Donald Trump has convinced himself that allowing more Americans to participate in their own democracy would be detrimental to his career. And so, with that in mind, the president and his team have launched an aggressive campaign against all vote-by-mail initiatives.
Part of the problem with the campaign is that the Republican operation hasn't quite figured out what to say. Team Trump has argued that postal balloting leads to fraud, but ample evidence proves otherwise. Team Trump has also said vote-by-mail systems can be exploited by foreign governments, which is demonstrably false.
My personal favorite was the president's recent assertion that there are roving bands of ballot-stealing children, traveling from mailbox to mailbox, "raiding" their contents, and handing off ballots as part of an elaborate electoral scheme. While that is, to be sure, kind of hilarious, it's also completely crazy.
But there's also a hypocrisy angle that the White House can't seem to avoid or explain away.
At a White House press briefing in early April, Trump denounced mail-in balloting as "horrible" and "corrupt." It led a reporter to remind the president of an inconvenient detail: he voted by mail in the most recent election cycle. As regular reader know, he was offered a chance to reconcile the contradiction, but it didn't go well.
"Sure, I can vote by mail," Trump declared. "Because I'm allowed to."
The trouble, of course, is that many Americans also want to be allowed to take advantage of the same voting method their president utilizes. What's more, as the Associated Press reported yesterday, it's not just Trump.
Vice President Mike Pence and a half-dozen other senior advisers to President Donald Trump have repeatedly voted by mail, according to election records obtained by The Associated Press. That undercuts the president's argument that the practice will lead to widespread fraud this November.
The overall list is not short. The president has voted by mail, as has his vice president, members of his immediate family, members of his cabinet, his press secretary, his campaign manager, and prominent officials from his political and White House operations.
The AP spoke to Trevor Potter, the president of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, who previously served as a general counsel on both of John McCain's Republican presidential campaigns. Referring to Trump and practically everyone around him, Potter explained, "These are people who are taking advantage of -- which is perfectly legal -- their right to vote absentee. But they don't want other people to do the same thing."
Quite right. The controversy here is not that so many members of Team Trump vote by mail; the controversy is that these folks vote by mail while insisting that Americans shouldn't be able to vote by mail.
The White House and the president's re-election campaign have had months to come up with a coherent pitch on this. They appear to be failing spectacularly.