Trump’s claim on delaying polls would damage American democracy say experts

Observers said his undermining of the polls would have far-reaching consequences than the pandemic.

Credit : Doug Mills/The New York Times

In the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s statement that the presidential polls could be delayed, analysts are trying to figure out how his claim would damage the democracy domestically.

A CNN report quoting University College London’s global politics assistant professor Brian Klaas as saying, "His false claims that the election is being rigged against him are part of that strategy. They aren't true, but they will prime his base to reject the results."

According to the report, experts said Trump's claims also send across the wrong message that many rulers in the world were exploiting the Covid-19 to subvert the rule of law.

Trump’s comments undercut his government’s sharp criticism of China in the background of stripping Hong Kong of its liberties. On the day of Trump’s remarks on delaying the polls, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded that Hong Kong hold its legislative polls as per schedule.

"They must be held," Pompeo said. "The people of Hong Kong deserve to have their voice represented by the elected officials that they choose in those elections." The next day, Hong Kong delayed the elections due to the rising coronavirus cases. The opposition saw political motives behind the move.

University of Birmingham democracy professor Nic Cheeseman said there is a "real threat in Trump sending out a message that he won't stand up for democracy". Leaders across the world with despotic tendencies would see this as an endorsement to lower their own standards.

"Leaders around the world really do look at the international climate to see what they can get away with. If you see that Trump is unwilling to promote democracy in other countries then backs that up by undermining democracy in his own country, the risk at play for you, say, rigging your own election is significantly lowered."

Experts said Trump's tweet on delaying of the polls has damaged America’s reputation. His track record as the US president shows that he fought with his enemies and friends and undermined global institutions such as NATO and the World Health Organization. The US has withdrawn from multilateral treaties such as the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal.

Such unilateral decisions also lessen America's diplomatic prowess, said Oxford University scholar Jennifer Cassidy.

"The truth is, that is where real soft power lies and he has done a lot of damage over his four years in office," Cassidy said. "And while America's allies might welcome a Biden presidency, seeing it as a return to something more normal, America's enemies may arguably be much slower to view the Trump presidency as an outlier. If Trump happened once, then why would Iran or China believe someone like him won't happen again?"

Brian Klaas said, "During a global pandemic, the world needs a leader — someone to help coordinate responses to a virus that knows no borders. Instead, Trump has spent much of his time hawking disproven medicines, tweeting conspiracy theories."

"When the world looks to America to lead, they are finding a man who is singularly incapable of leading his country, let alone the world."

Cheeseman said, "If America had marshalled democratic countries around the world to support democracy in the age of coronavirus, I think that could have been really significant. The signal that sends is we are watching you and we are on it." Instead, the President has picked fights and divided people both at home and abroad.

Observers said his undermining of the polls would have far-reaching consequences than the pandemic.

"If he loses, he seems to be signalling that he will happily try to burn American democratic institutions to the ground if he believes it will help save himself or help him save face," said Klaas.


Trump rival dies of Covid-19

Former Republican candidate and businessman Herman Cain died during hospitalisation for around a month. He was being treated for the Coronavirus infection, said a post on his personal website. A source close to the White House told ABC News.



"You're never ready for the kind of news we are grappling with this morning. But we have no choice but to seek and find God's strength and comfort to deal with it," wrote staffer Dan Calabrese posted on "Herman Cain -- our boss, our friend, like a father to so many of us -- has passed away."

"Although he was basically pretty healthy in recent years, he was still in a high-risk group because of his history with cancer," the post stated. The 74-year-old businessman was brought to a hospital in Atlanta on July 1, after he showed up in President Trump's rally in Oklahoma on June 20. He was not wearing a mask.