Donald Trump is not a popular president. It's been one of the more historically curious consistencies of the last four years: looking at polling averages, the Republican's approval rating has never reached 50% of the nation he ostensibly helps lead.
As Trump prepares to face the voters' verdict, his current approval rating is just under 44%. That's not only short of the support he received in 2016 -- the then-candidate was elected with 46% of the popular vote, roughly in line with Michael Dukakis' total in 1988 -- it's also short of what he'll need to win a second term in a two-person race.
And that, in turn, leaves the president with a choice ahead of Election Day 2020. Trump could take steps to expand his base of support, or he could take a series of deliberate steps to suppress the ability of his own country's citizens to cast ballots in their election.
The Republican incumbent has obviously made his choice. The New York Times had this report this morning out of one of the nations' most pivotal battleground states.
President Trump's campaign in the crucial battleground of Pennsylvania is pursuing a three-pronged strategy that would effectively suppress mail-in votes in the state, moving to stop the counting of absentee votes before Election Day, pushing to limit how late mail-in ballots can be accepted and intimidating Pennsylvanians trying to vote early.
Of course, this isn't limited to one state. Politico had a related report today, adding, "Never before in modern presidential politics has a candidate been so reliant on wide-scale efforts to depress the vote as Trump."
In Philadelphia, his campaign is videotaping voters as they return ballots. In Nevada, it's suing to force elections officials in Nevada's Democratic-heavy Clark County to more rigorously examine ballot signatures for discrepancies that could disqualify them. The Trump campaign has sued to prevent the expanded use of ballot drop boxes in Ohio, sought to shoot down an attempt to expand absentee ballot access in New Hampshire and tried to intervene against a lawsuit brought by members of the Navajo Nation in Arizona which sought to allow ballots received from reservations after Election Day because of mail delays. And that's just a few of its efforts.
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank added in his new column, "This election isn't just to choose a president and a Congress. It's a referendum on the right to vote itself. The once-proud Republican Party has determined, correctly, that its only way to prevail in this election is to keep people from voting."
The assault on the franchise is obviously an attack on our democracy, and it's heartening to see news organizations frame it for voters in such a straightforward way.
We're well past the point of using caveats such as "appears" and "seems." There's no longer any need to characterize the developments as matters of opinion or subjectivity.
The sitting American president is trying to suppress the vote. He's doing so with his rhetoric, with his lawyers, with his legislative allies, and with the available levers of federal power. It is an integral element of his re-election campaign.
The effort is transparent. It is direct. It is unambiguous.
It is at also at odds with the American tradition, about which Trump is indifferent when it stands in the way of his quest for prolonged power.
The question is not whether the tactics are real; their existence is plain. The question is whether voters are prepared to overcome the obstacles their president is desperate to put in their way.