Peaceful Transitions of Power

American democracy is deeply rooted in the notion of peaceful transition of power following elections. We aren’t, we fervently believe, like some banana republic where the loser throws his opponent in jail, or unleashes the military, or upends the notion of elections entirely and declares himself dictator for life.

Michael Cohen raised the specter of Trump refusing to accept the results of the 2020 election if the votes go against him. Robert Reich, writing for the London Guardian, thinks we should take Cohen’s warning seriously:

But what happens if an incumbent president claims our system is no longer trustworthy?

Trump’s emissaries have already seeded the battlefield. Last April, Sean Hannity of Fox News predicted that an attempt to impeach Trump (or presumably remove him from office any other way) would cause “fighting and dividing this country at a level we’ve never seen … those that stand for truth and those that literally buy into the corrupt deep state attacks against a duly elected president.

Trump’s former consiglieri Roger Stone has warned of “an insurrection like you’ve never seen” and claimed that any politician who voted to oust Trump “would be endangering their own life”.

Just last week, Steve Bannon, another of Trump’s bottom-feeders, predicted that “2019 is going to be the most vitriolic year in American politics since the civil war, and I include Vietnam in that”. He didn’t make a prediction about 2020, but we can guess.

We should take seriously Michael Cohen’s admonition that if Trump is defeated in 2020, he will not leave office peacefully.

Republican leaders as well as supreme court justices and civic and religious leaders across the land must be prepared to assert the primacy of our system of government over the will of the man who refuses to lose.”

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reminds us that not every outrageous thing Trump says or does or claims is a four alarm fire. And in his failed business career, Trump has occasionally backed down when faced with an iron wall of facts backed by a court. But Trump has also shown us the depths of his pathological behavior, and I think Cohen is right that humiliation and losing are two things Trump’s fragile ego cannot tolerate.

The next presidential election is going to be ugly and a humiliated Trump is a dangerous creature. We need to be prepared.

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