Trump

Robert Kuttner: How Trump Might Overturn the Election

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NBC redeemed itself, sort of, with moderator Savannah Guthrie, whose tough questioning of Trump put other media pushovers like Chris Wallace to shame.

Best line of the night, maybe of the year: “You’re the president. You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”

But of course Trump is exactly like someone’s crazy uncle. That was floridly on display at last night’s town hall, and Trump did himself no favors with swing voters.

Biden, who projected decency and honor, keeps gaining in the polls. But even if Biden wins big on election night, Trump and his allies at the state level will seize ballot boxes and challenge results in the courts. The bigger Biden wins, the more Trump will cry fraud.
At that point, Trump has three ways to try to overturn the election. He will likely use them all.

Way One: All of the suits eventually end up at the Supreme Court, which does a repeat of Bush v. Gore, state by state, basically calling winners. There will only be six or seven of these that matter—Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, and maybe Ohio if Biden wins in a blowout.

Had Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived another three months, Chief Justice John Roberts might well have sided with the Court’s four liberals, and refused to allow Trump to win a second term in a coup. Now, Roberts will have to bring along one or more of the Trump appointees—either Neil Gorsuch, something of a Court institutionalist, or Brett Kavanaugh, or that pretend blank slate, Amy Coney Barrett. A long shot, perhaps, but not impossible.

Way Two: Trump’s allies in state legislatures reverse the popular result and file competing slates of electors. Unless Democrats flip House majorities in three states in the incoming Congress, the House presumably votes for the Republican electors.

Way Three: Violence. Regardless of the outcome, there will be millions of people protesting in the streets. Most of those inclined to violence will be from the Trumpian right, though a few far-lefties may add to the chaos. All of this gives Trump a pretext to invoke the Insurrection Act and call in the military.

Takeaways: Trump can continue making a fool of himself, and Biden could win all of the swing states on Election Day; but we still can’t rest easy until January 20. Yet the bigger the win, the less likely it is to be overturned. I sure wish this were all safely in the history books instead of unfolding insanely day by day.

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