2020 Election: What If Trump Says 'No?'

Part of the responsibility of being an intellectual conservative is accepting reality when it’s staring you in the face. Whether or not you still support President Donald Trump, and whether or not you feel that he’s the best person to lead the country forward during these difficult times, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the writing is on the wall for the 2020 election. Joe Biden’s lead over him in the polls is so significant that it would take a swing of almost unimaginable proportions for Trump to win a second term. We realize that Clinton also led in the polls prior to the 2016 election, but Biden’s lead is far wider, and well outside the margin for error. We occasionally forget that Trump won in 2016 by the narrowest of margins. This time around, unless something unprecedented happens, he’s riding for a fall.

How and why we arrived at this point is a matter for other debates and other articles. The majority of us know the dangers that will come with a Biden Presidency, and the threat that it would pose to the progress that's been made during the past four years. We can point fingers and the consistently negative press that's been directed at the President throughout his term, the unfounded accusations about Russia, and the failed impeachment attempt. All of those factors will, to an extent, have clouded opinions of the President among undecided voters. We must also accept that not everything he's done has been perfect, and there have been times when his conduct has been detrimental to his cause. There will be soul-searching after the election if the Republicans lose, but that won't change the end result.

There is, however, a giant question mark looming on the horizon. Trump has correctly pointed out that the current situation in the country means that postal votes will be relied upon more heavily than they ever have in the past, and that postal votes are wide open to fraud. We've all heard the stories about 'dead' voters somehow appearing in the final count of elections in the past, and some Democrat-supporting voters somehow managing to have their votes recorded multiple times. There is reason to believe that the election result wouldn't be 'safe,' and if it isn't, the President might not accept it.


If Trump refuses to accept that he’s lost the election after polls close and votes are counted, there’s a big question about what happens next. The simple way to answer that is to say that nobody knows for sure. We’d be in a kind of living online slots metaphor, where there are hundreds of different outcomes and different ways to get there. The President might even appreciate that comparison; in the days before online slots websites were the most popular way of indulging in the hobby, he used to own casinos. He also knows the truth of the casino business, though; you lose when you’re playing online slots far more often than you win. His Atlantic City casinos didn’t make as much money as he wanted them to, and he eventually got out of the industry. He might not be quite so willing to back away from the White House.

History and law say that the President can't merely occupy the White House and refuse to leave. The victor would have to be installed, and the loser would have to be removed. That raises the possibility of the police or the secret services physically evicting the Trump family from office, which is difficult to imagine and surely too far-fetched to be a realistic possibility. What nobody seems to be sure of, though, is what happens if Trump goes to court to challenge the election result. Does he get the right to remain in situ until his case is heard, or would he have to leave? If he won, would Biden have to cede power back to him and vacate any policy decisions he'd tried to make during whatever time he'd served? Any such situation would be unprecedented. We're becoming used to seeing that word in the context of the Trump Presidency, but even within that context, such a scenario would be unlike anything we've seen before in American history.

Another possibility could be that Trump would remain in the White House if he were unwilling to leave, but the law would pass him by. Biden would be sworn in, power would be transferred to him, and the new President would begin running the country from another location. Trump would likely try to continue to exert any control or power he still held on to, but in reality, every governmental department would be obligated by law to take direction from Biden, who would also be recognized by both the House and the Senate. As loyal as some of Trump's political allies are, they're unlikely to contest the result of the election even if Trump wants to.

The scale of challenging the election result would be enormous from a legal point of view. Submissions would have to be made in any state that Trump felt was affected by voter fraud, and each case would have to be heard individually. That process could take years, and by the time any resolution was reached, Biden would likely be two years into his term. Neither Trump nor his supporters would likely be happy to wait for quite so long. Some commentators have even spoken of their fear of a second American civil war in the event of a Trump defeat and the President refusing to stand aside. While we feel that's just as unlikely as seeing Trump physically hauled out of office, there will doubtless be anger. The Democrats and their voters have forcefully and, on occasion, violently opposed the result of the 2016 election ever since it happened. They don't have the right to accept that Trump or his supporters will surrender meekly if their time comes.

Perhaps the real question on this is not one of the system but of the Republican Party. Trump would only be able to hold on to the notion of being in office if he had the support of his party. If the GOP loses badly, they may no longer be in the mood to back the person that they'll doubtless blame for a heavy defeat. Without their backing, Donald Trump would be one man against the system with little say in the matter, and he'd be cast aside whether he liked it or not.
We hope that none of this happens. We hope that the President upsets the odds once more and gives the Democrats something to whine about for another four long years. If that doesn’t happen, though, there could be very dark days indeed on the horizon.
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