Yesterday Jimmy Kimmel interviewed Joe Biden for a kind of video podcast he’s been doing while his show is on hiatus. In the midst of the interview he asked a question that, at least to me, seemed to come out of nowhere. “Is it possible that Trump could postpone the presidential election?” Kimmel asked.
— Brent Baker (@BrentHBaker) March 27, 2020
“No, he doesn’t have the authority to do that,” Biden said. He continued, “Now it’s possible they may start a drumbeat saying it should be postponed. But, you know, Jon Meacham who’s become a friend and is a historian pointed out that we’re in a position where we’ve had elections in the middle of the Civil War.”
Not only did the question surprise me but also the fact that Biden had a ready answer for something that seemed so far out of left field. But it turns out I had missed a memo. Last week the NY Times published a piece by John Meacham which raised this question:
We need to have these kinds of conversations about the election honestly, rationally, and now. The sooner the better, for chaos could lead to a nightmare scenario: the possibility that President Trump might take advantage of the unfolding health crisis to delay the November election.
Alarmist? Not for anyone who’s paid even glancing attention to the president’s will to power and contempt for constitutional convention. Though he’s recently signaled that postponement isn’t an issue, in the past he’s also joked — at least we think he was joking — about blowing past the two-term limit imposed on presidents by the 22nd Amendment.
It turns out the Times wasn’t the first to suggest this. Buzzfeed published a piece back on March 13 suggesting Trump might postpone the election. The piece points to an entire thread about the topic which dates to early February. Here’s MSNBC analyst Glenn Kirschner suggesting Trump could announce a postponement of the election. This, and the rest of his thread, got retweeted thousands of times.
If the Senate acquits Trump today, consider the following scenario: it’s October 2020. The poll numbers have Trump trailing the democratic nominee by double digits. Trump unexpectedly announces he will address the country on national TV. He steps to the microphone and says . . .
— Glenn Kirschner (@glennkirschner2) February 5, 2020
Back when Kirschner was suggesting this, coronavirus really wasn’t on the radar the way it is now, but the virus plugs into his scenario perfectly. Now, the conspiracy theorists say, Trump has a viable excuse he can use to justify his plan to postpone the election.
So the idea is now appearing more frequently in more places including TMZLive which discussed it earlier this week. This clip features an interview with a constitutional law scholar who says flatly that Trump can’t postpone an election but the latter half of this clip is about the worry he might try to do it anyway.
Will Trump try to postpone the 2020 election because of the COVID-19 pandemic? https://t.co/77YAPMosRq
— TMZ Live (@TMZLive) March 24, 2020
Further evidence that this idea is becoming widespread comes from the Houston Chronicle which just yesterday published a blog post about this [emphasis added]:
I’ve been getting questions from people about whether President Trump can postpone the election during a national emergency. It’s an understandable fear because Indiana, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Ohio have postponed their primary elections because of the coronavirus. Please be assured that the answer is NO. President Trump cannot postpone a general federal election, even during this pandemic.
I don’t know if this will continue but at the moment it seems to be ramping up. In the span of 7 weeks it has gone from a viral thread by an MSNBC analyst to something the NY Times is airing and from there to something Joe Biden is being asked about directly. For the most part, discussion of this idea all conclude the same way, i.e. this isn’t something Trump can do. But it keeps coming up, presumably because this is being driven by the left’s fear of losing the election. It’s still more than seven months away but already they are envisioning ways in which their chance to take back the White House could be stolen from them.