protect the public confidence in them.

1The original use of the expression meant that someone was attempting to escape in the middle of the night with all his worldly goods in order to avoid paying rent.

2See video recording of Trump interview with Mike Wallace from Fox News.

3Illegal voting has been claimed by many Republicans over the years and has been investigated numerous times and found to be virtually non-existent.

4Trump also claims there were no illegal votes for him.

5We have already discussed the prospects of Trump losing the election and refusing to accept it in a previous blog.

6Everyone is well aware of Trump’s willingness to exploit the legal system to his advantage. He could easily challenge elections in states or counties in which he lost the election while ignoring local elections he won.

7The law requires that members of the Electoral College cast their votes on the first Monday following the second Wednesday in December. This year, that falls on December 14.

8The Constitution provides guidance for the situation where the Electoral College reaches a tie vote and when no candidate obtains a clear majority, but it doesn’t provide any guidance for the situation where certified electors are not present when votes are supposed to be cast.

9Rumors abound that Trump may deploy these agents around voting places on election day in blue states. This would intimidate voters from showing up at the polls and result in significant voter suppression.