The chattering classes are all atwitter. “Will Trump go, if he loses the election?” It all depends on who says he lost. Some of his critics still maintain he really lost in 2016. If the Electoral College results, opened and counted by Vice President Mike Pence in the presence of a Joint Session of Congress on January 6th reflect a Trump loss, he will depart the White House on January 20. Troops will not be marching down Pennsylvania Avenue except in an Inaugural parade.
A better question might be, “Will Trump accept the results, if he loses the election?” The answer to that question is most certainly “no.” He already made it plain in 2016 that he would not accept the results of the expected “rigged” election. The Democrats, including their nominee Hillary Clinton, expressed horror at Trump’s lack of proper form, undermining confidence in our election results. When, to her surprise and that of everyone else, Trump won the election, Clinton observed at least the outward forms of concession that have been observed in every election for well over a century, with the exception of the 2000 election. She telephoned her congratulations to Trump and made a public statement of concession. Trump met with President Obama to plan the transition.
Behind the scenes, however, high officials in the Obama administration were busy using the dossier of disinformation compiled for the Clinton campaign by Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS, to pursue secret investigations of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and thereby undermine confidence in the election results. Publicly Democrats, so recently complaining of Trump’s earlier threatened refusal to accept the election results, were doing exactly that. They pointed out that Clinton had won the popular vote count. Some electoral votes, they argued, were won by voter suppression. Russians, they asserted, had interfered in the election by use of social media and hacking Democratic emails.
It now seems plain that whoever loses the 2020 election will complain that they were robbed. Trump has already laid the groundwork for his complaints. Due to Covid-19 concerns, voting by mail will be widely permitted. Trump has objected that voting by mail opens the floodgates to widespread voter fraud. Democrats claim that Republicans persist in attempted voter suppression by requirements such as voter ID and opposition to voting by mail.
The only thing that appears certain is that after the election, the shouting partisanship will continue.
Trump never had the “honeymoon” period at the beginning of his term that new presidents have traditionally gotten, as the country waits to see how they will do. It doesn’t seem like that will ever happen again.
And here’s a cheerful thought. In 2024 a defeated Donald Trump will turn the same age Joe Biden turns this year. As he will only have served one term, the 22nd Amendment will not prevent him from attempting to repeat Grover Cleveland’s feat of regaining the White House after being defeated for re-election. The Tweets and rallies would continue. As he has found Fox News to be insufficiently servile, he has talked of starting his own news network.
After this ball is over, it seems no one will be going home.