It prompted a day-long Twitter Trend of HELL NO, and brought a lot of angry people to bear worried that trump was now at full dictator mode.
To quote Ian Millhiser at Vox: trump can't do it if he tried.
A trio of federal laws set Election Day for presidential electors, senators, and US representatives as “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November.” If Republicans want to change this law, they would need to go through the Democratic House.
The 20th Amendment, moreover, provides that “the terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.” Thus, even if the election were somehow canceled, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s terms would still expire as scheduled — although, as explained below, the question of who would succeed them is devilishly complicated...
trump could try to argue that his emergency powers would override the existing laws, but there's no way he can argue past something written in stone the way the 20th Amendment is. Supreme Court justices, even trumpian Far Right ones, do not take kindly to that kind of scam. And Chief Roberts has already expressed his disdain with trump's legal shenanigans. Back to Millhiser:
Under the 20th Amendment, “the terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d [sic] day of January.” So, if no one is elected to replace these officials, Trump and Pence cease to be elected officials the minute their terms expire on January 20. Members of the House serve two-year terms, so all members of the House will cease to be representatives on January 3; one-third of senators’ terms also expire on that date.
Ordinarily, if the Presidency and Vice Presidency are both vacant at the same time, the office falls to the Speaker of the House. But if there is no election, there will be no Speaker when Trump and Pence’s terms expire because all House seats will become vacant on January 3...
I've seen other arguments online that there's a possibility that Nancy Pelosi, the current serving Speaker, might still qualify under the 25th Amendment because the Speakership still belongs to her. The rules of the House are that she remains so unless voted out from office (which technically did not happen, there just wasn't a vote period), if majority control flipped to another party (which hadn't happened, due to no vote), if she was voted out by a No-Confidence motion (which is rare, and does not apply to this), or if she resigned. Technically, anybody could be voted as Speaker even if they were not elected to the House at all (which did come up during the struggle to find a replacement for Boehner when he retired), so Pelosi as sitting Speaker could remain so if the election was suspended.
But to continue Millhiser's reasoning:
If there is no President, Vice president, or Speaker, the next official in line is the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, a largely ceremonial position that is traditionally held by the most senior member of the majority party. Right now that is Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
But wait! Recall that the terms of many senators also expire on January 3. As it turns out, 23 seats held by Republicans and only 12 seats held by Democrats are up for election this year, so if no election is held, Democrats will have a majority in the Senate once these seats become vacant. Which would mean that Senate Democrats would be able to choose a new President pro tempore. If they follow the tradition of choosing the most senior member of their caucus, that would place Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) next in line for the presidency.
Things actually get even more complicated from here. The 17th Amendment permits state governors to name temporary senators to vacant seats, but not all states allow their governors to do so. It’s also not immediately clear who would be the governor of many states if no election takes place in 2020, because much of the line of succession in those states could be rendered vacant as well...
Personally, if it works out that Pat Leahy ends up as President through all this, I'd be happy because it'd mean we'd get a President who personally stared down the Joker.
It's a pretty thought experiment to try, but the reality is trump can't stop this election cycle: It is hardwired into our system. Not just in the law but by tradition: We held a Presidential election in the middle of a Civil War, for God's sake. he'd have to order a straight-up military coup into the states to shut down the local election setups, especially in the Blue states that won't obey any suspension order he gives.
But that's not trump's true intention here. trump know how to play a long con, and he's setting the groundwork to invalidate the election after it happens. Per David A. Graham at The Atlantic:
Trump has repeatedly and falsely alleged that the election will be tainted by widespread fraud due to increased use of mail-in voting stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. (He has also repeatedly and falsely claimed major fraud in the 2016 election, which he won.) While voting by mail, like all methods, is susceptible to fraud, no evidence suggests widespread fraud that could affect the result of the election...
However, there are legitimate worries about the ability of many Americans to properly and safely vote, and many reasons to fear that the November election will be a train wreck. COVID-19-related complications, including a huge increase in demand for voting by mail and a shortage of polling places and poll workers, threaten to swamp already struggling local election systems. Election experts worry that final election results will not be available for weeks after Election Day, as votes are slowly counted. Any delay in the day of the election would only exacerbate this problem by making it even harder to meet other deadlines. Also under statute, the Electoral College must meet on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. According to the Constitution, the new presidential term starts at noon on January 20 of the following year...
trump is setting up now his ability to throw a wrench into that process, delaying things through court challenges at every mail-in ballot against him that nothing can get counted in time and force the Electoral College to not even vote. That would send the whole mess into the US House where by a quirk of the election rules each state (50) gets ONE vote (not proportioned out to each Representative), with the majority of each state dominating their single vote (there are 26 controlled by Republicans, one split, 23 controlled by Democrats). It wouldn't matter if Democrats have 230-plus Representatives: It would only matter that Republicans control 26 state delegations. The only way this doesn't work to the Republicans' advantage is if Democrats flip delegation control of three states, but there's no guarantee of that despite the signs of a Blue Wave in congressional elections.
This could happen even if Joe Biden secures both the popular vote (which is likely) and the Electoral vote (which would involve flipping back three to five - even six if Texas goes Blue (!) - states that went barely for trump). Just imagine it: Biden wins 374 EV by securing all the 2012 Blue states plus Arizona and North Carolina and maybe one more, and does so with 70 million voters to trump's 61 million with a nice 53 percent popular count. Yet trump and his Republican cronies still in control of Florida, Ohio, Arizona and Wisconsin contest the votes forcing a delay similar to what happened in 1876, compelling the system to toss it all to a US House where Republicans hold 26 delegations.
It'd be a huge risk to piss off 70 million Americans, but like any political party relying on Minority Rule, the Republicans right now do not give a fuck about the Majority.
Back to Graham:
Trump’s unpopularity is one of the peculiarities of his proposal to delay the election. There aren’t many historical precedents for such a move, but when they exist, they have been undertaken by politicians who are extremely well liked...
Such leaders could argue that their constituents needed and wanted continuity. Trump, by contrast, is a widely reviled politician. Most of the country feels that things are on the wrong track, and he knows it. This is, in fact, the likely motivation behind this proposal. It’s more a means of preemptively contesting the outcome of an election he fears he will lose than trying to actually move it...
If Trump loses the election in November and wants to argue that he was cheated and the voting was not legitimate, he can’t start on November 4. He needs to lay the groundwork ahead of time—for example, by repeatedly warning that the vote will be fraudulent and rigged, and by telling his supporters that he tried to postpone it but was denied by “Them.”
Some observers have focused on the question of whether a defeated Trump would actually leave office, as required by law, or stage some sort of coup. That still seems tough to envision, though the president’s complete disregard for the rule of law makes it hard to rule anything out. But a concerted effort to undermine the election, and to convince 35 to 45 percent of the electorate that the balloting was never fair, would do its own damage...
Either trump wins by cheating, or he wins by burning everything in his wake as he scurries out the White House door. It's both bluff - to cower us to behave - and threat - making sure his violent obsessive MAGA fans riot over his loss even if Biden tops him with 55 percent of the popular vote and a solid Electoral win.
We are too far into a disastrous trump regime to cower in fear. We've had 232 years of this nation to build our resolve and our faith in the United States to let this tiny, whining Shitgibbon get the better of us.
Vote however you can. Vote by mail even as trump destroys our Postal Service. Vote in person using every safety and health precaution you've got. Overwhelm trump's diminishing support. Overwhelm every Republican attempt to suppress our votes.
Make it so the turnout is so lopsided in favor to the Democratic Party that the state-level Republicans won't risk playing trump's con game to delay the counts.
Make it so the Majority - the TRUE Majority of Americans who want normalcy again, who want a working federal government again - finally gets their say after decades of abuse by a Republican Party that no longer represents us.
Don't play trump's game. Beat him at ours.
Hell No, trump.