The 2020 presidential election is in exactly three months.
Most polls predict a Biden win.
Some are predicting a Biden landslide.
However, even though Donald Trump’s approval ratings are in the toilet, assuming his political demise is a fait accompli is a mistake.
Regardless who wins, this is likely going to be the messiest election in recent history.
Trump has already made it clear “either he wins or the election is rigged,” and he’s using a threat to “delay the election” purely to sow chaos and doubt in its integrity so Republicans have “legitimate concerns” about Joe Biden‘s predicted triumph in November.
Are we prepared?
In June, historian Nils Gilman, Berggruen Institute vice president of programs and co-founder of the Transition Integrity Project (TIP), helped organize a bipartisan group of Democratic and Republican officials to simulate the day after a possibly contested election.
And every scenario, unfortunately, resulted in “street-level violence.”
Speaking on Democracy Now! this week, Gilman explained:
“The United States has a very unusual electoral system where people don’t take office immediately after the election. There’s this 10-, 11-week period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, when the incumbent government, the lame-duck government, is still in power and still can control things.
“And that was one of the things that was really striking. Trump will still control the levers of power, even if he loses the election, for 10 or 11 more weeks. And this allows him to get up to all sorts of mischief in terms of deploying the Department of Justice, the Post Office, you know, Department of Homeland Security, in ways that can disrupt the transition process.”
The Boston Globe reported:
“If it sounds paranoid or outlandish—a war room of seasoned politicos and constitutional experts playing a Washington version of Dungeons and Dragons in which the future of the republic hangs in the balance — they get it. But, as they finalize a report on what they learned and begin briefing elected officials and others, they insist their warning is serious: A close election this fall is likely to be contested, and there are few guardrails to stop a constitutional crisis, particularly if Trump flexes the considerable tools at his disposal to give himself an advantage.”
One of the TIP organizers, Georgetown law professor and former Defense Department official, Prof. Rosa Brooks added:
“All of our scenarios ended in both street-level violence and political impasse. The law is essentially…it’s almost helpless against a president who’s willing to ignore it.”
One of the study’s participants, retired Army Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Republican former chief of staff to George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Colin Powell, said:
“The Constitution really has been a workable document in many respects because we have had people who more or less adhered to a code of conduct. That seems to no longer to be the case. That changes everything.”
Nils Gilman warned:
“He doesn’t have to win the election. He just has to create a plausible narrative that he didn’t lose.
“Trump is already promoting the notion of fraud. He’ll say he won, if he wins, despite the fraud. And if he loses, he’ll say he lost because of the fraud.
“If he creates a plausible narrative—and by ‘plausible,’ I mean something that, you know, gets picked up in social media and then gets parroted on Fox News and gets picked up maybe by The Wall Street Journal op-ed page, that the reason why he lost is because of fraud that’s happening in some of these swing states, or, as he would say, ‘illegals’ voting or the mail-in ballots or foreign interference. There’s any number of different channels for creating a narrative that there has been fraud. And if he can do that and he can convince enough people on his side of the aisle that narrative is true, then you have a situation where there really will be two different stories about who won the election.”
Former Michigan governor, Jennifer Granholm, has already foreshadowed Trump seizing ballot boxes and deploying the military.
Gilman asserts this is not far-fetched:
“I do think that there’s a severe chance that the military will be used, or militarized forces—I don’t think the military itself. I think after Lafayette Square, the military itself is likely to resist being deployed that way. But we have paramilitarized federal forces that are prepared to do Trump’s bidding. And I do think that that’s a severe risk for the election.”
Donald Trump is going to try to hold onto the office by any means necessary.
And if there is anything we have come to understand about Trump, it’s that “any means necessary” means ANY MEANS.
Trump is aware the Justice Department policy of not indicting sitting presidents is shielding him from criminal prosecution.
Upon leaving office, he can be indicted.
In their Newsweek piece, “How Trump Could Lose the Election–and Still Remain President,” CNBC founder Tom Rogers and former Senator Tim Wirth (D-CO) explain:
“This is how it happens, Biden wins. I don’t just mean the popular vote, he wins the key swing states, he wins the electoral college. President Trump says there’s been Chinese interference in the election. He’s been talking about Biden’s soft on China—China wanted Biden to win so he says a national emergency; the Chinese have intervened in the election.”
CNBC founder Tom Rogers adds:
“[June 23] he [Trump] tweeted, he actually tweeted, ‘rigged 2020 election,’ millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries it will be the scandal of our times. so he’s laying the groundwork for this. So he does an investigation and [Attorney General Bill] Barr backs this up with all kinds of legal opinions about emergency powers that the president has.”
“Then what happens is it’s all geared towards December 14th. Why December 14th? Well, that’s the deadline when the electors of the states have to be chosen. Why is that key? Because that’s what the Supreme Court used in Bush v. Gore to cut off the Florida counting. They keep this national emergency investigation going through December 14th. Biden, of course, challenges this in the courts and says, ‘hey, we won these states, I want the electors that favored me named. The Supreme Court doesn’t throw the election to the Republicans as it did in 2000; instead it says, ‘look, there’s a deadline here.’ If they can’t be certified in these states because of this investigation going on, there’s a constitutional process for this.”
“If no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.”
Republican are already running full-tilt voter suppression ahead of November.
All it takes is for only a couple of states–say, Texas and Florida–to cast some doubt over the election’s integrity for it to be tossed to the House of Representatives.
That may appear on the surface to be good news since Democrats hold the majority in the House.
But they won’t be the ones to certify the election.
Remember, the 12th amendment stipulates, “The votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote.”
With more Republican-controlled legislatures than Democratic, this means Trump can legitimately lose both the popular vote as he did four years ago and the electoral college, securing re-election.
There is already a precedent for this.
In the 1876 election that pitted Republican Rutherford B. Hayes against Democrat Samuel Tilden, Tilden clinched the popular vote but was one vote shy of the requisite electoral votes.
As Ohio Republican Congressman James Monroe (no relation to our fifth president) published in The Atlantic in October 1893, “The votes of Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and South Carolina, with an aggregate of 22 electors” would decide the election.
That election happening in the midst of Reconstruction, federal soldiers occupied the three southern states.
Ku Klux Klan presence was also heavy in all four states.
Congressional Democrats claimed soldiers intimidated and suppressed the votes of Southern Democratic voters.
With the threat of re-igniting the Civil War that had only concluded 11 years before, Republicans and Democrats hammered out a backroom deal to hand the presidency to Hayes if he agreed to withdraw Union soldiers from the South.
He was made president, thus ending Reconstruction.
With the pandemic making in-person voting dangerous, could we reasonably argue Republicans are also weaponizing the virus to suppress voter turnout?
It’s a dark scenario, but maybe that’s why they’re so reluctant to provide the necessary relief we should have received by now.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently published a piece titled “Donald Trump’s re-election playbook: 25 ways he’ll lie, cheat and abuse his power.”
Some he’s already doing.
Consider also that at this time in 1988, former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis’ lead over George H.W. Bush was growing, casting doubt over Bush’s succeeding Ronald Reagan.
Bush went on to be POTUS 41.
If you are already registered, check your status to ensure you have not been thrown off the roles.
If you are uncomfortable with voting in person due to social distancing, request an absentee ballot (although several states and the U.S. Supreme Court are trying to make this more complicated). Contact your county Board of Elections for its procedures.
Add to everything the power of gerrymandering, social media lies, right-wing hate media, and foreign intervention–basically some of what propelled Trump into office in the first place–and we’ve got ourselves a messy fight.
This election needs to cast no doubt about Donald Trump’s legitimacy to remain in office.
Biden needs to win in a landslide to deflate Trump’s claims.
That’s exactly what his niece, Mary Trump, asserts in her recently released memoir, Too Much and Never Enough.
He will not go quietly.
He will not go willingly.
He will not respect the centuries-old tradition of a peaceful transition of power.
This November must be a referendum on how historically inept he has been.
Don’t take it for granted Joe Biden will win.
This could be ugly.
Image credit: takethehouse.com