The damage Trump would do

Nearly nine out of ten Republicans apparently think that Trump won the election. How likely is it that he will concede the loss and then use the next two months to talk these Republicans out of their conviction that Biden’s victory was stolen from them? Not likely at all. In fact, it would be far more in keeping with his personality and longstanding patterns of behavior to go in the opposite direction — doing even more of what’s kept him occupied for the past two weeks: amping up the lies, stoking the indignation, and spreading ever-more outlandish conspiracy theories designed to discredit the entire system of American government.

Trump succeeded in the winter and spring of 2016 by unleashing a barrage of rhetorical attacks on the institutional Republican Party, the media, and the culture of Washington more generally. What’s to stop him from turning his ire now against every single person and institution that fails to take his side and the side of his supporters in their battle to demonstrate that they are the rightful winners of the 2020 election? The list would be long: the media; the entire Democratic Party; Republican officeholders and officials at all levels of government who capitulate to the inevitability of the Biden presidency; the courts; the military; Fox News and dissenting conservative opinion journals.

By the time of the inauguration, the Republican Party could well be so hollowed out that it consists of nothing more than an armed mob and its insurrectionary leader. Which means that just going through with the Biden inauguration could leave us on the verge of a revolution and/or civil war from the right.