It’s been treated as a novelty item in today’s news cycle, but we still have 12 days to endure this election season — more than enough time for something harrowing to occur, giving us President-elect Donald Trump. The odds of such a thing are slim, but in a completely unpredictable campaign, why should we expect Election Day to be predictable?
At a rally on Thursday, Trump continued to whine and poop his big-boy pants over an allegedly “rigged” process, and added this nugget:
“I’m just thinking to myself right now: we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for? Her policies are so bad!”
Most are ignoring it because it’s Trump, and Trump says a lot of loony totalitarian things. But this, coupled with his recent threats to punish journalists using his would-be presidential powers, along with his alarming announcement that he might not concede, is just a hint as to what a Trump presidency might look like. Trump thinks he’s entitled to this power, and he thinks that Hillary Clinton’s negatives are justification enough to cancel the entire election, somehow appointing Trump by fiat.
Even if he was joking, no one who’s seriously interested in being the chief executive of the United States would joke about such a thing. Even when half the nation seceded from the Union, we still held all of our required elections. Canceling elections is so phenomenally foreign to us, yet here’s Trump telling his gawking fanboys about this very thing, and they’re loving it.
In America, in 2016, normal people laugh off such possibilities. Others watching from the outside, however, who’ve lived under despotic regimes, know better. They’ve seen this before — a generalissimo strong-man suspending elections or constitutions. Here, it’s a joke. Though with Trump standing six points away from the presidency, it really ought to be taken a little more seriously here, by you and me. Right now.
But if the worst case scenario occurs on November 8, it’s entirely possible that Trump would cancel the midterms, or cancel the next presidential election, ushering him into an automatic second term. Does anyone seriously believe that Trump, with absolute executive powers and without any real constraints in place to physically remove him, would give up the White House without trying everything imaginable in order to retain power? Let’s say he’s impeached and convicted by Congress. Is there any mechanism in place to guarantee he leaves the White House? On numerous occasions, he’s pledged to stack the military with pro-Trump generals. Will they order troops to remove him? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, is this a risk we’re willing to take — a road we’re willing to contemplate?
The presidential system is perhaps one of America’s most deadly exports. For the most part, our presidents have acted in accordance with the Constitution, while constrained by the unwritten rules and traditions of the office. In other nations that’ve adopted similar systems based on our success story, presidents who refused or failed to establish our traditions have too often seized power and refused to let go. Likewise, there’s nothing to indicate that Trump gives a flying rip about traditions. In fact, it’s fair to suggest that he doesn’t really care about established laws, either. For example, the free press clause of the First Amendment.
Making matters worse, Trump’s supporters, composing at least 40 percent of American voters, would absolutely backstop his efforts. It’s difficult to imagine, but Trump said it best: he could shoot a guy in the middle of 5th Avenue and his numbers would go up. With an election victory and perhaps a few tax cuts in place, it’s conceivable that Trump would enjoy loud support, if not majority support. Once he’s spent his first term indicting and auditing anyone who makes fun of his hands, and once he’s finished investigating both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, he’ll have earned the praise and gratitude of his deranged supporters enough to follow him down the ultimate path: canceling the elections.
Hopefully, this will all remain speculative. Hopefully, we won’t be confronted with the possibility. Hopefully, Trump will be relegated to nothing more than a cautionary tale. A political boogy man. But if you’ve read this far, and if you think I’m being alarmist, ask yourself: is there anything that Trump has said or done that runs contrary to possibly making good on this alleged “joke?” Indeed, knowing what we know about Trump, suspending elections — or worse — lands squarely within his wheelhouse, and it should terrify everyone, from both parties, not to mention the rest of the world.