Trump's plan for fall: assume in-person voting will be 'very safe'

Trump insists in-person voting will be "very safe" in the fall. How does he know? He doesn't.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting at the White House on Aug. 3, 2020.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting at the White House on Aug. 3, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP
By Steve Benen

Donald Trump could embrace mail-in voting, but he refuses. The president could help bolster the U.S. Postal Service ahead of elections in the fall, but he refuses. He could put together a plan to strengthen voting infrastructure and prevent an electoral disaster, be he refuses.

So, what exactly does Trump want to see happen as Election Day approaches? This morning, the Republican appeared on Fox News and was asked for his plan given that "mail-in voting makes you unsettled." The president shed some light on his vision:

"[B]y the time we get [to Election Day] we'll probably be in very good shape.... They'll do whatever they have to do, but they want to vote. We have people that really want to get out and vote. It's going to be very safe, but by November 3rd, that's -- you know, time wise that's eternity, frankly, as far as I'm concerned. For Trump that's eternity, and November 3rd is a long ways off."

When a "Fox & Friends" co-host raised the possibility of another wave of infections in the fall, Trump changed the subject.

In a different part of the same interview, the president added, in reference to the coronavirus, "This thing's going away. It will go away like things go away."

The rhetoric wasn't exactly surprising -- Trump has predicted COVID-19's looming disappearance literally dozens of times -- but it was clarifying. The White House's plan, to the extent that it can described as a "plan," is to force American voters to show up at their local precincts in the fall.

Why? Because it will be "very safe." How does the president know? He doesn't, but Trump routinely struggles to differentiate between what he wants to be true and what he thinks is true.

He envisions an electoral process in which the nation simply expects normalcy. That's it. That's the United States' 2020 strategy for holding a safe and fair election according to our sitting president.

He really ought to have a plan B. It was, after all, just last month CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said, "I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times that we've experienced in American public health." It came on the heels of congressional testimony in which Redfield said the country is likely to have a "difficult time," starting in the fall, as the coronavirus and flu circulate simultaneously.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health, added last week, "If there is COVID-19 and flu activity at the same time, this could place a tremendous burden on the health care system related to bed occupancy, laboratory testing needs, personal protective equipment and health care worker safety."

It's against this backdrop that Trump insists having voters wait in line at polling stations in November will be "very safe" -- because he says so.

The Washington Post recently published an article that included a sentence that stood out for me: "Trump is ... predisposed to magical thinking -- an unerring belief, at an almost elemental level, that he can will his goals into existence, through sheer force of personality, according to outside advisers and former White House officials."

This magical thinking is, alas, on display on a nearly daily basis.