Four Possible Scenarios if Trump Loses the Election
In his latest bombshell tweet, Trump suggested that he might “delay” the election due to unspecified and unsubstantiated voter fraud concerns. While the media has certainly fixated on this particular tweet, anyone who watches Trump’s Twitter feed knows that this is just one of a growing number of tweets that suggest that Trump is laying the groundwork to become the first President in American history to challenge election results. This begs the question, if Trump does lose in November, what could happen? Here are four potential scenarios.
Scenario 1: Peaceful Transition of Power
The first, and I admit, least likely scenario, is one that has played out dozens of times in American history. The loser of the election honorably concedes to the winner and wishes him good fortune. Given Trump’s proclivity to see everything through a lens of paranoia, and to take anything but unqualified praise personally, I do not consider this a realistic scenario in November. Can you really picture Trump wishing Biden well and admitting defeat? I just cannot and I will eat my shoe if I am proven wrong.
My Probability Rating: 5%
Scenario 2: Grumbling Transition of Power
More likely, if Trump is defeated in the election he will challenge it, the question is…how far will he go? We got a small glimpse of this back in 2016 when Trump couldn’t accept that he did not win the popular vote against Hillary Clinton and falsely accused millions of illegal immigrants of voting in that election (this is demonstrably false). Similarly, unable to accept that his inauguration crowd was not the largest in history, photos were doctored to suit dear leader’s reality distortion field. This time around, Trump will likely rail against a multitude of familiar targets that he will claim “rigged” the election against him. He will blame “big tech” and the “media” of bias, he will again claim that millions of illegal immigrants voted, and he will claim mass voter fraud through mail-in ballots. He will whine, tweet, and grumble, but ultimately leave the White House on Jan 20th.
My Probability Rating: 30%
Scenario 3: Fighting the Transition of Power
Another possible scenario is that Trump goes further than mere grumbling. In such a scenario, Trump could refuse to accept the vote tallies and launch an investigation into claimed voter fraud or foreign interference. This investigation would delay the final election results and, more importantly for Trump, cast doubt in the minds of tens of millions of Americans. Such doubt would destroy what little faith in the democratic system that remains. Ultimately though, Trump still steps down on Jan 20th, though, in preservation of his own ego, maintains that he is the true winner of the election and, in turn, poisons what little chance Biden has at bringing unity to the country.
My Probability Rating: 50%
Scenario 4: Usurping the Transition of Power
There are a number of ways that this could be done. One theory suggests that Trump may use a voter fraud investigation to stall for time, past Dec 14th, when each state’s Electoral College electors must be certified. Complicit Republican-led swing states could then refuse to allow their electors to participate in the electoral college given the ongoing fraud investigation. In such a scenario, neither Biden nor Trump would have enough votes to become President. Ultimately, this could force the issue to the House of Representatives where:
Under the relevant constitutional process, the vote in the House is by state delegation, where each delegation casts one vote, which is determined by the majority of the representatives in that state.
Currently, there are 26 states that have a majority Republican House delegation. 23 states have a majority Democratic delegation.
The House could then declare Trump the winner and install him for his second term.
Admittedly, although this is a legal method by which Trump could stay in power, it requires a large number of complicit Republicans willing to cooperate in a de-facto coup. It is hard to imagine the GOP willing to go along with such an extreme and destabilizing measure…although some probably would.
Nonetheless, there are a plethora of less “legal” maneuvers that Trump could use to derail the democratic process, both before, during, and after the election, including the use of ‘rule by decree’, which is reportedly being explored by the administration.
My Probability Rating: 15%
Too many Americans are still writing off Trump’s tweets as fanciful ramblings. They are not. The tweets give us a window directly into the mind of the President. The peaceful transition of democratic power is an American invention and tradition. But the policies and proclivities of Trump and his MAGA follows are, despite their slogan, deeply and profoundly un-american. We have witnessed a President who has placed travel bans on his own citizens, worked around Congress when denied funding for a border wall, set up de-facto concentration camps at the border, and is openly defying the supreme court. The notion that he might overturn democracy itself to remain in power, or at the very least, set that democracy on fire as he exits the Oval Office, is not far fetched at all.