Hollywood produced a number of films over the years which projected what could happen in the United States if a dangerous person, surrounded by an equally malevolent staff of abettors became or sought to become President. The Manchurian Candidate and Dr. Stangelove are two of the more ominous movies. They both suggested what could happen if an unstable individual assumed the presidency. The problem today in the United States is that there actually is a president who may well be bringing America to the brink of the greatest threat the American Republic has faced since the Civil War. It is not a movie which will be over in two hours.
President Trump has refused to affirm that he will accept the voters’ decision on Election Day regardless of when any given state’s final votes are tabulated. The President has made it clear that he will challenge what he believes are illegal votes, including mail-in or absentee ballots in any form. In many places there is still no assurance that the U.S. Postal Service is properly equipped to handle the surge of mailed ballots. There are suggestions that the President will circumvent the popular vote completely and ask state legislatures to perform their Constitutional duty to appoint electors, regardless of the preferences of the state’s voters. Undoubtedly, Trump will circumvent this question during the Tuesday debate just as former Vice President Biden will undoubtedly declare his commitment to accept the will of the voters.
Perhaps the most alarming situation is the absolute fear and dread that President Trump has instilled in the Republican Party. The Party leaders and their elected officials read the polls. They recognize that all his maneuvering over the election and even his machinations over the Supreme Court nominee, will likely guarantee that the GOP will be defeated on multiple levels on November 3, including losing the U.S. Senate.
Republicans are frozen with a fear of retribution. Almost to a person they are unwilling to confront their President who appears prepared to let the party go up in flames on the off chance that he might win. Republican office holders fear retaliation more than their willingness to stand up in defense of the Constitution. They actually are prepared to go down in defeat rather than to challenge the President.
Admittedly, President Donald Trump is prone to say absurd things and make insane threats that are nothing more than bluster. The problem is that one never knows when Trump is merely making a lot of noise and only trying to galvanize his base to rally behind him; or when the President is actually serious. Donald Trump has refused to guarantee that he will accept the decision of the voters once all the votes are tabulated following Election Day. This blunt challenge to one of the fundamental principles of American democracy should keep Americans awake at night. Even if the President is bluffing, no one should want to take a chance on Trump determining that he has the right to “continue” in office if he so interprets the election results according to his own determinative criteria.
Americans need to recognize that the country is not watching a movie but is living through these events in real time. If Joe Biden fails to win a decisive, irrefutable victory on Election Day, the nation may face an existential nightmare. If there is a long delay before the results are finalized, the Trump supporters and the Republican Party are prepared to go to the barricades with the President—in the courts, in the States, and in the Congress. Even if Biden then emerges victorious, the damage to the Republic will take years to repair.