The "what if Trump won't leave office" madness continues

If there’s one plague sweeping the nation in an even more insidious fashion than the novel coronavirus, it’s Trump Derangement Syndrome. While plenty of the glitterati in Hollywood are affected with both (hope you’re feeling better, Tom Hanks), political actors seem to be more susceptible to the latter. This week we see another case of this affliction once again popping up with Max Boot. Long a reliable voice for conservative causes, the Trump era has hit Max rather hard, leading him down any number of NeverTrumper garden paths. His most recent article at the WaPo reflects the tendency of such folks to take up the same chattering themes that Democrats and their media enablers repeat in an effort to scare voters away from the President. In this case, it’s the oft-repeated Mantra that Donald Trump has no plans to leave office if he manages to somehow lose the election in November to Joe Biden. (Or whoever the Democrats nominate if Joe loses the thread entirely before then and has to be replaced.) In fact, he’s already developing an evil plot to remain in office, possibly indefinitely.

Trump is already laying the foundation to dispute the election outcome with his incessant claims that “Mail-In Ballots will lead to MASSIVE electoral fraud and a RIGGED 2020 Election.” Election officials label such concerns as “preposterous” and “false.” But they will serve as an excuse for the Republican Party to purge voter-registration rolls, limit mail-in ballots, close polling stations in minority areas and challenge in-person voting by minorities. Whatever it takes to win.

It’s doubtful that anything Trump does will produce a popular-vote victory; he lost by nearly 3 million votes in 2016 and will probably lose by a greater margin this year. But it won’t matter if, by election night, he is within spitting distance of an electoral college victory.

I recently took part in a “war game” to see what would happen under those circumstances. The session was organized by the Transition Integrity Project, a nonpartisan group founded by Rosa Brooks of Georgetown Law School and Nils Gilman of the Berggruen Institute. The scenario we were given predicted a narrow Biden victory in the electoral college: 278 to 260. Various participants played the role of the Trump campaign, the Biden campaign, Republican and Democratic elected officials, the news media, and other key players to see what would happen next.

I’m not sure what we should be reading into the fact that people ostensibly involved in the media are playing secretive “war games” to determine what the Trump campaign will do after election night, but it is what it is. To their credit, most of them have given up on the idea that Donald Trump would simply refuse to move out of the office until the military is forced to come in and remove him by force.

In one scenario, Republican-controlled legislatures in key swing states that flipped to Biden would challenge the election results on any number of rationales and either certify Trump the winner anyway or refuse to certify the results at all. This would tie the matter up in the courts of each state and “force the Republican-dominated Supreme Court to intervene.” (Presumably on Trump’s behalf.) In the meantime, “chaos reigned in the streets” with violence erupting everywhere.

Another scenario envisions a race where the electoral college winner is too close to call in several large, purple states. With no winner announced, there would once again be “near civil war in the streets.” (It’s funny how any model where Joe Biden doesn’t win immediately and decisively results in street warfare for these people, isn’t it?) But let’s take a moment to toss some of the cold water of reality on these supposed plans of Donald Trump.

The idea that the Trump administration would challenge the certification of election results after a state called the race is laughable. And even if it wasn’t, the courts would find it laughable. Boot worries that the “Republican-dominated Supreme Court” might step in and take Trump’s side. Seriously, Max? We can’t even get John Roberts to vote for a limitation on abortions. He frets constantly over the appearance of a closely divided, partisan court. And you think he’s going to hand Trump the election?

As for the second scenario, we’ve had plenty of states wind up in very close races in the past, some of which had to go to recounts. Because that’s what we do if the race is close. We wait until the state is confident in the final vote. The 2000 election was probably the most extreme example in modern history, but we somehow managed to live through that. We won’t need or see a civil war if we have to wait a few days or weeks for the final tally. For Pete’s sake, people.

What we’re really seeing here is one thread in a much larger tapestry. Liberals and their temporary NeverTrump allies are trying to paint a picture of a nation going up in flames if there is a close race in the electoral college. This is presumably meant to scare moderates into voting for Joe Biden so their homes won’t be burned to the ground in a modern version of Sherman’s March to the Sea, probably led by Steve Bannon riding a mechanical bull on the back of a monster truck with machine guns mounted on it. Or something like that, anyway.

In closing, I’ll leave it to the irreplaceable Frank J. Fleming to respond to this op-ed with the appropriate amount of snark.