What's the worst about Trump's America
2020 US Elections: What If Donald Trump Just Won't Go?
Everything looks like an election defeat: Donald Trump is hardly given a chance to remain president - if he plays by the rules. But it could put US democracy to the test.
Whoever wins the election becomes president. So far, US democracy has been that simple in the vast majority of cases. With Donald Trump, the worst-case scenario is a slightly different one. The current US president has repeatedly and clearly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Before the election, and increasingly since the electoral count became apparent, he made false and unfounded accusations of electoral fraud against his opponents. The OSCE's international election observation mission accuses him of gross abuse of office. His son has declared "total war" over the election.
The worst case scenario
Most observers still assume that all of this is nothing but noise. The last convulsions of a vanquished and those who remained loyal to him. So far, he has been given few chances in court. But Donald Trump has proven many times over that the democratic rules of the game and the integrity of democratic institutions mean nothing to him. What, some political scientists and legal experts have been asking for some time, if Trump does not leave the White House despite an election defeat? That is no longer unthinkable.
"If Trump loses all restraint, and if his Republicans play the roles he assigns them, he could prevent a legally clear victory for Biden in Electoral College and then Congress," wrote journalist Barton Gellmann earlier Time in a much-noticed piece in the "Atlantic". For the research he interviewed numerous legal, political and constitutional experts. "He could prevent consensus building on whether the election would have any result at all. He could seize this uncertainty in order to stay in power."
The key is the electors
The reasons for this lie in the pitfalls and vulnerabilities of the US electoral system. Historically, they only played a role in a few exceptions, but they cannot be completely ruled out. They are related to the electors appointed by the states based on the counted election results and the further process of appointing the winner, as the Reuters news agency has broken down.
According to the constitution, anyone who wants to become president must have a majority of the electorate of the states. That is the now known limit of 270 electors in the so-called Electoral College. Joe Biden is approaching this magical limit with great strides - because it is usually assumed that the electors will vote for the candidate who has won their respective state in the vote count.
The chaos that benefits Trump
And now it gets complicated: In particularly competitive states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin a Democratic governor rules, but the parliament is dominated by Republicans. Should possible disputes not be decided in court by the deadline of December 8th, and the executive and legislative branches in the states see different election results as legitimate: Chaos could arise, which Trump uses in his endeavors to stay in power.
The Republican-dominated parliaments could appoint their own loyal electors who ignore the result of the vote count. The narrative in this case would be: The election was rigged, now we Republicans have to protect the will of the people. This scenario had already been prepared in the Trump camp, it said in the "Atlantic" piece. When asked about it, the campaign did not deny the claim. And in the "Battleground State" Pennsylvania, the republican spokesman did not want to rule out the possibility at the time. It is "one of the options". (On Friday, however, speakers denied this vehemently.)
"A world where anything can happen"
It is unclear how to proceed with the electors from these states. The Democratically dominated House of Representatives and the Republican dominated Senate would have to reach an agreement. What if there is no consensus? Then Trump's Vice President Mike Pence could potentially invalidate votes from electors. He has not denied Trump's allegations of election fraud. On the contrary: between the lines you can definitely read support for the course.
It would be a constitutional crisis that many observers do not even trust Trump to provoke - and if it does, then at least not the Republicans. "Then we will be thrown into a world in which anything can happen," said political scientist Norman Ornstein to the "Atlantic".
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If Biden then still has more electors, Republicans could argue that he does not have the required majority of "all electors" - since Pence has excluded some from the vote. Then the state delegations would have to vote in the House of Representatives to elect the president. At the moment, the Republicans have a majority there. Trump might be president again.
Experts do not even rule out that the battle will drag on until the constitutionally required day of inauguration - and then two candidates will show up to be sworn in. The question remains: what if Trump just doesn't go despite defeat?
"We are not prepared for it at all," quoted "Atlantic" journalist Barton in his play history professor Julian Zelizer from Princeton College. "We talk about it, some worry, and we imagine what could be. But few people have actual answers about what would happen if the democratic machinery were used to prevent a legitimate vote from being taken."
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