We can expect that a defeated President Trump, financially and legally desperate, will exploit this window for full value to himself, notwithstanding the harm to the country. He will likely try to pardon his friends, and perhaps even his family and himself, from legal prosecution. He may expand his criminal activities. He will likely lash out at his enemies, including by the use of foreign-authored disinformation, and take actions to enrich his loyalists. Most dangerous, he may make deals with foreign leaders in return for personal favors and ego boosts. Above all, we can be sure that he will not use his last days in power to serve the country. Trump’s final presidential actions will likely increase American division, worsening the suffering from COVID-19 and increasing our nation’s vulnerability to foreign aggression.
So, if Donald Trump is defeated, what can be done to blunt this looming danger?
The first and most important tool in the constitutional arsenal for the victors in this election is civic education. Our first plea would be that officeholders, journalists, scholars, and citizens generally turn their attention from the issue of transfer of power—of literally getting Trump out of the White House on January 20—to ways of countering anti-constitutional behavior between now and the inauguration. The nation has never faced this particular threat so clearly before, and the best resource we have is the collective wisdom of all those who have thought of useful and creative ways to insure a legal and orderly transition of power. The enormously powerful energies of our citizens mobilized to vote must now turn to the task of protecting the Constitution. Voting was only the first step; popular attention should not stray from the continued goal of restraining a dangerous president, still in office for two more months.