The alternative scenario proffered is that if false claims of a stolen election will persist like the “stab in the back” myth after World War I in Germany, which wrongfully suggested that democratic politicians had betrayed the army and prevented victory. “This has the result of weakening the regime because it just lowers the legitimacy among large sections of the electorate,” Zilbatt said. “The Weimar Republic had a period of democratic vibrancy and overcame some of these weaknesses, but it continued to linger. This kind of doubt often persists.”

Overall, Levitsky noted that we don’t have “too many parallels” for the present situation. The United States, he thought, would avoid civil war like Spain in the 1930s and a situation like Venezuela or Turkey where “one side gains hegemony and crushes the other.” Instead, he said, the United States is “stuck with two relatively evenly matched sides, one side weaker but advantaged by institutions and more aggressively authoritarian.” Further, he thought the most historically common outcome — military intervention — is just not going to happen.

Instead, the United States is “headed to a medium term of dysfunction and careening in and out of institutional crisis” in a situation without any historical parallel, he said, adding that “stability and dysfunction are a rare combination.”