Late last week, when Donald Trump probably should've been at the White House working, the president retreated to one of his golf clubs, where he held a press conference that served no real purpose. The Republican did, however, find time to lob a very strange allegation at his domestic rivals.
"You know, you talk about foreign countries cheating on the election. Well, the Democrats are cheating on the election because that's exactly what they're doing," Trump argued. "If you look at what they're doing, even with these negotiations [over economic aid], that's an influence and an unfair influence on an election."
By any fair measure, this was bonkers. Democrats are fighting in support of ambitious economic aid -- which, ironically, would help boost the economy ahead of Trump's re-election bid -- and there is no scenario in which this can fairly be described as "cheating" in an election.
Two days later, Trump kept this going, insisting that Democrats are determined to "steal an election." As proof, the president claimed Democratic officials want to end "signature verification" for mail-in voting.
He was, of course, brazenly lying, and Democrats have advocated no such policy. Trump's "proof" was something he simply made up.
All of which helped set the stage for yesterday's doozy. Politico reported:
President Donald Trump asserted on Monday that a force other than foreign adversaries was interfering in U.S. elections: Democrats. "I'll tell you who was meddling in our elections," the president said at a White House news briefing. "The Democrats are meddling by wanting and insisting on sending mail-in ballots when there's corruption all over the place."
At this point, we could explain that there's no evidence at all of "corruption" in mail-in voting. We could also note that Trump and much of his team vote by mail all the time. We might also take a moment to emphasize how alarming it is to see a sitting president equate foreign attacks on our political system with Americans casting legal ballots.
But what I found myself stuck on is the idea that Democrats are "meddling" in their own country's elections, not just by running candidates, but by encouraging the electorate to cast ballots for those candidates.
As if this were some kind of democratic republic, or something. The nerve of some people.
So, taking stock, over the course of just four days, Trump falsely accused Democrats of "cheating" in the election, trying to "steal" the election," and "meddling" in the election. The problem isn't just that he's lying, it's also the concern that he may be laying the groundwork for something larger.