Which conspiracy theory are we running with today — that Trump is an out-of-control president about to seize dictatorial power, or an absentee politician who won’t rule by decree? We have had plenty of both this year from Democrats, who less than ninety days ago pleaded with the Senate to remove Trump lest he become a tyrant. Just weeks later, leading Democrats howled that Trump was too slow to take over domestic private production, while Joe Biden’s senior adviser ripped Trump for not simply authorizing himself to fund the Paycheck Protection Program even without an appropriation from the House.
Biden apparently thinks “dictator in waiting” was the message of the day at his fundraiser yesterday, even though this idea has already been thoroughly debunked:
Joe Biden tonight predicts Presidrnt Trump will try to delay the November election.
“Mark my words I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” he says at a fundraiser, according to pooler @BoKnowsNews
— Matt Viser (@mviser) April 24, 2020
Biden also raised the prospect of another round of Russia-collusion speculation:
“You can be assured between [Trump] and the Russians there is going to be an attempt to interfere,” @JoeBiden said at a fundraiser tonight about the general election.
— Bo Erickson CBS (@BoKnowsNews) April 24, 2020
Well, if you want to go all-in on crazy, you may as well go truly all-in. I can’t wait for Biden to start talking about extraterrestrials and anal probes, too. That would certainly be entertaining. And enlightening too, but perhaps not in the manner Biden intends.
It should be noted that the only significant public figure expressing public concern over the prospect of Trump postponing the election is Joe Biden. Not even Hillary Clinton is that paranoid:
Let's be clear. Trump does not have the power to cancel or postpone the November election. https://t.co/OKQyAq5g80
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) April 6, 2020
There’s a very good reason that Biden’s the only one yammering about this, and it’s because president’s don’t have that authority. Elections are scheduled by statute, a law passed by Congress in January 1845 called the Presidential Election Day Law, as I pointed out the last time Biden brought this up. It was this act that set the national election date as the first Tuesday following the first Monday of November every four years. In order for an election to be postponed, Congress would have act to postpone it, not the president.
In short, executive orders do not override statutory law, especially a statute this clear. Trump can no more postpone an election than he can unilaterally repeal a federal law against murder. Even if Trump was dumb enough to suggest a postponement to Congress, they would have to pass a law to allow for the delay — and that would only happen if there was widespread consensus that an election couldn’t be held on time.
Even Snopes shot down this particular paranoid conspiracy theory, and notes another constitutional provision that would moot the entire idea anyway:
Another option for states to be able to choose their electors via elections held later than Nov. 3 would be for both houses of the U.S. Congress to pass, and the president to sign, a law superseding or modifying the Presidential Election Day Act to establish a new date. But given the current highly polarized state of U.S. politics, the chances that such a feat could be accomplished in sufficiently timely fashion — if at all — are also extremely unlikely.
And even if the U.S. legislative and executive branches could sufficiently cooperate to buy some additional time by delaying the next election, they wouldn’t have much leeway. The 20th amendment to the U.S. constitution states that the current president’s four-year term ends at noon on Jan. 20. So the election couldn’t be put off by much more than two months without incurring the risk of leaving the U.S. without a president or vice president come Jan. 20, and leaving Congress the chaotic task of having the Speaker of the House temporarily govern while figuring out how to rectify the absence of a duly-elected chief executive. (Altering that Jan. 20 deadline would require amending the U.S. Constitution in a matter of months, a virtually impossible feat.)
Mark my words: This is sheer idiocy, and anyone propagating it is either an idiot or someone pandering to idiots. Maybe the media should ask Biden to clarify to which of these categories he belongs.