Bloody November

See update for September 9, 2020, at end of post.


Somehow I missed this piece by Rosa Brooks[1] describing more of the work of the Transition Integrity Project, which gamed out scenarios in which Donald Trump might very well, and I have to think probably would, resist a handover of power in the event he loses in November.[2]

These are not folks I generally agree with on much at all. The trouble is that when you have someone breaking norms to the extent that pretty much everyone agrees Trump does, that person has to be considered at least unpredictable. In this case, we’re talking about a delusional raging narcissist-in-chief. This has to be cause for concern.

Brooks raises the specter of violence.[3] Given the police and white supremacist militia response to Black Lives Matter, how can we possibly say she’s wrong about this?[4]

With the exception of the “big Biden win” scenario, each of our exercises reached the brink of catastrophe, with massive disinformation campaigns, violence in the streets and a constitutional impasse. In two scenarios (“Trump win” and “extended uncertainty”) there was still no agreement on the winner by Inauguration Day, and no consensus on which candidate should be assumed to have the ability to issue binding commands to the military or receive the nuclear codes. In the “narrow Biden win” scenario, Trump refused to leave office and was ultimately escorted out by the Secret Service — but only after pardoning himself and his family and burning incriminating documents.[5]

My problem is different. Brooks’ recommendations remind me of the Brookings Institute, assuming good will on the part of “congressional and state leaders, including legislators, governors, state secretaries of state and state attorneys general from both parties, [who] can commit to protecting the integrity of the electoral process against partisan meddling” and of “military and law enforcement leaders [who] can prepare for the possibility that politicians will seek to manipulate or misuse their coercive powers.”[6] Yes, they can. But the point of this work has been to show that in a profoundly polarized political climate, they very well might not.[7] And with what we’ve seen of collusion between police and white supremacist militia groups,[8] I don’t know how one assumes that police will do their part.

Another problem with Brookings-style analysis is that it largely constrains itself to the mainstream political arena. More realistically, even if Trump is “ultimately escorted out by the Secret Service,”[9] I don’t know how you assume that it will be over for the militia and their police sympathizers.

No one knows how November will actually play out. But there are a lot of very heavily armed folks who are very likely willing to start a civil war on Trump’s behalf. And a lot of people, including some real jackasses,[10] who would be willing to suspend their disbelief, as they already do with Fox News,[11] in Trump’s claims that the election has been stolen. I don’t know how it gets uglier than this.


Update, September 9, 2020: The picture of how November plays out, assuming Donald Trump is defeated, is beginning to come together. If a poll sponsored by a company founded by Michael Bloomberg is correct, Trump will appear to have won on election night, but only until a record number[12] of mailed-in ballots get counted.[13] Trump, whose lackey has been making the Postal Service worse,[14] will, of course, allege fraud,[15] giving Republicans the opening they need to challenge the composition of electoral college delegations, leading to a nightmare scenario described by the Transition Integrity Project.[16]

The caveat here has to be that the poll likely has a low response rate,[17] which means it cannot be trusted because the methodology is profoundly flawed.

  1. [1]Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/
  2. [2]Max Boot, “What if Trump loses but insists he won?” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/06/what-if-trump-loses-insists-he-won/; Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/; Chris Cillizza, “What happens if Donald Trump refuses to admit he lost in 2020?” CNN, May 6, 2019, https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/05/06/politics/donald-trump-2020-election/index.html; Democracy Now!, “What If Trump Refuses to Accept a Biden Victory? A Look at How Electoral Chaos Could Divide Nation,” August 3, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/8/3/nils_gilman_2020_election_scenarios; Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and John Wagner, “Trump encounters broad pushback to his suggestion to delay the Nov. 3 election,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-floats-idea-of-delaying-the-november-election-as-he-ramps-up-attacks-on-voting-by-mail/2020/07/30/15fe7ac6-d264-11ea-9038-af089b63ac21_story.html; Ed Kilgore, “How Trump Is Trying to Ensure an Early Election Night Lead,” New York, August 13, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/08/trump-voters-could-vote-in-person-and-give-him-early-lead.html; Eric Lach, “What Happens if Donald Trump Fights the Election Results?” New Yorker, August 21, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/campaign-chronicles/what-happens-if-donald-trump-fights-the-election-results; Kevin Liptak and Betsy Klein, “Trump floats delaying election despite lack of authority to do so,” CNN, July 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/30/politics/trump-delay-election-no-authority/index.html; Robert McCartney, “Here’s one way Trump could try to steal the election, voting experts say,” Washington Post, August 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/heres-one-way-trump-could-try-to-steal-the-election-voting-experts-say/2020/08/16/b5bf0c2a-de66-11ea-b205-ff838e15a9a6_story.html; Peter Nicholas, “Trump Could Still Break Democracy’s Biggest Norm,” Atlantic, June 16, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/when-does-trump-leave-white-house/613060/; Douglas Perry, “How impeachment could lead to insurrection or even Dems backing Donald Trump,” Oregonian, May 17, 2019, https://www.oregonlive.com/today/2017/09/impeachment_is_coming_how_it_c.html; Felicia Sonmez, “Trump declines to say whether he will accept November election results,” Washington Post, July 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-declines-to-say-whether-he-will-accept-november-election-results/2020/07/19/40009804-c9c7-11ea-91f1-28aca4d833a0_story.html; Timothy E. Wirth and Tom Rogers, “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President,” Newsweek, July 3, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/how-trump-could-lose-election-still-remain-president-opinion-1513975
  3. [3]Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Donald Trump’s ‘brown shirts,’” Not Housebroken, September 4, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/30/donald-trumps-brown-shirts/
  5. [5]Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/
  6. [6]Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/
  7. [7]Max Boot, “What if Trump loses but insists he won?” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/06/what-if-trump-loses-insists-he-won/; Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/; Chris Cillizza, “What happens if Donald Trump refuses to admit he lost in 2020?” CNN, May 6, 2019, https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/05/06/politics/donald-trump-2020-election/index.html; Democracy Now!, “What If Trump Refuses to Accept a Biden Victory? A Look at How Electoral Chaos Could Divide Nation,” August 3, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/8/3/nils_gilman_2020_election_scenarios; Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and John Wagner, “Trump encounters broad pushback to his suggestion to delay the Nov. 3 election,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-floats-idea-of-delaying-the-november-election-as-he-ramps-up-attacks-on-voting-by-mail/2020/07/30/15fe7ac6-d264-11ea-9038-af089b63ac21_story.html; Eric Lach, “What Happens if Donald Trump Fights the Election Results?” New Yorker, August 21, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/campaign-chronicles/what-happens-if-donald-trump-fights-the-election-results; Peter Nicholas, “Trump Could Still Break Democracy’s Biggest Norm,” Atlantic, June 16, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/when-does-trump-leave-white-house/613060/; Douglas Perry, “How impeachment could lead to insurrection or even Dems backing Donald Trump,” Oregonian, May 17, 2019, https://www.oregonlive.com/today/2017/09/impeachment_is_coming_how_it_c.html; Timothy E. Wirth and Tom Rogers, “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President,” Newsweek, July 3, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/how-trump-could-lose-election-still-remain-president-opinion-1513975
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Donald Trump’s ‘brown shirts,’” Not Housebroken, September 4, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/30/donald-trumps-brown-shirts/
  9. [9]Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/
  10. [10]Paul P. Murphy, “The wake of other boats in a pro-Trump parade in Texas caused 5 boats to sink, sheriff’s office says,” CNN, September 7, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/07/us/trump-boat-parade-sink-trnd/index.html; Matthew S. Schwartz, “5 Boats Sink At Trump Boat Parade In Texas,” National Public Radio, September 6, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/09/06/910322916/5-boats-sink-at-trump-boat-parade-in-texas
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Doubting the ‘Fox News bubble,’” Not Housebroken, September 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/07/doubting-the-fox-news-bubble/
  12. [12]Henry Zeffman, “Flood of postal votes threatens US election chaos,” Times, July 20, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/flood-of-postal-votes-threatens-us-presidential-election-chaos-bzdvfb65h
  13. [13]Henry Zeffman, “President Trump might appear to have won at first on election night, Democrat poll warns,” Times, September 9, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/president-trump-might-appear-to-have-won-at-first-on-election-night-democrat-poll-warns-2rv66dqxm
  14. [14]Erin Cox et al., “Postal Service warns 46 states their voters could be disenfranchised by delayed mail-in ballots,” Washington Post, August 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/usps-states-delayed-mail-in-ballots/2020/08/14/64bf3c3c-dcc7-11ea-8051-d5f887d73381_story.html; Jessica Dean, Jessica Schneider, and Caroline Kelly, “Postal Service says it has ‘ample capacity’ to handle election after Trump casts doubt,” CNN, August 3, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/03/politics/postal-service-ample-capacity-election-trump/index.html; Amy Gardner and Erin Cox, “At least 21 states plan to sue the Postal Service over service delays, threat to election,” Washington Post, August 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/at-least-20-states-plan-to-sue-the-us-postal-service-over-service-delays-threat-to-election/2020/08/18/c6ca2dc6-e166-11ea-b69b-64f7b0477ed4_story.html; Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and Paul Kane, “Trump opposes election aid for states and Postal Service bailout, threatening Nov. 3 vote,” Washington Post, August 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-mail-voting/2020/08/13/3eb9ac62-dd70-11ea-809e-b8be57ba616e_story.html; Kristen Holmes and Paul P. Murphy, “USPS email tells managers not to reconnect sorting machines,” CNN, August 20, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/20/politics/usps-reconnect-sorting-machines/index.html; Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jacob Bogage, “Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot delivery could be delayed in November,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/postal-service-backlog-sparks-worries-that-ballot-delivery-could-be-delayed-in-november/2020/07/30/cb19f1f4-d1d0-11ea-8d32-1ebf4e9d8e0d_story.html; Veronica Stracqualursi and Jessica Dean, “New postal policies that are slowing service may affect 2020 mail-in voting, union leader says,” CNN, July 31, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/31/politics/usps-mail-in-voting-2020-election/index.html; Paul Ziobro, Natalie Andrews, and Alexa Corse, “Postmaster to Suspend USPS Changes Until After Election,” Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/postmaster-general-dejoy-to-testify-before-senate-panel-friday-11597758378
  15. [15]Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Ashley Parker, “Tracing Trump’s Postal Service obsession — from ‘loser’ to ‘scam’ to ‘rigged election,’” Washington Post, August 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-post-office-mail-vote/2020/08/15/27a2ffd4-de5f-11ea-809e-b8be57ba616e_story.html
  16. [16]Max Boot, “What if Trump loses but insists he won?” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/06/what-if-trump-loses-insists-he-won/; Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/; Chris Cillizza, “What happens if Donald Trump refuses to admit he lost in 2020?” CNN, May 6, 2019, https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/05/06/politics/donald-trump-2020-election/index.html; Democracy Now!, “What If Trump Refuses to Accept a Biden Victory? A Look at How Electoral Chaos Could Divide Nation,” August 3, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/8/3/nils_gilman_2020_election_scenarios; Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and John Wagner, “Trump encounters broad pushback to his suggestion to delay the Nov. 3 election,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-floats-idea-of-delaying-the-november-election-as-he-ramps-up-attacks-on-voting-by-mail/2020/07/30/15fe7ac6-d264-11ea-9038-af089b63ac21_story.html; Eric Lach, “What Happens if Donald Trump Fights the Election Results?” New Yorker, August 21, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/campaign-chronicles/what-happens-if-donald-trump-fights-the-election-results; Peter Nicholas, “Trump Could Still Break Democracy’s Biggest Norm,” Atlantic, June 16, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/when-does-trump-leave-white-house/613060/; Douglas Perry, “How impeachment could lead to insurrection or even Dems backing Donald Trump,” Oregonian, May 17, 2019, https://www.oregonlive.com/today/2017/09/impeachment_is_coming_how_it_c.html; Timothy E. Wirth and Tom Rogers, “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President,” Newsweek, July 3, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/how-trump-could-lose-election-still-remain-president-opinion-1513975
  17. [17]Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/27/response-rates-in-telephone-surveys-have-resumed-their-decline/

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