by Edward H. Telfeyan, November 2, 2020
As the day of reckoning is just about upon us, I want to offer my thoughts on the possible scenarios I see developing on Tuesday. As you may recall, I predicted a Trump victory in one of my blog columns last spring, offering ten reasons why I thought he would win. Among them were a few we’ve seen ample evidence of during the campaign, to wit: he lies, he cheats, he suppresses the vote, and he energizes his base.
Let me begin by dispensing with the two most clear-cut results, neither of which I see much chance of happening.
First possibility – Biden wins decisively. This is the result many of us have been hoping for and that the polls suggest is at least not entirely implausible. By a decisive win, I mean one that is clear by the end of the night on Tuesday, one that has all the networks and other traditional media declaring Biden the president-elect. This possibility is remote because too many ballots will be uncounted. This wasn’t the case in past years except in a few rare instances, but this year, with upwards of 100 million ballots cast before Tuesday, the work of counting them will be nowhere near finished in a number of states that will be close either way. So while this possibility would be wonderful, I rate it as a less than 10 percent probability.
Second possibility – Trump wins decisively. This dreaded result would be a repeat of 2016, when even though Hillary didn’t concede at night’s end, Trump had been declared the winner by the networks and major media. As slim as the chances are that Biden gets a decisive win, the chances for Trump to get one appear to be even slimmer. The polls are just not favorable for him, and the uncounted ballots (those same ballots he wants to have declared fraudulent) will keep him from a clear win on Tuesday.
Third possibility – Trump claims victory based on early returns on Tuesday. This one has a pretty good chance of happening because Trump has already hinted at it and because the early counts in many states will be weighted in Trump’s favor. In many states, those votes that will be counted first will be of voters who went to the polls that day. Same day voting will most probably favor Trump. Much of Biden’s vote will be in the pre-election day voting. Thus, by late Tuesday night, Trump may be leading in many states he could ultimately lose. Of course, declaring he has won doesn’t mean Trump has won, but it will alert his rabid partisans to take to the streets even as the lawsuits that Trump’s team of lawyers will have prepared begin to be heard by the courts.
Fourth possibility – Biden gets enough EC votes to claim victory by week’s end. This possibility won’t mean that Biden will win because Trump will contest his victory in states where the margin is slim and only late counted votes gave Biden the victory. Trump will contest those late counted votes in the courts, hoping that enough judges side with him to get the election frozen without a winner. That will then lead to the …
Fifth possibility – This one has two alternatives. In alternative A, Trump’s court cases get appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court. And once any issue on the election gets there, Bush v. Gore will suddenly become good law for a majority of the justices. Simply put, if the election gets to the Supremes, Trump will be re-elected.
But alternative B is no less unpleasant. In it, state legislatures that are controlled by Republicans declare their state’s vote unlawful and take matters in their own hands by refusing to award their EC votes to Biden. Those actions would be taken to the courts by Biden, and he may prevail in some. But Trump has appointed a lot of judges to the federal District and Circuit courts in his almost four years as president. The great likelihood would be that enough of those judges would find ways to rule for the legislatures that declared the Biden wins unlawful. Again, these cases might end up at the Supreme Court with the same result: a Trump re-election.
And then there is the worst of all possibilities, which is that Trump’s supporters, acting as poll watchers, end up so intimidating voters and precinct workers that the voting cannot take place in many precincts on Tuesday. Or, even worse, that they foment riots and violence that leads to a need for military intervention. At that point, the election is a secondary thought, as authorities try to stop a heavily armed civilian militia of Trump zealots from over-running the country.
Okay, so that scenario is macabre Hollywood at its worst. It can’t happen in America, right? Of course not. But if Trump sends out the right messages, don’t think that his army isn’t ready to take to the streets. And if they do, they won’t be looting and burning; they’ll be taking over the country in the name of their leader, Herr Trump.
I don’t predict that last scenario. I just think something like it is about as possible as a nice, clean, decisive Biden victory that has Trump conceding at around midnight on Tuesday night.
I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see Trump ever giving up his throne. And his legions (i.e., the Republicans in Congress, those in state legislatures, his judicial appointees, his administration lackeys, his energized base, and his civilian militia) are ready, willing, and armed to keep him there.
If Joe Biden is sworn in as president next January, it won’t be a miracle, but it will be a far more impressive victory than the Dodgers win of the World Series was this week.