A president refusing to leave office if they lose an election is something to be expected of a dictatorship. A bizarre scenario of the two main candidates turning up in Washington on Inauguration Day next January, both expecting to be sworn in, could depend on which way the permanent unelected state institutions will swing.
Trump’s first presidential term draws to a close with three major “achievements” — tax cuts for the rich, billion dollar bailouts for corporations and packing the federal judiciary with over 200 right-wing judges, including two in the constitutionally all-important Supreme Court.
He aims to cap it all in his last four months in office with a rushed replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, thereby turning it into an arch-reactionary institution ruling against the rights and aspirations of the vast majority of Americans.
He wants an effective takeover of the court by the Republican Party, to produce a serious counterweight to the Presidency and Congress should they both be won by the Democrats this November.
Bader Ginsburg earned a reputation over several decades as a staunch defender of women’s rights. Her replacement is expected to be Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic who once said “a legal career is but a means to an end, and that end is building the kingdom of God.” So much for the separation of church from state!
If Barrett is installed, the Roe v Wade judgement protecting abortion rights will be under threat, as will workers’ rights, minority rights, same-sex marriage, environmental protections, gun control, and affordable healthcare. Giving the Supreme Court a decisive right-wing majority also has crucial implications in the event the outcome of November’s election is contested in the courts.
Creeping authoritarianism has been a distinct feature in a number of ostensibly bourgeois democracies in the past decade, particularly in Eastern Europe. It now manifests itself in the USA with a vengeance, with Trump as creep in chief.
His move on Ginsburg’s replacement is another sign that he is bunkering down to win a second term by fouler means than foul. Further outrages against democratic norms, laws and conventions are certain.
Trump will lose the popular vote like he did in 2016, and by a bigger margin this time. If all votes are counted he’s going down in several key states too. But therein lies the rub. The key to his strategy will be to deny the validity of millions of mail in ballots and try to claim victory before many of them get counted.
Sabotage of the vote via Postmaster General and Trump creature Louis DeJoy has already been undertaken. Facing court orders to reassemble hundreds of high speed sorting machines, DeJoy claimed that they’d already been stripped for parts to improve or repair other machines. The evidence is in fact that the machines had gone to the scrap yards.
Dejoy’s meddling is just one of several ways Trump can nobble the vote. Heavily armed Trump supporters might turn up in cavalcades on Election Day in the big cities to suppress the anti-Trump vote. Trump can instruct elements of the state sympathetic to him, like the Federal Marshals, to seize ballots he deems fraudulent. Republican-controlled states could override the popular vote in their jurisdictions and send Trump supporters to the Electoral College.
Chaos is in the offing, and even a potential civil war. Trump is working for an anti-democratic coup to establish an authoritarian white supremacist regime. The left in America must mobilise to stop it by any means necessary.