Saturday, September 26, 2020


Many people don't seem to understand what's about to happen after Election Day. Ken Olin, the actor, gets it wrong: But the president isn't planning to say, "Sure, I lost, but I'm not leaving." What he's planning to say is: "I won. It's obvious that I won." One of the president's sons said as much:
Eric Trump told a crowd of his father's supporters at an event in Las Vegas that President Donald Trump would concede the election “if he got blown out of the water” by Democratic nominee Joe Biden after the president had cast doubts on a peaceful transfer of power once the race is decided.

“I think my father’s just saying listen, if he got blown out of the water, of course, he’d concede,” Eric Trump said at the Thursday event, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “If he thought there was massive fraud, then he’d go and try and address that.”
Those are the only two possible outcomes, according to Eric Trump. Anything short of a blowout will be evidence of voter fraud. His father doesn't even acknowledge the possibility of being blown out: He said last month, "the only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” And even if Eric is right and Trump will accept a decisive loss, what constitutes being "blown out of the water"? No one's won the popular vote in a presidential election by double digits since 1984. Barack Obama's two victories came with Electoral College margins of more than 100, but the other three elections since 2000 were won by much smaller margins.

The president has defined mail votes as illegitimate. Do you think Joe Biden can win 270 electoral votes based solely on ballots cast in person, or votes counted by sunrise the morning after Election Day? If Biden can't manage that -- and it's unlikely that he can -- Trump can challenge the election results even if the final tally shows that he's lost decisively.

Which will be fine if his party breaks from him and acknowledges Biden's win. That's what one unnamed Republican insider predicts in this aricle from The Hill:
“No doubt the Trump base will stick with him, and will forever believe that Pelosi, Schumer, Shifty Schiff and Hunter Biden conspired with China and Russia to flood the American electoral system with phony ballots that swung the election to Biden,” said one Republican elections lawyer who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “But everyone in official Washington will abandon him. Pence, the entire cabinet, the RNC, every GOP senator, all but maybe a handful of GOP representatives, all of his political appointees. ... Most lawyers will refuse to represent him — including government lawyers who will resign before advancing his positions in court. The other two branches of government will put an end to this. ... The judicial system in particular will have zero patience for this and its destabilizing effect on public order. And Trump himself does not want to be frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs — like a dog — so he'll eventually go, too. With a huge stink, but not an ounce of fight.”
Sounds like an Aaron Sorkin fantasy -- and in fact, Sorkin told a film festival audience this week that that's more or less how he'd write the ending of the Trump presidency, though in a more melodramatic form:
Sorkin, whose films often deal with the ethics of power, ended the conversation by revealing how he would write election night, 2020. “Trump does what we all assume he will do, which is not concede defeat, claiming the election’s rigged and the Democrats cheated. For the first time, his Republican enablers march up to the White House and say Donald it’s time to go. I would write the ending where everyone does the right thing...."
That certainly won't happen. But will the Republican election lawyer's prediction come true?

We're assuming that the likely outcome is a Biden win that's obvious to all objective observers. But in a Trump/Fox/QAnon world, objective reality has no meaning to roughly 40% of the population. It's also likely that Biden will win (if he does win) by less than the current 7-point margin the polls are showing for him, because of Republican vote suppression, incorrectly submitted mail ballots, and the usual problem Democrats have persuading many people who don't like Republicans that they need to vote Democratic to keep Republicans out of office.

So I'm expecting a Biden win by about 4 points nationwide, with the states that put him over the top being very close. And that's where Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, and the rest of the GOP "establishment" come in. They've accepted -- or openly endorsed -- nearly everything Trump has done to degrade our country. "Establishment" Republicans were yelling "Voter fraud!" long before Trump was, back in the Bush years. Why should we assume that they'll abandon Trump when he's making the same claim after the election?

After the election, Trump won't be saying he lost but won't leave -- he'll be saying he won, and in all likelihood McConnell, Graham, and others will be saying the same thing. Fox News and the New York Post and The Federalist and The Washington Post's Marc Thiessen and Hugh Hewitt will be saying the same thing. Trump will find lawyers who will file court briefs saying the same thing. And some judges will agree -- maybe even Supreme Court justices.

In other words, Trump won't try to reject the election outcome. He'll attempt to change it. And we'll have to fight more than just Trump if we don't want this effort to succeed.

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