Barton Gellman, writing in The Atlantic, has the scariest piece on the 2020 Election I’ve read. Entitled, The Election That Could Break America, it explains a wide variety of tactics the Trump administration and enablers in Congress and states could pursue to create unprecedented chaos on November 3 and the days and weeks after all in an attempt to stay in office.
The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un-certainty to hold on to power.
Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.
There are so many scenarios of what could happen including the obvious voter suppression, but also using the expired consent decree governing “ballot security” operations at polls, deploying the military to “Democrat-run cities” to “protect ballots,” and my personal horror: using hand-picked electors in Republican-controlled swing states to overturn the will of the people. This story, more than any other, made me uncomfortable and a bit frightened.
I’ve always thought that Trump would never concede. He would fight with everything at his disposal, legal and illegal, to stay in power. As I’ve said in the past, he needs the Presidency to shield him from Federal and State charges that will undoubtedly be presented as soon as possible.
Some of this is going to happen. Probably not all. Hopefully, not enough to cause a real constitutional crisis. It is smart to be ready when this comes down. I believe the Democrats are lined up to fight the disruptions and the legal issues. Reading the story makes me feel like there’s going to be real fight for the future of our country. Don’t lose confidence in the democratic process.