Stephen Hunter

With 51 Days Until the Election, America Is Laboring

(Photo by Alex Martinez on Unsplash)

With Labor Day officially ushering in the election season, anything up to and including insurrection is entirely possible.

 

When the sun rose on Monday, September 7th, it rose on a schizoid America. It was Labor Day, traditionally the real start of the real Election in any presidential year. There’s an old saying that goes: nobody really pays much attention until after Labor Day – even though the candidates have been basically running since birth.

However, this year it’s all a bit different, a bit screwy, and depending on the goggles you look through entirely, and I mean entirely, like 180 degrees different. Same view, but two radically different views.

Through the first pair of goggles, you see an almost preternaturally static landscape. An aggregate of all the more or less reliable polls have Biden and the Democrats up by between seven to nine points. Good news for the Democrats is, that’s landslide victory territory.

However, pull back to last January, last March, last July, and, except for a small bump up to an 11-point lead in early April, a seven- to nine-point lead is where Biden has been all along; basically since he secured the nomination. Same with Trump. No matter the pandemic, ingest bleach, rising death tolls, police killings, BLM marches, QAnon wacko “good people,” Russian meddling, the “suckers” and “losers” in the military, and all the endless harpoons being launched into the orange whale by tell-all after tell-all book, the numbers have been frozen, as if in amber. Considering the near-daily volatility in actual events, the race feels bizarrely locked in.

 

A seven- to nine-point lead in the polls is exactly where Hillary Clinton was in January, June, and on Labor Day in 2016. We all know how that one turned out.

 

Now, before taking off these first pair of goggles, there is one caveat to take into consideration. A seven- to nine-point lead in the polls is exactly where Hillary Clinton was in January, June, and on Labor Day in 2016. We all know how that one turned out.

With the second pair of goggles, you’ll have to steady yourself so you won’t vomit from the vertigo. The only way to describe the destabilizing landscape we’re now gazing on is to break it down by percentages of possibility. And, by the way, unlike the polling numbers above, these percentages are my own best guesses.

12% – Trump won’t be the Republican candidate on Nov 3. This could happen due to a real health matter. There’s the mysterious, hurried visit to Walter Reed Hospital during which VP Pence was kept on alert in case he had to assume the presidency; Trump insisting that a test he was given was an IQ exam and not the test for dementia it actually was; the Trump Tweet, out of the blue, denying he’d suffered a series of mini-strokes when no one, anywhere, had ever said he had; etc.

 

 

Even the right-wing Drudge Report is noticing and “concerned.” Something’s up here and if it worsens under the stress of a campaign then all bets are off.

20% – Either Trump or Biden tests positive for COVID-19. They’re in increasingly unsecured and larger crowds. Biden being more careful, but the pressure is on him to be more visible and out there. And both are in a cohort that is considered the most vulnerable. That is, they are both “elderly.”

30-40% – The increasing confrontations and violence between BLM protesters and pro-Trump radical “white wing” factions could give the Trump government reason to call out the federal troops to “control” the cities. It could even go so far as having Trump push for the election to be postponed. He couldn’t do that on his own, it would take Congressional approval, but the darkest end to this scenario is he declares Martial Law. That play is in his power. And, by the way, his own ex-personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, thinks this is the likely scenario.

50-60% – On November 3rd, Trump is the winner and by a large margin. Trouble is, due to the significant mail-in ballots, only about 15% of the vote would be in on the night. However, Trump claims victory and tries to shut down any more counting. If the vote goes until all are counted, 80-90% chance the result would be the opposite: a large Biden victory. Good time for lawyers, bad time for constitutional democracy. Most likely this election will make the Bush/Gore race in 2000 look like a spat in a nursery. We’re 51 days away from the election, and already there are 230 lawsuits (and counting) filed in various districts.

There could easily be a Florida recount in every State in the Union.

60% – No matter the outcome, Trump will cry “foul,” “rigged,” and, if he loses, refuse to leave and hand over power. He’s clearly seeding the ground for this eventuality.

70% – All of the above would lead to some level of constitutional crisis which at a minimum would tie up the federal government for months, freeze the results of all the elections up and down the ballot, and, at worst, could lead to an insurrection. Meanwhile, chances are the pandemic will be well into its second wave by November-December when this would play out.

30% –  All will be normal. Biden retains his lead. Voting goes smoothly and, commensurate with the last 220 years, there’s a peaceful transfer of power; the true “miracle” of democracy.

 

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