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Don't Be Shocked If Trump Tries to Delay the Election


The huckster always sees crisis as opportunity, says former FBI agent Susan SurfTone.

On January 20, 2017, when Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as our 45th president, America put a six-shot revolver to its head with one bullet in the cylinder. The cylinder was given a spin and we put the barrel to our collective head with a finger on the trigger.

Most of us, even some who voted for him, knew he was unqualified and did not have the temperament to be president, but we followed the rules set forth in the Constitution. Little did we know our new president would rarely do the same from the White House. Some of us believed he would grow into the gravitas of the office. He did not. There were adults in the room who would maintain guardrails. He disposed of both. We pulled the trigger more than once. North Korea and the Middle East were the flashpoints, but they are far away and didn't really affect us. We breathed a collective sigh of relief when nothing happened, and we went on.

In March of 2020, eight months away from the November 3 presidential election, the trigger was pulled again. This time the gun went off, and we now face the crisis we feared. A deadly invisible crisis, COVID-19, has us scared, weary, and separated, with our lives turned upside down. Uncertainty has never been so real and so much a part of our daily existence. We almost made it, but we didn't. Only eight months away from an election it seems unlikely he will win, Donald J. Trump is our president facing a pandemic that kills and will overload our health care system to the breaking point.

Our dire situation has brought back press conferences, which show that Trump's fantasy world must be preserved at all times. He lashes out if a reporter asks a question Trump feels threatens him by attacking that reporter, only doing his or her job, with a ferocity we wish he'd use against the virus. He contradicts himself from one minute to the next, gives us false information, and relishes praise as always.

Empty promises are made to shore up his fantasy world, and Mike Pence continues the happy talk as he takes over at the microphone. The Trump administration was and is too slow to act, and we are witnessing a deadly failure in leadership. The states and localities are left to cope, and many are stepping up with real leadership combined with compassion and dignity, but the federal government is needed to marshall national and global efforts to fight the new virus for which there is no cure.

Now we find the Trump administration was given warnings of a possible pandemic originating in China earlier in 2020 by our intelligence community. The warnings were ignored by and downplayed for our president, who only likes good news. We lost valuable time in fighting the pandemic we knew would hit our shores. Trump has used the Chinese origin of the virus to stoke anti-Chinese sentiment and point the finger of blame at China staying true to the Trump Doctrine: Always blame the other while taking no responsibility.

The Trump administration's Department of Health and Human Services ran a simulation code-named "Crimson Contagion" with a scenario very similar to the real-life crisis we now face. Last October's draft report of the results found the federal government to be underfunded, underprepared, and uncoordinated in fighting a virus similar to COVID-19. Again, the warning went unheeded, and we lost valuable time, which is resulting in the loss of life. The pandemic response team established by the Obama administration was eliminated by Trump for no good reason, leaving us flatfooted.

The loss of time is our enemy as well as the virus itself. We cannot place responsibility for COVID-19 on Donald Trump, but we can place responsibility for the loss of time squarely on him. The man is a real estate huckster without the skills to lead a nation in crisis. We knew, this but his hand went on that Bible anyway on January 20, 2017.

It is imperative that Trump's administration and his Republican cohorts in the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, not be allowed use this health crisis to postpone the national election, to be held November 3. We can rest assured they will use the crisis to their advantage if they feel it is likely the November election will remove them from power. As demonstrated time and time again, power is all that matters to Trump's Republicans. Trump could very well follow the example of his mentor and benefactor, Vladimir Putin, as Putin pushes to extend his power with a proposal that gives him the ability to run for two additional six-year terms after his current term in office expires in 2024. Always look to Russia to get a fix on what Trump will do in his drive toward American autocracy. Nothing helps an autocrat like a crisis that leaves his people weak, fearful, and dependent on him.

Paper ballots with mail-in voting nationwide can preserve our federal election in November, but already the lack of time is being used as a ready excuse. Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Ron Wyden of Oregon have introduced the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 to protect the November 3 election. Let's see if the Republicans support it. The postponing of Democratic primaries sets a very dangerous precedent. Ohio is indeed the bellwether state, with Republican Gov. Mike DeWine's postponement of the March 17 Democratic primary. With the serious disruption of our daily lives and the very real health crisis we face, don't get distracted unless you want Donald Trump's lack of leadership to continue into the unforeseeable future.

Susan SurfTone is a musician, former FBI agent, and regular contributor to The Advocate.

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