Next week, I hope and expect, Donald Trump will become a one-term president.
Given how outrageously authoritarian Trump has been since he was inaugurated in January 2017, it's fitting -- though disturbing -- that currently he is trying to steal the election in a way that might work if he was the strongman of, say, Russia, but will fail big-time in our still democratic United States.
Trump's scheme is described in an Axios piece today, "Trump's plan to declare premature victory."
President Trump has told confidants he'll declare victory on Tuesday night if it looks like he's "ahead," according to three sources familiar with his private comments. That's even if the Electoral College outcome still hinges on large numbers of uncounted votes in key states like Pennsylvania.
...Trump has privately talked through this scenario in some detail in the last few weeks, describing plans to walk up to a podium on election night and declare he has won.
...Many prognosticators say that on election night, Trump will likely appear ahead in Pennsylvania — though the state's final outcome could change substantially as mail-in ballots are counted over the following days.
Trump's team is preparing to claim baselessly that if that process changes the outcome in Pennsylvania from the picture on election night, then Democrats would have "stolen" the election.
...Reality check: Mail-in ballots counted after Election Day as set forth in state-by-state rules are as legitimate as in-person votes recorded on Nov. 3.
Well, duh, of course ballots counted after November 3 are as legitimate as ballots counted on election day. Even here in Oregon, where election officials can tally (but not report) ballots prior to the 8 pm election day deadline, changes to the election night count occur for several days afterward.
No other presidential candidate, I'm quite sure, ever has threatened to claim that they've won the election based on election night returns. That's so out of touch with reality, only someone with a shaky grasp of fundamental election facts would say that.
Or, a wanna-be dictator who has the fantasy that he can somehow steal the election by stopping the counting of ballots in one or more states just because he says, "I've won. Stop counting!"
A Slate piece, "Trump Can't Just 'Declare Victory'" debunks this authoritarian fantasy.
While there has been some dispute about whether state courts such as Pennsylvania’s and Minnesota’s had authority to extend the deadline for receipt of mail ballots that arrive after Election Day (a practice allowed in a fair number of states), there has never been any basis to claim that a ballot arriving on time cannot be counted if officials cannot finish their count on election night.
Indeed, such a claim is preposterous because no state fully counts their ballots on election night. Returns are unofficial and always contain errors. Many states allow military ballots to arrive for days after Election Day. Counting generally continues for days and weeks after Election Day, and results are not certified until weeks after.
When it comes to the president, the presidential electors do not cast their official ballots until Dec. 14, and Congress does not count their votes until Jan. 6. This calendar leaves plenty of time to get the counting done.
A FiveThirtyEight podcast headline makes the same point in a mere 21 words.
CNN's Jake Tapper weights in on this via Twitter.
But Greg Sargent of the Washington Post delves deeper into what the Republican scheme appears to be. This seems like a decidedly weak legal strategy, but it makes more sense than Trump simply declaring that he has won and ballot counting needs to stop.
However, it's hard to see how a court could justify stopping the counting of legitimate ballots while a claim that illegitimate ballots have been cast is being investigated. Assuming there is any basis for an investigation, which probably there wouldn't be.
So I'd place the odds of Trump being able to steal the election at just 1% or so.
This would require a very close election in which a single state such as Pennsylvania determined whether Biden or Trump gets to 270 electoral votes. Then there would have to be a basis for challenging the results of that close election that would hold up in court.
It's very unlikely, but not impossible, that both of those things will happen. That's why I'm looking forward to Joe Biden becoming the next President of the United States.