The Donald Trump Effect, after three and a half years in the White House — his ways, the unpredictability of so many of his actions and statements, his singular stubbornness in making decisions — has made half the world nervous tonight.
Newspapers, magazines and internet sites have been filled with articles on the ways he could challenge the results, lengthen the uncertainty and gamble on a decision by the Supreme Court, now more conservative than ever; or simply be unwilling to leave and invite the resistance of his base.
To the Trump Effect, it must be added that the pandemic has forced millions of Americans to vote by mail. That could mean that — unlike many presidential election nights — it will be difficult for the media to declare a winner. Several states have announced that the counting of votes could last for days after the polls close.
Now, if what most pollsters and data analysts have projected were to happen, Joe Biden could declare himself the winner by a wide margin before midnight.
The media has spent the past week describing different ways of announcing key state results and impacts on the Electoral College. If that is how they proceed, we will all — once again — await Trump’s decision.
But perhaps most important will be the reaction of the Trumpian base, if the most likely scenario comes to pass. Its millions of followers have been told that the media and now information technology companies are enemies that lie consistently because they want to end the country.
So many insults, so much provocation and so many lies will not end in a day because the country votes. Even less so with the president’s insistence that the process is fraudulent. Some governors, like those of Texas and Massachusetts, have ordered the National Guard of their states to be alert and mobilized against possible post-election protests. Businesses are protecting their windows.
There is fear — because what happens tonight and the next few days will extend beyond the polls, and because of the effects of Trump’s words and deeds for the past three and a half years.