Disclaimer: written in haste, please forgive typos.
You may have wondered why during the past months I have not written much about the Trump presidency and almost nothing about the 2020 elections. The main reason is that regardless of Trump’s incessant lying, conmanship and projection (like giving his objectively unqualified adult children high profile roles in government while complaining about his opponent’s nepotism), Trump’s supporters have become so tribal that no matter what argument or facts you present, their dedication to him is unwavering. Not wearing masks – which makes no sense whatsoever –is a perfect example of the type of death cult fidelity test that Trump expects of his followers. In other words, engaging Trumpsters in a rational debate is worthless.
Nevertheless, there are a few issues relating to today’s election that merit discussing.
The End of the Union as We Know It
During recent years, I have argued that if the US continues to have elections where the winning candidate always loses the popular vote yet still becomes president then within 30 years we should expect to see separatist movements and possibly the breaking up of the Union.
Currently, the Republican dominated Senate represents 30 million voters less than the Democrat minority. Republican candidates have lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections, and even if Trump were to now win the electoral college, mostly like he will still lose the popular vote by anywhere between 2-7% points. How much longer will people in states like California or New York which are the motors of the US economy accept to be ruled by Republican-led White Houses they did not vote for and have their fundamental rights be adjudicated by a Supreme Court that absolutely does not represent their values?
Now Mitch McConnell and the GOP efforts during the past decade to suppress democracy have become more apparent than ever. Facilitated by judges appointed by the GOP dominated Senate (vacancies that Mitch blocked during the Obama years), Mitch and the gang have categorically dismantled the Voting Rights Act, have made it systematically more difficult for Democratic-leaning Americans to vote, and have engaged in other tactics – such as delaying mail delivery to impact the election. For example, normally it only takes five days for a letter I send here in Spain to arrive to my parents in the U.S. It took my ballot five weeks!
Voter suppression, either through a poll tax or outright terrorism has a long history in the U.S., defining the South for a hundred years from the Civil War until the Voting Rights Act. Recall that the police slaughtered peaceful protesters crossing the bridge in Selma when none of the African American citizens who represented 60% of the town’s population were permitted to vote. That was 1965 not 1865.
Today, the GOP has actively tried to rig the election, and Trump says he will not accept the results if he loses. His militias are threatening violence. The year is 2020, not 1965 or 1865.
Trump Knows He Cannot Win
Trump knows he cannot win democratically. During his term, Trump has never been able to break a 43% ceiling on popularity, yet in the waning days of the election instead of pitching to swing or undecided voters, he has focused exclusively on rallying his most ardent supporters. His stump speech is an all too familiar combination of narcissism, victimization and projection:
- The fidelity test: lie about everything even basic stuff as a test of true obedience. Not wearing masks is a badge of honor.
- Insult anyone that challenges his lies.
- Project: accuse everyone else of doing secretly what Trump has done openly and with impunity (like conflicts of interest)
- Whine, play the victim, call everything unfair. Trump is claiming that the only way he loses is if there is massive fraud.
- Bravado and a call to arms: act tough, make threats and encourage others to engage in confrontation.
So in these final days as Trump perceives that his chances of victory dwindle especially with data on the record number of mail-in ballots, he is increasingly trusting that a combination of his cries of voter fraud, the confusion resulting from no definitive winner on election night and his pushing through a friendly Supreme Court justice may just keep him office long enough to dispute any unfavorable results. Winning over new voters was never his strategy.
Get Out of Jail Card
A shrewd strategist and lawyer friend has predicted that if he loses, Trump will dispute the results for the sole purpose of getting a deal from Biden so he and his family stay out of jail. In addition to Trump’s own legal troubles in New York, his family could also face prosecution. Recall that the GOP led Senate intelligence committee made criminal referrals to federal prosecutors with respect to Jared Boy and Donny Jr. Note that Rudy has been working overtime the past few weeks to stay out of jail by trying to keep Biden out of the White House. Trump has regularly used his position as president to argue that while in office he is not subject to indictment or even disposition. I’d love to believe in justice, but Biden does not have the ability to give Trump immunity from state prosecution, and more importantly, Trump knows that presidents don’t prosecute their predecessors lest they be prosecuted by their successors.
Live by the Sword Die by the Sword
We have never had a president think about and talk to the American people in such insulting, all-or-nothing divisive terms before. It is therefore no surprise then that with Trump’s rhetoric, for the first time in my lifetime, we have the real potential for election violence and even a coup. We have pro-Trump armed militias “standing by” who have been conned by Trump into believing that only foul play could make him the loser he’s always been. On the other hand, we have businesses in major cities boarding up shops, fearing that people – those who are living the nightmare of their communities disproportionately hit by Trump’s Covid inaction and who are witnessing a return to pre-Voting Act suppression — may take to the streets.
But I can promise you though that if Trump wins and businesses get looted, Mitch McConnell will have no problem suddenly coming up with the federal tax dollars for large retail chains damaged by looters. Yeah, the same money he couldn’t find to help out households ruined by Covid
Seriously, though, how much would it take for American society to look like the sectarian cluster-f@ck that resulted from the destruction of civil order in Iraq? I used to think we’d see revolution in thirty years, now I am hoping the country survives the week.
The World Wants a Thriving United States
Living abroad and working for a non-American multinational, I have had countless discussions over the past two weeks with people across the world who are extremely concerned about the potential for a Trump victory. With the exception of maybe Russia and Iran, every nation in the world, including even China, wants a thriving vibrant U.S. The world is a vastly safer and wealthier place when Americans do well because more than anything else, the global economy depends on the American consumer doing what we do best: buy lots of stuff. Even when certain industries or sectors may benefit in the short term from things like war or speculation, in the long term global markets need stability and certainity for capital to flow. Trump’s lack of coherence and his inability to create confidence in the stability of all things American from foreign and domestic policies to the peaceful transfer of power is a major threat to the entire world.
A Word on How Voting is Easier in Other Countries
I recently obtained the right to vote in Spanish presidential elections and in 2019, I voted. The physical effort of voting in Spain is so much easier for a number of reasons. Here are just two examples which are very common amongst most other developed countries. First, all citizens are required by law to have (and in fact to carry on themselves at all times) a national ID card. No citizen is unregistered and unidentifiable. Second, elections are held on Sundays. No one is put in the position of having to fit voting into their work schedule, but most importantly there are no long lines for voting. Of course, in states like Georgia hundreds of polling stations in minority districts were closed in order to create long lines designed specifically to discourage voting.
What Happens if Biden Wins
If Mr. Biden wins it won’t all be rosy for the Democratic party. Right now support for Biden is made up of a vast array of conflicting political interests from your traditional center-right Democratic establishment of which Biden fits very comfortably to your younger generation of much more liberal Democrats like AOC. Then you have your traditional Republican supporters like Romney and Never Trump Hawks like those in the Lincoln Project. Biden’s instinct will be to cater to where he is most comfortable and that is clearly right of center. But I predict that with Trump out of the picture, this Biden coalition will quickly erode, and we may even see the end of the Democratic party as we currently know it.
Who will Save Us (this time around)
If Trump does dispute the election results, then the only saving event will be the GOP leadership prioritizing democracy over power, and forcing Trump to concede. Trump will only last as long as his enablers let him. Maybe Mitch and the gang are happy enough to have gotten away with their judicial appointments and believe it is safe to dump Trump. Maybe. Maybe not. The problem is that if we don’t fix the electoral process and how easy it is for one party to game the system, then yes maybe we can avoid civil war this time around, but not much longer.