“Democrats may not trust the results of the election if Trump wins; Here’s what the president could do now to bolster his legitimacy in advance.”

I have written this oped for the Washington Post. It begins:

Concern is rising about what would happen if President Trump loses the November election and refuses to concede, perhaps by claiming victory based on early returns before the mail-in ballots are counted or through some similar maneuver. Would his supporters in this “doomsday scenario” take to the streets and Trump refuse to leave office?

These are real worries. But there’s another one that looms almost as large and gets far less attention: Would Democrats and others on the left accept the presidential results as legitimate if Trump wins? There’s reason to believe they might not — and there are steps Trump and others could take now to bolster his legitimacy if he wins in November. It starts by making sure we have a fair vote.

It’s easy to come up with a scenario where Trump ekes out a narrow victory in states like Georgia and Florida but Democrats blame Georgia voter suppression and the fight to keep former felons from voting in Florida as the reason for Trump’s victory. A democracy depends upon the losers believing the election was mostly fair and agreeing to fight another day, rather than engage in protests and attempts to stop an unfairly chosen leader from serving. If one side sees the other side as consistently cheating, the very premise of democracy is undermined.

This year, the grounds for Democrats to fear an illegitimate election have only increased…

To begin with, the best way to create the appearance of a fair election is to run an actually fair election. That means adequate funding for the additional costs of conducting a national election during a pandemic. It means assuring that the Postal Service has sufficient resources to deliver election-related mail quickly. It means encouraging eligible voters to vote (only once!), early if possible, and making sure that systems are in place to protect both the integrity of the vote count and access to the ballot during a pandemic.


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