Last time he said he’d accept the election result only if he won. This time he wields the power of the presidency to make that threat real.
Trumpsuckers cocksure of defeating a supposedly pathetic Biden look ever more delusional. Biden is a far stronger candidate, with a far more united party, than Hillary. Whom Trump just barely beat. Many more voters have become fed up with Trump’s vileness. His desperation will drive it to new levels. He has led (misled) the nation into catastrophe. Polls consistently show him losing all the swing states.*
In 2018, Floridians passed a referendum restoring the ballot to people who’ve served their time for crimes. The Republican-controlled legislature tried to negate that. Recently a court ruled their effort unconstitutional. Hopefully, that’s the end of it. And of Trump — most newly enfranchised voters being nonwhite. He was already behind in Florida. He cannot win without it.
Now, nationwide, Republicans are in a jihad against voting by mail. Trump, with bizarre candor, said mail voting would mean no Republican ever elected again. So much for their actually persuading voters, to win elections fair and square. Actually, it’s doubtful mail voting hurts Republicans. But they’ve convinced themselves to oppose anything making voting easier.
They’ve used “voter fraud” as a phony pretext to make voting harder — carefully targeting demographics likely to support Democrats. After 2016, stung by losing the popular vote by 3 million, Trump created a commission of flunkies to somehow manufacture a case that it was due to fraud. Too big a lift even for these liars. Now they’re trotting out this “voter fraud” crap again, to fight mail voting. But just as for regular voting, all the evidence shows mail ballot fraud is virtually nonexistent. (The only significant case of it, in a 2018 North Carolina congressional race, was perpetrated by Republicans.)
If the 2020 presidential election is stolen, it won’t be by Democratic voter fraud, but by pervasive Republican vote suppression tactics to deny ballots to as many Democrats as possible. Exploiting coronavirus to come up with new such tricks. In concert with Russian pro-Trump propaganda efforts as well as hacking our voting infrastructure.
But the Republican blitz against mail voting is also a cynical set-up for rejecting their increasingly inevitable 2020 election defeat. (After all their nonsense about Democrats supposedly refusing to accept 2016.)
No losing U.S. presidential candidate has ever failed to graciously concede. Even Al Gore, who many (not me) believed was cheated of victory, did so. This isn’t some mere nicety of etiquette, but goes to the heart of the kind of democratic society we constructed. A democratic culture requires accepting the legitimacy of opposing sides, and even their having power. This must not be taken for granted. It’s why Trump’s 2016 statement that he’d accept the result only if he won was nightmarish.
He actually didn’t think he’d win. But more importantly, had no power to do anything about it if he’d lost. This time is very different.
Trump has become even more insane,** his megalomania now off the charts. Believing cosmic justice demands his victory. His psyche incapable of accepting defeat.
Gracious concession speech? No, we’ll get a deranged tirade lashing out and calling the 2020 election rigged, a gigantic fraud that must not be countenanced. (Trump will already have been singing this song for weeks.)
What will Republicans do? Fall into line of course. When God says jump, you say, “How high?” When Trump cries fraud, his cultists will shout it from the rooftops. The closer the election, the worse it will be. Pray for a landslide.
Electoral votes are transmitted by each state to Congress, which meets in joint session in January and declares the result. Democrats will almost surely have a majority in that joint session.
Trump may meanwhile go to court challenging electoral votes with allegations of fraud. This would probably have to play out state by state. Could get very messy. Note that if any electoral votes for Biden are thrown out (unprecedented and unlikely), they wouldn’t go to Trump. He’d still need 270. If no candidate gets 270, the election is decided by the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote. You’d need a majority of states to win. In the current House, 26 state delegations have Republican majorities (so a single sane Republican could end the madness). The vice president is elected by the Senate. If no president or vice president is elected by inauguration day, the previous president does not stay in office. The Speaker of the House becomes president.
In sum, Trump will have no quasi-legal pretext to stay in the White House as of noon on January 20. In fact he’d be an unauthorized trespasser. It’s the duty of the Secret Service to protect the president. This should certainly include detaining and removing a trespasser.
Or Trump might hold an alternative inauguration. Would he find a judge foolish enough to officiate? But remember that Napoleon, at his coronation, grabbed the crown from the Pope’s hands and placed it on his own head.
This story may seem to be descending into opera buffa. But the threat of violence looms. Many Trump supporters are not just deranged, but deranged with guns, which are integral to their cult.
Trump has previously darkly tweeted encouragement at the idea of such people not accepting a political outcome. Election defeat will destroy what vestiges of sanity he still retains. There will be blood.
The optimist view? Better this than four more Trump years. If this is what we must go through to be rid of this curse, so be it. Perhaps this gotterdammerung will be the final coda lancing the political boil that led to it.
* Polls in 2016 were actually very accurate in projecting Hillary about 3 points ahead of Trump.
** Look at his recent Joe Scarborough tweets.