The U.S. election highlights four scenarios, three of them a nightmare.
The presidential election is 100 days away, and another 78 days remain afterward which could involve a political and legal battle for the validity of the results. Donald Trump will not accept defeat. He will accuse the “radical left” of fraud, and mobilize his gun-loving followers via Twitter. With him, nothing is impossible and every scenario is dystopic.
The 2008 financial crisis and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis have cast doubt on the global financial model and its effects on the climate catastrophe. Part of the capitalist elite no longer believes in democracy, opting instead for the efficiency (and the impunity) of authoritarian models. Trump is but the consequence of a greater game. We can expect four scenarios, three of which are a nightmare.
Trump wins despite every poll that is currently predicting his defeat. The president trusts his white, rural and angry base. They are the ones who swallow his paranoid conspiracy theories and enjoy his divisive rhetoric; “the good Americans,” as opposed to the media which has sold out and is unpatriotic. A miraculous vaccine in October could save him; hence, he is maneuvering so that a vaccine has priority. It is not important whether or not it works. It is enough that people believe it does before they vote. Winston Churchill said that one day is a year in politics. There are still 100 years to go.
Trump narrowly loses the election. It is worth recalling that the popular vote does not decide the presidency, but election depends on the Electoral College, made up of of 538 electors. Whoever gets half of the electors plus one, or 270, wins. Electors are chosen in each state according to the state’s population. (California has 55; Wyoming has three.) The battle centers on the swing states, those states that change and are most influenced by the candidate: Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Hampshire.
For months, the president has been waging a war against voting by mail which will be key in case there is a second wave of COVID-19. Trump claims voting by mail is a tool meant to steal the election from him. Each state regulates its own absentee voting. While Democrats try to facilitate it, Republicans wish to obstruct it. If there is a surge in mail-in voting, it is likely that several states will be unable to provide a result on election night.
Trump plans to reject these results and challenge them at the Supreme Court, where a majority of the justices are conservative. Dec. 14 will be a key date. This will be the day when the Electoral College meets in order to proclaim the winner. What will happen with the electors from states where results are in question? Will there be an election result without them? This is Trump’s chance to alter the result and remain president. The Supreme Court may request a repetition of the election in several states or in certain districts. The only unchanging variable — because it is in the Constitution — is the inauguration date: Jan. 20 at noon. By then, there must be a winner and a president. Anything else would amount to a coup.
Trump experiences crushing defeat. There are several indicators that point to a catastrophe. The suburban vote could consolidate around Joe Biden thanks to women. The white, urban vote is starting to abandon the president, and he is losing support among seniors. Two moderate Republican organizations have launched a full-frontal attack. The “Never Trump” movement is growing, and it could be as mobilizing as Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” campaign. If the defeat was indisputable, those Republicans who cheer for him and fear him would press him to accept the outcome. He would have no opportunity to resist other than indulging in absolute nonsense.
Trump cancels the election. The date of Nov. 3 is based on an 1845 federal law, which sets “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November” as the day of the general election. In order to modify it, Trump would need to reach a deal in Congress. Republicans control the Senate, but not the House of Representatives. Attorney General William Barr has completely abandoned the independence his position is supposed to have, unabashedly acting as the president’s lawyer. For weeks he has been looking for a loophole that would allow Trump to rule by decree, without the supervision of the House. They are receiving help from John Yoo, the lawyer who provided the legal basis to justify torture in CIA secret prisons and in Guantanamo Bay during the George W. Bush presidency.
The use of federal agents dressed in military uniform, without any identification and in unmarked cars, without license plates or badges, should stand as a warning. Trump wants to replicate that show of force in Chicago, and is now threatening New York.
His aim is threefold: selling a slogan of law and order; frightening and mobilizing his white base;
and creating a state of chaos, which together with a second COVID-19 wave in the fall, would allow him to invoke emergency powers he does not actually have in order to cancel the election and stay president for a year or more. It would be the death of democracy in the U.S., a tsunami that would endanger our own.