Wednesday, March 06, 2019


CNN'S Chris Cillizza thinks President Trump is preparing to contest the legitimacy of the 2020 election results:
"The Democrats in Congress yesterday were vicious and totally showed their cards for everyone to see," Trump tweeted Tuesday, referring to House Democrats' launching of a broad-scale investigation into him. "When the Republicans had the Majority they never acted with such hatred and scorn! The Dems are trying to win an election in 2020 that they know they cannot legitimately win!"

Trump 2020 campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed that sentiment in a statement on the Democratic investigations. "These desperate Democrats know they cannot beat President Trump in 2020, so instead they have embarked on a disgraceful witch hunt with one singular aim: topple the will of the American people and seize the power that they have zero chance at winning legitimately," she said.

And asked Wednesday about the Democratic investigations, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said this: "They continue to be a group totally taken by small radical leftist fringe of their party and they're completely controlled by it, they know that's not enough to beat this President so they're going to look for other ways to do that."

All of that rhetoric fits into a very clear pattern: Convince the Trump base that it is not possible for him to lose a fair and legitimate election in 2020. Thus, if he loses, it must be, by definition, illegitimate.
The Intercept's Mehdi Hasan has similar concerns:
Consider this scenario: On the morning of November 3, 2020, it becomes clear that Trump has lost both the electoral college and the popular vote to the Democratic candidate, whoever they may be. The president, however, rather than calling his Democratic opponent to concede, holds a rally with his supporters at which he declares himself the winner, tells the crowd “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” slams the “fake news” media, and claims “millions and millions” of people voted illegally for the Democrats. He denounces a “deep state” coup and warns of “violence.”

Do you really think this isn’t possible? That this potential scenario shouldn’t make us all very afraid?
It's possible -- but it's not Trump's pronouncements that worry me. He'll go to his grave never admitting he lost in 2020, even if it's a blowout. In a healthy system, we could shrug that off once he's been defeated.

But I worry about the rest of the political establishment. Hasan thinks congressional Republicans will be supine:
Could we rely on congressional Republicans to rediscover their backbones and insist he stand down? Don’t. Be. Silly.
I worry about a scenario in which Mitch McConnell and company don't just stand idly by while Trump presses his case -- they actively join Trump's campaign, knowing that contradicting Trump means endangering their political careers as Republicans. I imagine them buttressing Trump's arguments by pointing to trivial (and imaginary) irregularities in the voting. They'll claim to have identified pockets of unprecedented voter fraud, probably in big cities. They'll do this with the fake gravitas Trump isn't capable of.

Hasan worries about Fox News -- "Why wouldn’t they demand Trump hang on, and tell their viewers to back the (defeated) president?" Fox will do that, and more, advancing elaborate narratives of electoral fakery.

But it's the rest of the news media I worry about. As I write this, Democrats have just announced that they won't hold a presidential primary debate on Fox News in this cycle, citing "the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News," as reported by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker. They argue that Fox can't possibly be "host a fair and neutral debate."

The relationship between Fox and the White House is so symbiotic that this decision should be completely uncontroversial. Yet mainstream journalists -- journalists Fox hates -- are taking Fox's side:

If enough Republicans second the president's allegations -- and they will -- can we count on the media to treat them as the nonsense they are? Or will the press begin to bothsides the issue, arguing that Democrats spent years effectively trying to nullify the 2016 election (never mind that it was in response to crimes and traitorousness), so we need to take Trump, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Ronna McDaniel, and the rest seriously when they talk about irregularities in the voting? It's possible that the mainstream media will legitimize the conspiracy theories, or perhaps just remain neutral on issues of fact, treating the battle as a sporting event. Who's winning? Who's losing? Which side looks cooler? (In 2000, the MSM agreed that Republicans defending George W. Bush's Florida "win" were impressively slick, while the Democrats were dorky.)

We can deal with Trump crying foul after a loss. I'm not so sure about any force multipliers he might have.

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