Monday, September 27, 2021


In response to the much-discussed Robert Kagan essay on the threat Donald Trump poses to democracy, Jack Shafer wrote this at Politico a few days ago:
Is this nighmare scenario really a function of Trump’s power and his dominance over his party? Or do the extra-Constitutional methods Trump might adopt as we enter the 2024 election penumbra reflect his essential weakness, and the continued decay of Republican power? Are we looking at a player holding a set of superior cards or as a weak-hand bluff artist threatening to blow up the casino unless he wins the pot?

It's hard to know, and the political establishment—media included—has done an embarrassingly bad job of gaming it out in the past. As Kagan notes, we deserved Trump because we underestimated him the first time around. But going into 2024, does it make sense to compensate by overestimating him?
This is meant to reassure us. But what's reassuring about it?

Arguing that Trump might attempt a coup in 2024 only because he's too weak to win legitimately is like arguing that Al Qaeda hijacked planes and flew them into buildings only because it didn't have nuclear warheads and ICBMs -- it may be true, but it's not comforting.

And it's not really accurate to say that Trump cries "Fraud!" only out of weakness. Even before the 2016 election -- which he managed to win -- he said he'd accept the results "if I win." He claimed voter fraud before Election Day 2016 and a couple of weeks after he'd been declared the victor. It's quite possible he would have alleged fraud even if he'd won the popular vote.

Trump's argument -- which inspires near-universal agreement within his party -- is that pro-Democratic fraud is inevitable in every election. If he wins legitimately in 2024, he'll say the Democrats tried to steal the election, but the MAGA army was too powerful, the implication being that the victory would have been bigger in a non-"rigged" election.

And we're not just facing a potential crisis three years from now -- we have a crisis now. Nearly all the voters in one of our two major parties believe that only elections their party wins are legitimate. They believe the Democratic Party is a bunch of crooks. This is about more than one election -- we could have violence if Raphael Warnock or even Liz Cheney's challenger wins a squeaker in 2022. So what difference does it make whether Trump is politcally strong or weak?

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