Suppose Trump wins. What then?

Biden ahead, but Trump within reach. Source:

A lot is being written about what happens if President Trump loses the election and refuses to concede defeat.  But there is an equal and opposite problem outcome.

What if Trump wins by fair means or foul?  Can the Democrats accept the legitimacy of a second Trump term?

I can’t predict the outcome of the election, but here’s one outcome that’s highly possible.  Joe Biden, like Hillary Clinton, wins the popular vote, but Donald Trump wins the electoral vote, based on narrow margins in key states.

Very likely there will be disputes as to which ballots shall be counted–for example, if large numbers of mail-in ballots arrive after election day or not all the ballots are counted when thr Electoral College meets.

Disputes would be resolved by a vote in thr House of Representatives, on a one-state, one-vote basis, or by the Supreme Court.  Republicans have a majority in 28 state delegations, versus 22 for Democrats.  Republican appointees also are in a majority on the Supreme Court, and it favored the Republicans in Bush v. Gore.

Many Democrats refused to accept the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 win.  They influenced electors to violate their pledges and then mounted failed two impeachment campaigns.

If Trump wins again, the opposition will not be limited to political maneuvering.  It will take place in the streets.  And this will be during a time of massive unemployment, bankruptcies  and already-existing civil unrest.

Back in June, a group of former government officials, campaign leaders and other notables conducted a role-playing political war game under different scenarios.

They pointed out that (1) the winner probably won’t be known on Election Night, (2) there will be plenty of opportunities for both sides to dispute the results and (3) the transition process will like be disrupted.

They played out four scenarios–an ambiguous result, a clear Biden victory, a clear Trump win and a narrow Biden win.  The most interesting part to me is the lengths to which these experienced campaigners and officials thought the Democrats would go to prevent Trump from takibg office even if he has a clear win.

In the war game, Team Biden asks for a recount in key states.  By a roll of the dice, this results in Democratic governors in two states certifying a different slate of electors than those certified by the state legislators.

Then we get to the wild stuff.  The governments of California, Oregon and Washington threaten to secede from the Union unless Congress agrees to give statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., subdivide California into five states with their own Senators, require Supreme Court justices to retire at age 70 and abolish the Electoral College.  I don’t know whether the game-players were aware that the last two would require Constitutional amendments.

It’s hard to believe such things could actually happen.  But it is striking that so many top-level people entertain these possibilities.

I don’t think there is any possibility that Donald Trump could hold onto power if he loses the election.  He would not have the backing of the military, the intelligence community or the financial elite.  Even though he has served their interests, they do not regard him as predictable or dependable.

As Thomas Neuburger remarked, if Trump were capable of making himself a dictator, he’d already be one.  The real danger is that the losers of the election, whether Trump voters or Biden voters, will not regard the result of the election as legitimate.

The last time there was an election in which a large part of the country did not accept the result was 1860.  I do not expect another War Between the States, but I do think there is a possibility of a continuing low-level conflict like the one in Northern Ireland before the Good Friday Accords.

The political crisis will come to a head during an economic crises along with drought, fire, floods and other climate-related emergencies and very possibily a continued or new pandemic. Gun sales are booming. and I don’t think the buyers are limited to conservatives in rural areas.

Goodness knows I could be wrong about all this and I hope I am.  But this is  the first time in my 83 years that I’ve seriously worried about a possible breakdown of the American political system.


Preventing a Disruptive Presidential Election and Transition by the Transition Integrity Project.  Well worth reading in full.

Voting by Mail: When Will November’s Election Results Be Settled? by Jeri-Lynn Scofield for Naked Capitalism.

Civil War? What Civil War? by Thomas Neuburger for Down With Tyranny!

How America came apart by Douglas Murray for UnHerd.

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2 Responses to “Suppose Trump wins. What then?”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    “Preventing a Disruptive Presidential Election and Transition” Link did not work.

    My thoughts.

    Right now the important thing is the fight over RBG. If they win the White House and the Senate, the Democrats have it in their power to neutralize any nomination. If they don’t, the nomination will still go through and all will be lost. My thinking is that the Democrats could probably fight a scorched earth battle and delay it long enough but it would involve shutting down the government.

    Instead I think they will let the nomination go thru, having made lots of noise but not having really fought it. (It would take a two month filibuster. Or maybe blackmailing a couple of GOP Senators.) That makes it a campaign issue they can use to claim the Senate and boot Trump out. I doubt that the vote will take place until after the election in the lame duck session. There are Senators whose reelection is in doubt and they won’t want to leave the campaign trail. And it is always better to kick the can down the road.

    If the Democrats come up big winners, they can always add seats. Just like FDR threatened to get the New Deal by the court back then. The “switch in time that saved nine.”

    If the Democrats don’t take the Senate AND Biden wins the White House, it is all a moot point. But it does give the Democrats something to rage about for the next few years. If the Democrats only take the Senate they can simply start impeaching judges. Or they can take jurisdiction of particular cases away from SCOTUS. They’ve done that before.

    The real fun starts if Biden wins but the Senate is evenly split. Harris could be a very busy lady. Biden winning but not winning the Senate won’t help the situation on the court any. But Alito and Thomas are getting old and Thomas is looking unhealthy.

    It is all a game of thrones in DC.


  2. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    And if California were to subdivide, I believe Texas would as well. From Wikipedia:

    Texas divisionism is a mainly historical movement that advocates the division of the U.S. state of Texas into as many as five states, as statutorily permitted by a provision included in the resolution admitting the former Republic of Texas into the Union in 1845.


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