Well, if it wasn’t enough of a challenge to write a column with some currency two weeks in advance, let’s throw in a national election that may – or may not – have been decided by the time you read this. Unhappily, some things will remain: (1) We will still be suffering the Covid pandemic and its consequent recession. Americans will still be dying alone and penniless as a result. (2) We will likely witness civil unrest due to either election outcome because, to revise a phrase, “there are people on both sides.” (3) The all-too-regular discovery of concealed national racial injustice will remain with us.
Because I fully expect the “now” as you read this to be still in flux, let’s talk about the future. Where will we go from here?
Scenario 1: Let’s dispense quickly with one possibility that is easy to describe, i.e., the president is re-elected and the Senate remains in republican control. We’ve seen four years of that and can expect it to continue. There will be boasts of, “Mandate!” “The People Have Spoken!” Emboldened by interpreted electoral consent, federalized troops may be dispatched to turbulent cities, increasing that discord. Remediation of exposed racial injustice will become an even more local effort without federal support. Anti-immigrant policies will become harsher. America’s participation in world affairs will diminish and become more isolationist. Done.
Scenario 2: The Election Remains Undecided. Unfortunately, this is where the Las Vegas money is. The president has used every communication method/medium available for his message: Short of a clear, election night blowout victory for himself, there will be a prolonged series of court challenges to any other result. The official outcome of the elections (possibly to include Representatives and Senators) may be delayed. It would be effective passage of the unofficial Full-Employment Act for attorneys.
Scenario 3a: The President is Defeated and the Senate Majority Switches Parties. Important here is the roughly 60-day limbo period between the election and the start of the Congressional term on January 3. (If Mark Kelly wins in the Arizona special election, he could be seated as soon as his victory is certified, as early as November 30.) A president and Senators retain full power of their offices until replaced in January. That period is when all manner of executive orders and political maneuvers could play out to prolong the practical effects of the outgoing administration beyond the swearing-in of newly elected officeholders.
Scenario 3b: The President is Defeated, but the Senate Remains in republican Control. As in Scenario 3a, the Lame Duck period could be acrimonious and politically explosive. For both, it is likely the Senate consideration would continue for trump nominations for lower court judgeships. There might be substantial public pressure to accept “the will of the people” and halt judicial considerations, but republicans have been impervious to that argument in the recent past (a reversal of their position in 2016).
If the president is defeated, we can expect many parades of public celebrants, some possibly with flaming effigies. If he loses, we can also expect a refocus of legal suits and Congressional investigations against him, just awaiting clearance to pursue the private citizen unprotected by his office. Sadly, the trump name will remain in the headlines – if not our Twitter feeds – for some time to come.
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