I think he’s getting a bad rap for this from the media, although I understand the suspicion Trump’s adversaries harbor that you-know-who might try to pull shenanigans involving the election if he’s staring at a big deficit in polling come October.
When asked if there was a chance the presidential election could be postponed past November 3 due to the pandemic, Jared Kushner said that isn’t his decision. “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan” https://t.co/cyqN8VpHbk #TIME100Talks pic.twitter.com/SrzDbUAcwz
— TIME (@TIME) May 12, 2020
The correct answer here is “The White House can’t postpone the election since federal law requires it to happen on a certain day.” His actual answer treats the question as though it’s gauging the probability of a massive second wave of COVID-19 in the fall that might make in-person voting personally risky. Kushner takes the conservative approach to that: He can’t rule out a devastating second wave but he’s confident that it won’t happen and that the country won’t shut down again even if it did. He’s not trying to create political space here for Trump to declare on October 25th or whatever, with Biden poised to win in a landslide, that we’ll have to hold off voting for awhile because of coronavirus.
But Robert Tracinski’s right that Team Trump has a habit of making the unthinkable seem thinkable, and then ho-hum acceptable.
This has been the pattern all along, the method by which Trump gets his supporters to accept his proverbial Fifth Avenue shootings:
First insist it’s not real, that he didn’t do it, that it’s all a hoax.
Then admit it’s real but it’s being overblown and taken out of context by the media.
Then defiantly proclaim that sure, of course he did it. It’s normal, it’s perfect, it’s what everybody does, so why are you making such a big deal out of it?
It’s Ukraine all over again. Step one: “Of course he’s not trying to postpone the election, you paranoid Never Trump crank.”
Step two, after reports inevitably surface this fall that Trump has begun raising the idea privately with aides and confidants: “He probably just meant that he wanted to postpone the election by a few days. Figures that you would trust the media’s anonymous sources.”
Step three, after he ends up musing publicly about postponing the election indefinitely: “This is a Flight 93 election and the president needs to do what he can to protect the country from a Democratic takeover.”
The essence of Trump, and Trumpism, is to press any advantage in the name of victory or self-aggrandizement. (Again, Ukraine all over again.) He’s a “winner.” He does what it takes to win, full stop. That’s what many of his fans love about him. I always come back to the story Paul Ryan told of finally figuring out one day that when Trump called him a “boy scout” it wasn’t meant as a compliment. It was a way of calling Ryan a chump, the sort of loser who operates according to a certain personal code and therefore doesn’t fight to exploit opportunities to benefit himself.
What kind of “boy scout” would sit by and let an election happen as scheduled if the results were likely to embarrass him?
Trump’s insistence in the fall of 2016 when he was down big in the polls that the election was “rigged” and his claims after the fact that Clinton won the popular vote only because of help from illegal immigrants are of a piece with that. There’s no such thing as a fair-and-square defeat in Trump’s mind. At the very, very least, if the election takes place as scheduled and he loses, he’ll allege cheating or unfairness of some kind. He’s already made dark insinuations about mail-in voting. If he’s willing to do all that, why wouldn’t he look for “creative” ways to avert defeat beforehand?
Anyway, Kushner has clarified:
On Tuesday night, Mr. Kushner sought to clarify his earlier interview. “I have not been involved in, nor am I aware of, any discussions about trying to change the date of the presidential election,” he said. A White House official said Mr. Kushner was fully aware that the date was set by federal law.
In the end, I don’t think Trump could get enough advisors to go along with him in a scheme to postpone the election. He might not recognize how transgressive that is in the context of American history, and certain advisors like Kushner might recognize it and not care, but most of his team wouldn’t condone it. To the extent that it’s an issue this fall, it might duplicate that weird reversal Trump underwent a few weeks ago when he insisted during a coronavirus briefing that the president has total authority on when to reopen the country and then ended up telling governors a few days later that they’ll call their own shots. Once his advisors explain to him that he lacks authority, he’ll probably drop it. Plus, if we’re hit with a big enough wave of COVID-19 this fall that postponing the election is even a thought in people’s heads, he might be so weary of having to manage the epidemic that he may welcome the opportunity to return to the private sector. He can blame the “unfairness” of the virus and the Democrats’ insistence on sustained lockdowns for his defeat. And then spend the next year trash-talking President Biden on Twitter.