Trump On ‘Peaceful Transition’

Whether the delusions of a madman or a deliberate scheme to poison the waters, there's cause for concern.

President Donald J. Trump disembarks Marine One at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, and is escorted to Air Force One by U.S. Air Force personnel. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

The President of the United States gave a confusing and discomforting answer to a simple question.

Jonathan Chait for New York‘s Intelligencer (“Trump: ‘Get Rid of the Ballots … There Won’t Be a Transfer’ of Power“):

On Wednesday, a reporter asked President Trump a question no reporter would ever have bothered to ask a president before: “Win, lose, or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferal of power after the election?”

Trump would not commit. “We’re going to have to see what happens,” he said. “We want to get rid of the ballots, and we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

On its surface, this is just garbed and nonsensical, further evidence that Trump is what he’s accusing Joe Biden of: mentally unfit for the office. In the context of his longstanding refusal to abide by the norms of American politics—or, indeed, the law—it smacks of authoritarianism. Not surprisingly, most are emphasizing the second explanation.

Chait:

That is certainly true — get rid of the ballots, and there won’t be a transfer of power. Most likely, Trump is using “ballots” as shorthand for mail-in ballots, which Democrats — generally more resistant to Trump’s denial of the coronavirus — are employing in far greater numbers. The effect is the same: His plan is to quash the ballots and stay in power.

Like many Trumpian outrages, the president is smashing norms so frequently that each new offense blends into all the others, dulling the system’s capacity for alarm. Earlier this summer, when Chris Wallace asked him if he would accept the result of the election, Trump demurred. “I have to see. Look … I have to see,” he replied, “No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.”

Recently he has been citing the need for a ninth Supreme Court justice to resolve a dispute in his favor. “I think it’s better if you go before the election, because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam — the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation, if you get that. I don’t know that you’d get that. I think it should be 8-0 or 9-0, but just in case it would be more political than it should be, I think it’s very important to have a ninth justice.”

Note that Republicans already have five seats on the Supreme Court. Trump believes the 5-3 conservative majority is not enough to uphold whatever maneuvers he has in mind.

The Atlantic‘s Barton Gellman reports on the most concerning possibility: that Trump will first claim victory before mail ballots are tabulated, and then prevail on Republican-controlled state legislatures to appoint their state’s Electoral College votes to Trump, circumventing the votes altogether.

Viewing this scenario as a probability would be hysterical. But the odds are far too high for comfort. The brewing crisis has several components. First, the Republican Party has been evolving toward authoritarianism for decades, driven by a combination of beliefs that demographic change will consign them to minority status forever, and that allowing the majority to redistribute the income of the rich to itself is a dire threat to liberty.

Second, Republican voters and elites have believed for years that urban Democrats routinely engage in mass voter fraud, and refuse to accept any falsification. (The George W. Bush administration ordered prosecutors to bring charges of voter fraud, and fired them when they couldn’t turn up any.)

And third, the rickety constitutional structure is poorly suited to handle a disputed election. One of its massive loopholes allows state legislatures to ignore voters altogether and appoint any electors they want to the Electoral College. Respecting the results of the election is merely optional, a norm. And norms have been falling by the wayside.

Into this mix has dropped a narcissistic, aspirational authoritarian who has no respect for the greater good and has spent years drinking deeply from the conspiratorial well of Fox News. Trump is the driver of the crisis, but he has demonstrated the capacity to bring Republicans along with his most unhinged positions. It is not merely a fear of alienating the voting base that adores his bullying style that disciplines them.

On the one hand, this is a seriously strained reading of tea leaves. On the other, he’s not wrong: that we’re even asking the question means there’s serious reason to doubt he’d go peacefully.

Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann and Melissa Holzberg pile on for NBC News (“Trump is challenging a peaceful transition of power. We should take him at his word“):

We’re back to the old 2016 question about Donald Trump: Just how seriously and literally should you take him?

Our advice now — after witnessing his Muslim/travel ban, the wall and that vote-fraud commission (remember that?): Prepare for him to follow through — whether or not he’s successful.

[…]

Trump thrives on taking advantage of ambiguities in the law. And guess what — there are plenty of ambiguities in our election laws.

As Gellman writes, “We are accustomed to choosing electors by popular vote, but nothing in the Constitution says it has to be that way. Article II provides that each state shall appoint electors ‘in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.’ Since the late 19th century, every state has ceded the decision to its voters. Even so, the Supreme Court affirmed in Bush v. Gore that a state ‘can take back the power to appoint electors.'”

So the political world should be taking Trump seriously. Mitt Romney is. Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Steve Stivers and Liz Cheney also are out with tweets.

But what about the rest of the GOP?

As Jonathan Last asks in The Bulwark: Who’s willing to bet that Trump will simply walk away if he loses?

“Maybe he won’t be able to pull it off. Maybe Roberts and Gorsuch will stand in the breach. Maybe he’ll wimp out in the end because he’s more of a man-baby than a strongman.”

“But just how much are you willing to bet on that? Because if the answer isn’t ‘everything,’ then it’s time to take this man at his word.”

Stephen Collinson goes further at CNN (“Trump’s comments send a signal to his supporters about how to react if Biden prevails“):

The President’s comments risked not only dealing another blow to an election in which he has been trailing and has incessantly tarnished, but could send a signal to his supporters about how to react if the Democratic nominee prevails in 41 days. That possibility is especially dangerous given this past summer’s racial and social unrest — which burst forth again on Wednesday evening after police said two officers were shot in Louisville, Kentucky, amid protests about the failure to charge officers in the death of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman.Trump’s near simultaneous warning on Wednesday that he thinks the election will end up being decided by the Supreme Court also raises the risk of a constitutional imbroglio likely to be worse than the disputed 2000 election.His rhetoric escalated as he yet again politicized the effort to quell the pandemic by threatening to override regulators on the question of whether a newly developed vaccine would be safe in a highly irregular move. Taken together, his anti-democratic instincts and prioritization of his own political goals amid a national emergency show he plans to allow nothing — not the health of Americans, the sanctity of US elections or the reputation of the Supreme Court — to prevent him from winning a second term.

And his comments poured gasoline on an already inflamed nominating battle to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg while threatening to drag the court further into politics in a way that could shred its legitimacy among millions of Americans.On Thursday morning, Trump deflected when asked about his refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power, saying it’s a “double standard” pointing to comments by Hillary Clinton that Joe Biden should not concede if the election is close.Trump was led into the question by Fox News host Brian Kilmeade that he didn’t “mean” he would never leave office but would wait until the Supreme Court ruled on the election, if needed. Trump then replied: “That I would agree with but I think we have a long way before we get there. These ballots are a horror story.”The President’s latest attempts to create uproar came amid new efforts to subvert the traditional mechanisms of government for his own gain — in what has become an almost daily ritual.

I’m leery of treating off-the-cuff remarks by this President as though they’re well-thought-out, much less evidence of some sinister plot. I think they’re more likely the ravings of a madman. But the impact may well be the same: a clear signal to supporters that any outcome other than a Trump victory would be a sign that the election had been stolen.

As Kevin Liptak notes (“A list of the times Trump has said he won’t accept the election results or leave office if he loses“) it’s hardly the first time:

Trump won’t commit to facilitating a peaceful transition of power

September 23 news conference: “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster … We want to have — get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very trans- — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly; there’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it,” he said.

Trump says the election will be decided at the Supreme Court

September 23 Oval Office: “But in terms of time, we go to January 20th. But I think it’s better if you go before the election because I think this — this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam — this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation, if you get that,” he said.

Trump says the way Biden wins is through rigged election

September 13 rally: “The Democrats are trying to rig this election because that’s the only way they’re going to win,” he said.

August 20 rally: “So this is just a way they’re trying to steal the election, and everybody knows that. Because the only way they’re going to win is by a rigged election,” he said.

Trump floats remaining in office even after two terms

August 17 rally: “We are going to win four more years. And then after that, we’ll go for another four years because they spied on my campaign. We should get a redo of four years,” he said.

September 13 rally: “And 52 days from now we’re going to win Nevada, and we’re going to win four more years in the White House. And then after that, we’ll negotiate, right? Because we’re probably — based on the way we were treated — we are probably entitled to another four after that,” he said.

Trump won’t commit to accepting election results

July 19 “Fox News Sunday” interview: “No. I have to see. Look you — I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no.’ And I didn’t last time, either,” he said.

Trump floats delaying the election

July 30 tweet: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump tweeted. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

I’m pretty sure there are more where that came from. Indeed, he said much the same thing about the 2016 election.

For now, at least, Republican Party leaders are saying the right thing—although the Axios headline “Republicans condemn Trump’s refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power” overstates matters.

A number of prominent Republican lawmakers addressed President Trump’s refusal on Wednesday to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses November’s presidential election.

Driving the news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted, “The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

Other prominent Republicans who spoke out against Trump’s statement:

Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah): “Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.): “As we have done for over two centuries we will have a legitimate & fair election It may take longer than usual to know the outcome, but it will be a valid one And at noon on Jan 20, 2021 we will peacefully swear in the President.”

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio): “Throughout America’s history, the peaceful transition of power has been a hallmark of our democracy. This year, both candidates must commit to abiding by the results, no matter the outcome.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the House’s No. 3 Republican: “The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic. America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath.”

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine): “I don’t know what his thinking was, but we have always had a controlled transition between administrations. And I’m certain that if there’s a change in administrations, that we have the calmness as well. It’s fundamental to our democracy,” she said, after admitting she had concerns on Trump not committing to a peaceful transfer of power.

Rep. Steve Stivers (Ohio), the former chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee: “Nothing defines our Constitutional Republic more than the peaceful transition of power. I’ve taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and I will uphold that oath.”

Rep. John Katko (N.Y.): “[T]he importance of the transition of power to our democracy is larger than any one President and any one election. I will not hesitate to fulfill my responsibility in upholding my oath to the Constitution and protecting our democracy.”

Worth noting: None of the statements issued so far directly mention Trump by name — or why they’re speaking out on the issue now.

Worth noting, indeed. It’s bizarre to suggest otherwise in the headline. And a number of Republicans are bothsidesing the matter, or worse:

The other side: Other Republicans also stepped in to dismiss the president’s comments — or deflect them, occasionally by referencing Hillary Clinton’s comments in August that Joe Biden “should not concede under any circumstances.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the Senate’s most senior Republican, told reporters: “I would have the same concern when Hillary Clinton advised Biden not to concede the election.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) told “Fox & Friends” that he “can assure” there will be a peaceful transition of power, adding that “if the Republicans lose we will accept that result” — without directly addressing Trump’s statements.

Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.),per Politico’s Andrew Desiderio: “He says crazy stuff. We’ve always had a peaceful transition of power. It’s not going to change.”

Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.), via CNN’s Manu Raju: “[G]o ask every Democrat member and ask them if they stand with Hillary Clinton who says that Biden shouldn’t accept the result under any circumstances if he doesn’t win.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) responded to Cheney’s tweet: “Now do the Russia hoax.”

Clinton’s words were poorly chosen but the meaning of them is obvious in context:

“Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances, because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch, and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is,

Rather clearly, she meant that Biden shouldn’t concede until he’s absolutely sure the result was on the up-and-up.

I would like to think McConnell and company are sincere in their opposition to stealing an election or peacefully handing over the reins of power if Trump loses the election. Alas, their refusal to hold him to account for his previous crimes against the Constitution don’t inspire much confidence.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Not the IT Dept. says:

    If anything, McConnell and the GOP are furious that Trump said the quiet parts out loud again and gave away the game plan.

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  2. Jay L Gischer says:

    Yeah, most Democrats don’t have a lot of confidence in Mitch McConnell’s word right now. We have a president who says things like “now I get to be really vicious” at rallies.

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  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trump’s reaction to anything he doesn’t understand is some vague equivocation. He knows that definite answers are more easily debunked. That’s the line between his excellent predatory instincts and his dull intellect – he senses threat, but is too lazy and stupid to have an answer, so he punts.

    Unfortunately, he’s punted way too many times. He thinks he’s being clever. But even after being called on it again and again, he’s too lazy and undisciplined to learn a better line. He’s too goddamn dumb to even imagine what a better answer might be. And obviously there’s no one in his inner circle with the spine to help President Man…woman…person… figure it out.

    Which is not to say he’s not authoritarian, of course he is, there’s no such thing as a psychopath who is respectful of any will but his own. It’s impossible for Trump to think beyond his own needs and desires. He doesn’t want to have to be elected and he knows he’s in trouble and none of his limited bag of tricks is helping. In his fear and insecurity he doubles down on what is core to him: racism, authoritarianism, misogyny, nastiness.

    In short, Trump is a real piece of shit as a human being. And 42% of the American people like this piece of shit.

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  4. wr says:

    The Republicans are lying scumbags, if I’m not repeating myself. Hillary was talking about not conceding ON ELECTION NIGHT and until all the votes were counted.

    And they all know it. Well, maybe not Gaetz — I doubt he knows much of anything.

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  5. Well, 42% of Americans say that they approve of his performance as president. I definitely know of multiple people who don’t like him, per se, but think he’s valuable and necessary. I think the number who like him may be half that or so, and that’s still alarming.

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  6. Moosebreath says:

    “On the one hand, this is a seriously strained reading of tea leaves.”

    Can you expand on why you think Chait’s commentary (or Gellman’s reporting — not clear which from the post) is strained?

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  7. JohnMcC says:

    Did not read the Gellman article in The Atlantic (alas – paywall). But it seems the basics are covered by the Georgetown U Law School ‘Transition Integrity Project’.

    In the context of a blunderbuss firing lawsuits at the elections held in swing states with R-party state legislatures and getting those legislators to send alternative pro-Trump slates of electors, the Integrity Project war-gamers supposed that the nation’s cities had become the site of armed mobs and that there would be frantic need for authority.

    Sound realistic? The Integrity Project umpires judged the coup would likely succeed.

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  8. Kathy says:

    If trump attempts to invalidate ballots for some spurious reason, and the republicans in power in certain states go along with this, then they’ll have declared war on the majority of America’s population.

    If they give a war, will the majority come?

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  9. Not the IT Dept. says:

    James persists in seeing Trump as some kind of weird outlier who just somehow fell out of the sky into the WH back in 2016. Whereas he is actually the logical conclusion of where the GOP has been heading since 1984 at least.

    I will say it again: there is someone out there who is smarter and better organized than Trump, even less attached to democracy and can see that the GOP is more than willing to submit to a dictator, and that person is taking notes. James may want to pretend that Trump is a joke not to be taken seriously but he’s still in denial about the GOP in general.

    Bad times are coming, folks. “A republic – if you can keep it.”

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  10. Kathy says:

    @wr:

    What’s disingenuous is that a concession is legally meaningless, and completely unnecessary to keep or transfer an office to the rightful winner of an election.

    So, yes, Trump’s concession or lack of one is meaningless. but he will remain in power until January 2021. He can, in the meantime, do a self coup, or a preemptive coup against the incoming Biden administration, and seize power.

    it’s as if Trump were publicly musing mass murder, and the GOP were up in arms because Hillary told Joe not to pay a parking ticket

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  11. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    A substantial chunk of that 42% like Trump precisely because he is a real piece of shit.

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  12. Scott F. says:

    I’m leery of treating off-the-cuff remarks by this President as though they’re well-thought-out, much less evidence of some sinister plot. I think they’re more likely the ravings of a madman. But the impact may well be the same: a clear signal to supporters that any outcome other than a Trump victory would be a sign that the election had been stolen.

    As Kevin Liptak’s timeline demonstrates, his comments of yesterday are hardly “off-the-cuff.” He’s trying out different phrasing for the message, but the message is the same and the signal to his supporters is crystal clear. The polling is fake news and he’s leading by a mile, so the only way he can lose is if the Democrats rig things against him. And this isn’t a hard sell to the Republican rank & file, because they’ve been conditioned since Gingrich to believe that the Democrats are evil incarnate and the press is complicit in their evil.

    Trump will claim he was cheated regardless of the outcome. I doubt he has the courage to refuse to leave office, but his followers won’t care. He’ll still be their President. And should Trump be indicted for any of his various corruptions, the Trumpkins will see it as further proof of how the system is rigged against Trump (and therefore themselves).

    Trump is every bit the kind of person who would bring it all down rather than see someone else with the power he covets. He he can’t have it, no one can. All these madman’s ravings are in service to that simple aspect of his narcissism.

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  13. Scott F. says:

    BTW, if you haven’t clicked through to Jonathan Last’s post at The Bulwark (linked in the NBC excerpt), do so. As he says in his epilogue, Trump’s ravings are the expression of a “coherent” worldview that Trump has held for 30 years at least. And if anything is strained, it’s the defenses being put forth to minimize or deny the threat of this moment.

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  14. charon says:

    You all are overreacting to stuff fed to the Atlantic as a provocation, baiting.

    There will not be many states willing to go along with the faithless elector ploy for various reasons, including legislation in some states to prevent it, This is just shit stirring.

    And empty bluster, making threats beyond his power, is what Trump does, it is pretty common behavior for authoritarian bullies.

    All this angst is what the GOP wants.

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  15. charon says:

    Forgot to mention, no edit function, the GOP has a theory that voters who think an election will be stolen anyway are less likely to actually vote.

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  16. .ichael Cain says:

    I’m looking forward to the point in the evening of Nov 3 when someone says. “While we wait for the polls in the Mountain and Pacific time zones to start closing, we know that more than 90 percent of voters in those states used mail ballots.”

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  17. wr says:

    @Kathy: “it’s as if Trump were publicly musing mass murder, and the GOP were up in arms because Hillary told Joe not to pay a parking ticket”

    As it has been for the last five years. “But her emails!!!”

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  18. Gustopher says:

    Why do I keep putting off buying a gun?

    I mean, it’s probably for the best, since I am hapless and error prone and would likely shoot myself in the foot in the process of buying it… but we’ve crossed the line where we should be thinking about these things.

    It’s the tragedy of the commons: we all want someone else to defend our Republic.

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  19. CSK says:

    @charon:
    Does that mean they believe that Democrats or Republicans won’t vote?

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  20. charon says:

    @CSK:

    I am just guessing here, but maybe they think the excitement about this is occurring on the media the libs read, not the conservative media bubble.

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  21. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    What’s disingenuous is that a concession is legally meaningless, and completely unnecessary to keep or transfer an office to the rightful winner of an election.

    And that I think gets to the distinction that media outlets have failed to make. What exactly does it mean to “concede an election”? If it means “publicly acknowledge that you lost the election and that your opponent is the rightful winner,” then there isn’t even any question about whether Trump will concede. He won’t. He wouldn’t have ever conceded to Hillary, either, under any circumstance. He never even admitted he lost the popular vote. He never admitted he lost a single primary or caucus, and he repeatedly accused Cruz of cheating. He’s never admitted he’s lost at anything, ever, in his entire life. In his narcissistic version of reality, he isn’t just the greatest at everything, he’s also absolutely invincible and literally never loses, never suffers defeat. So anyone who think it’s an open question as to whether he will “concede defeat” hasn’t been paying attention. Trump is pathologically incapable of conceding an election. Honestly, the notion is laughable–I’d find it more plausible if he announced his conversion to Islam.

    But as you point out, concession in this sense is legally meaningless and unnecessary. There have been non-presidential elections where the loser refused to concede (remember Allen West?), and if I’m not mistaken, Andrew Jackson never conceded the 1824 election. One can argue that failing to concede is damaging to the fabric of democracy because it undermines public confidence in the system, but personally I’d place that well down the list of things that are damaging to our system, particularly if it comes from a ridiculous clown like Trump.

    The only question is whether Trump goes beyond stamping his feet up and down, and actually makes a proactive attempt to get the results legally overturned, or interfere with the counting of votes as they’re happening. In fact, it isn’t even a question at all; he’s already doing all that as we speak. He’s doing it in plain sight, just because he can, and other Republicans are doing nothing to stop him, and Dems are powerless to stop him. This is very real, and scary, and not remotely laughable even though it should be. Make no mistake: Trump is in the process of an attempted authoritarian takeover of the US. This is not hyperbole. It’s happening. I know a lot of people reading this will dismiss what I’m saying as overheated partisan rhetoric, patting themselves on the back about their reasonableness in contrast to my tinfoil-hat paranoia, not realizing that they’re the fools thinking the US is somehow immune to something that’s happened in many other countries.

    In 2016 when Trump was already preemptively implying he wasn’t going to accept the results if he lost, I wrote the following, which still applies now: “I agree that groundlessly attacking the legitimacy of election results is damaging to democracy. But you know what’s even more damaging to democracy? Actual illegitimate election results.”

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  22. KM says:

    @charon:

    There will not be many states willing to go along with the faithless elector ploy for various reasons, including legislation in some states to prevent it, This is just shit stirring.

    All it may take is one.

    As for shit stirring, it’s the kind we can’t afford to not take seriously. The blatant disregard for norms and laws this Administration has shown means there’s a non-zero chance of this happening….. and that’s devastating for a country that *needs* to have a peaceful transition of power. This has never been an issue in many people’s lifetimes so most are in collective denial this might really happen. Sure, conservatives like to spread conspiracy theories but it’s never been a legit concern. Now….. now, we’re not sure and the very fact we can’t be sure is a MAJOR problem. Trump is screwing with one of the core concepts and principles that have made the US a stable power for centuries. Everyone should be concerned when someone says they’re taking dynamite to the foundation, even in “jest”.

    Maybe he’s lying. Maybe he’s bluffing and stirring up trouble on purpose. Maybe he’s a troll and thinks this is hilarious. It doesn’t matter. He repeatedly “jokes” about this topic the way an abuser “jokes” about killing their victim ie “I love you so much, I’d kill you before letting you leave me”. If there’s even a *remote* chance they’re serious, you need to GTFO because it’s not a “joke”, it’s a statement of intent they’ll eventually get around to. A POTUS that repeatedly “jokes” about not leaving power for over a year isn’t joking – he just hasn’t gotten to the point where he needs to drop the “joke” part of the equation.

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  23. Paine says:

    I’ve started listening to podcasts from The Bulwark and find them quite interesting.

    Could the media help here? If they start calling states for Trump on election night know full-well that there are tens of thousands of absentee and urban ballots that still need to be counted won’t that encourage him to pull the plug on counting? Maybe this year they should refrain from making these sorts of projections so as not to encourage this notion that a winner needs to be determined that night.

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  24. JohnMcC says:

    @Scott F.: Regarding those ‘off-the-cuff remarks’ which you focused on, I also had something of a shock to see Mr Trump’s threat dismissed like that. And I was reminded of something my Momma used to say: ‘two things you absolutely have to take responsibility for — what goes into your mouth and what comes out of your mouth.’

    If it’s a shit-flood coming out of your mouth, well…

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  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @charon: I keep hoping that The Atlantic article and the rest are the type of breathless hyperbole that The Nation and Mother Jones were renowned for in my wayward and misspent young adulthood. I’m not as optimistic as I’d like to be though. No one is wrong 100% of the time. Our number may have come up on karma’s chuck-a-luck wheel.

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  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Maybe this year they should refrain from making these sorts of projections so as not to encourage this notion that a winner needs to be determined that night.

    Can’t see this as a possibility, no matter how much I’d like it to be or how hard I try. Election coverage isn’t a public service and everybody who does it has advertisers who have paid money to keep people glued to their seats, if you will. Not calling contests will kill the coverage and advertisers will want their money back.

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  27. Michael Cain says:

    @.ichael Cain: Damn, I will never be any good at typing on my phone.

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  28. al Ameda says:

    It seems clear to me, Republicans don’t want to govern, the want rule.

    Trump wants this election to go to the Supreme Court. It is not unlikely, or say improbable, to believe that Republicans have strategized this to a scenario where Barr will challenge mail-in ballot validity in key battleground states in order delay the count for days and in the meantime tell the public that Trump was re-elected, that ‘irregularities’ cannot change the result.

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  29. J. Foobar says:

    @charon: Many states do not need to go along with it. In one quite plausible election scenario, only one swing state (which does conveniently have the GOP in control of both houses) need play along. You could say that it would be the keystone of the whole strategy.

    Considering the win-at-all-costs, ethics-be-damned behavior we have seen out of the GOP since 2016, one could be forgiven for being at least a tad apprehensive.

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  30. Jax says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: And that, right there, is exactly why this country is going to go down in flames. We can’t even elect a freakin President without advertisers getting pissed off.

    Maybe we deserve it.

    I will give it to Trump, though, he knows his “Reality TV Show Host” role like no other. “Stay tuned next week for whether the President will accept the election results!”

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  31. de stijl says:

    Trump is fomenting a coup.

    This is Belarus. This is banana republic.

    This is encouraging street violence.

    I am so disgusted. The veneer of civil state is thin, and this idiot doofus is what the 42% unite behind?

    So embarrassing that our proto-Mussolini was dumb-ass naked authoritarian narcissistic Trump.

    Bury him 55-45.

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  32. Paine says:

    And one of the ironies here is that defenders of the electoral college argue that the EC isolates disputed outcomes so that instead of nationwide recounts the problem points are narrowed and sequestered. But here we are, with the GOP targeting tipping point states as leverage to overcome an expected nationwide, popular vote wipeout. They are using the nature of the EC to deliberately make it a contested outcome. We wouldn’t even be having this discussion without the EC in place.

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  33. JohnMcC says:

    @J. Foobar: The author of that Atlantic article (Mr Gellman) was interviewed on Morning Joe and asserted that part of what he wrote is based on conversations with Pennsylvania state legislators who have been contacted by WH people.

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  34. Tony W says:

    I found this comforting
    https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/24/trump-presidential-transition-421465

    Apparently, the right things still happen, at least at some level

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  35. Kylopod says:

    @Tony W:

    I found this comforting

    The moment I saw this article last night, it occurred to me that WH people might be sending it out to give Dems a false sense of complacency.

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  36. JohnMcC says:

    @Tony W: The most telling paragraph in that Politico story for me was the ‘former Obama transition official’ saying, “I suspect the President is totally unaware. It could all go sideways as soon as he knows this is going on.”

    And how interesting that Mr Liddell (the gentleman doing the transition work) was born in New Zealand. (Stroking chin, reflecting on culture….)

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  37. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kylopod:

    Re: Politico article

    My first impression is the staff wanted it to be known they ARE NOT swigging the Kool Aid. Bureaucrats must master the art of dodging purges.

    On the (lack of) concession, Trump said the only authority he will accept on the matter of him losing this election is the Supreme Court. I believe his muddled mind believes that, as usual, such rulings MUST be a matter of years and he will be the default POTUS in the meantime. He may have never heard of Bush v. Gore (or, if he has, it only wondered if Stormy had been in that one) and is unaware the Supreme Court can act quickly on compelling matters.

    I believe it safe to predict, as you have, he has already decided to fight the outcome if it isn’t in his favor. IMO the security apparatus will obey his orders until the Supreme Court rules on the matter.

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