Imagine, for just a moment, it’s November 4, 2020. Many votes have not yet been counted in some states, and it remains unclear who has won the election. It will likely be several days before the final vote tallies are completed.
Despite that uncertainty, Donald Trump either declares himself the winner or immediately starts tweeting out that if he loses then the election has been stolen.
What happens next? That’s what most terrifies current White House aides who spoke with Ron Suskind of The New York Times on the condition of anonymity and admitted they’re expecting the worst:
“Many of the officials I spoke to came back to one idea: You don’t know Donald Trump like we do. Even though they can’t predict exactly what will happen, their concerns range from the president welcoming, then leveraging, foreign interference in the election, to encouraging havoc that grows into conflagrations that would merit his calling upon U.S. forces. Because he is now surrounded by loyalists, they say, there is no one to try to tell an impulsive man what he should or shouldn’t do.”
Consider some possible scenarios laid out by those same officials who still work in the administration:
“Disruption would most likely begin on Election Day morning somewhere on the East Coast, where polls open first. Miami and Philadelphia (already convulsed this week after another police shooting), in big swing states, would be likely locations. It could be anything, maybe violent, maybe not, started by anyone, or something planned and executed by any number of organizations, almost all of them on the right fringe, many adoring of Mr. Trump. The options are vast and test the imagination. Activists could stage protests at a few of the more crowded polling places and draw those in long lines into conflict.”
Such a conflagration would give Trump and the Department of Justice under Attorney General William Barr all the excuse they need to shut down polling places in major cities. They could impose a curfew or demand that people return to their homes in the name of national security.
The result: Trump can declare the election has been “corrupted” and the results cannot be trusted. He would then assume absolute power and silence anyone who dares to disagree with him by branding them a terrorist and imprisoning and/or executing them. The American democratic experiment would be dead. The United States would be a dictatorship and the purge of all who refuse to pledge absolute loyalty to Trump would begin.
Or perhaps Trump would seek to legitimize his power by throwing the election to the House of Representatives, where every state’s delegation would have one vote:
“The current composition of the House, in which Republicans control more state delegations even though Democrats are in the majority, favors Trump.”
The second term of Donald Trump would be rubber-stamped with the “legitimacy” of the people’s representatives doing what they can later say was the best thing for the country.
There is, however, one antidote to all of this possible mayhem: An overwhelming Biden landslide, which polls suggest could be in the offing.
We have to vote like we never have before. And then we have to hope and pray for the best.