For eight years I have had Republican listeners of my radio program and readers of RedState (and now The Resurgent) reach out to me with the greatest “what if” in American politics. “What if Barack Obama refuses to leave the White House?” It is a variation of a common theme: what if he declares martial law; what if he refuses to vacate the premises; what if he engineers a terror attack to avoid the election; what if he cancels the election; what if he runs Michelle Obama for him.
All of these “what ifs” have been raised by an element of the Republican Party that deeply, desperately worries about the future of the country. Not just that, but I have noticed that those who have most often raised these “what ifs” are some of the angriest people at me for not supporting Trump.
It is worth remembering that back during the Bush Administration, a strain of Democrat asked the same questions about Bush. They thought he’d declare martial law, would refuse to vacate the premises, etc. Well, we have arrived back to those Democrats now.
Should Trump opt not to concede after a loss or deliberately roil his supporters and spark uprisings by refusing to accept the legitimacy of the election results, he would still have little recourse to alter a significant electoral victory for Clinton. Only if the election were close, hinging on one or two states where there were alleged voting irregularities, could Trump seriously contest the result in court.
Yes, it is true that Trump is calling into question the legitimacy of the election. Yes it is true that his supporters are deeply suspicious of government and the way things operate. Yes all these things are true. But I suspect the decisiveness of his loss will undermine the conspiracy theories.
Additionally, I think it is worth noting that these conversations have sprouted up over the years, but only with Trump does the media give them legitimacy. Trump not only says things that normally have been out of bounds, but he gives the media excuses to run with the media’s worst tendencies too.
The election will come, Trump will lose, and life will go on. The only question remaining is how long the “I told you so” game lasts before Republicans try to get back on the same page.