Trump pardons Susan B. Anthony for illegal voting on anniversary of 19th Amendment

Last night he told reporters he’d be pardoning someone important today and that it wouldn’t be Mike Flynn or Edward Snowden. That started a new round of political Twitter’s favorite guessing game, played every time there are rumblings about an act of clemency by Trump: Corrupt crony or war criminal?

The truth turned out to be way better.

This is a righteous pardon, if a bit odd in the context of him complaining every day about about the risk of illegal voting this fall. Anthony was convicted of … illegal voting, casting a ballot as a woman when the franchise belonged to men. Today’s the centennial of the amendment that changed that and so POTUS decided to commemorate it by expunging Anthony’s record.

Because everything is stupid and hyper-polarized in America 2020, New York’s lieutenant governor responded this morning by demanding that Trump’s pardon be … rescinded:

He acted to cure an historical injustice, and immediately some grandstanding Democrat is accusing him of stealing the badge of honor Anthony wore from her unjust arrest. Maybe if he drone-striked Anthony’s grave, Hochul would be happy.

It’s clear as day what he’s hoping to gain from this, both short-term and long-term:

People close to the president said that Mr. Trump was seeking to create a news story during the Democrats’ convention, where Mr. Biden will be nominated.

Advisers believe that unlike some of Mr. Trump’s other pardons or grants of clemency, it will be harder to criticize an action benefiting a woman whose actions helped lead to women’s right to vote.

I’m not sure a stunt pardon will do much to distract the media from the Democrats’ convention but it can’t hurt. Meanwhile, this is a bit of outreach to a demographic that’s killing him right now against Biden, women with college degrees. He’s been courting them lately in ways large and small, vowing that he’ll protect their suburban communities by keeping out the poors and offering to, uh…

He’s thin on ideas besides that one at the moment, which is why he’s resorting to transparent panders like the Anthony pardon. Here’s what he came up with a few days ago to try to impress them:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1294307884055040001

That reminded me of what he said last week about Biden wanting to “hurt the Bible” and “hurt God.” Sometimes he knows that he has to pander to a certain group but isn’t sure of the nuances of how to do it, so he just skips the nuances and makes the pander as flagrant as possible. Tell the evangelicals that Biden is anti-God, tell women college grads that feminists deserve their own statue or whatever. Pardon Susan B. Anthony. Maybe that’ll do it.

The timing of today’s action was clearly dictated by the centennial but it also operates as counterprogramming of Michelle Obama’s speech at the convention last night. Obama’s a popular figure, especially with women: When Barack left office in 2017 her favorable rating was higher than his, at 69/26. Among women it was 76/20 and among college grads 77/18. For the past two years she’s been Gallup’s most admired woman in America. A new poll out today finds that her favorable rating is more than 20 points higher than Trump’s and nearly 15 points higher than Biden’s. Her support for Clinton four years ago wasn’t enough to deliver suburban voters — Trump won them although only narrowly, by four points — but they’ve trended left since then, and her tearing into him last night on national television won’t do anything to halt that trend. If nothing else, the pardon helps cut into the media noise about MObama’s speech this morning.

He mentioned her in this same press appearance, noting that if it weren’t for the Obamas there would have been no demand by voters for Trump. That’s true, of course, although I think he owes his 2016 victory more to contempt for Hillary than for O. He also dinged Michelle Obama for pre-recording her speech, which he knew because the U.S. coronavirus death toll she mentioned was lower by many thousands of people than the current death toll. Which … maybe isn’t the greatest talking point for Trump. “The death toll is rising so rapidly that stuff recorded a week ago is already outdated” is more of a Biden zinger

Anyway, the important pardon that’s coming up is Trump’s potential clemency for Snowden. Republicans in Congress will look the other way at him pardoning Flynn, if it comes to that, but pardoning Snowden will infuriate the hawks and embarrass other GOPers in the House and Senate who were critical of Snowden in the past.

The weird thing about Trump’s interest in pardoning Snowden is that it’s *not* a heavy-handed pander in the Susan B. Anthony mold. The sort of people who would cheer that, hardcore libertarians and certain strains of leftists, are utterly lost to him electorally. Not only that, but doing a favor inexplicably for a famous spy who fled to Russia will only revive suspicions that something untoward is going on between Trump and the Kremlin. It’d be idiotic to do it. But he’ll probably do it.

Exit question: How many recipients of acts of clemency by Trump will be out on the trail raising money for him this fall? Are we going to get a Snowden fundraiser in October somewhere, maybe?