I posted my first “Notes on Trump” when he was first inaugurated, January 20, 2017
That had this important caveat:
“Even if I had a deep understanding of US and world politics and economics I could not hope to figure out what’s happening at the moment. We are at an important turning point in multiple processes, many of them dependent on unknowable contingencies.”
One of those unknowable contigencies turned out to be covid-19. A second has been Trump catching it.
While I got many things wrong, my central analysis has held up well for nearly four years:
“Trump’s focus is on building his own party. If he had lost the primaries he looked like running as a third party (which he tried to do decades ago). If he had won the primaries but lost the election he would still have been at war with the Republican establishment, who could reasonably be accused of having treacherously helped the Democrats to win by attacking their own candidate. Having won, without any help from most of the Republican establishment he is now in a much stronger position to actually take over their party. If he doesn’t, they will find a way to get rid of him.”
“Assuming the Democrats get their act together and stop carrying on the way they are at the moment, they should be able to mount a serious campaign to win back majorities in the House and Senate at the midterm elections. But to do so they would presumably go with Trump’s trade policies, denouncing him for having not gone far enough. After all Bernie Sanders was a serious challenger to Hilary Clinton with protectionist policies (and against open borders) and Clinton actually announced opposition to the TPP [Trans Pacific Partnership] in response. Arguably he could have defeated Trump. So the result in two years could be that the US has shifted from a two party system in which both parties support globalism to a two party system in which both parties oppose globalism. If there was a Democratic majority their obstruction could be blamed for any economic decline that set in after two years.”
In a comment to that first post, on March 25, 2017 I wrote:
“66. BTW the saga doesn’t end if Democrats get a House majority in 2018. Trump would still end up with a large party in the House of Representatives and it would be very hard for Democrats to get a majority in the Senate because most of the vacancies are for seats currently held by Democrats (and in States won by Trump). By 2020 it would not be unreasonable to expect a 3 or 4 way contest for President with splits in at least one and probably both of the current two parties. If, as seems plausible, no candidate gets an absolute majority in the Electoral College the election gets thrown to the House of Representatives. Even if Trump opponents have a large majority in both the Electoral College and the House, the House votes by State delegations in electing a President (1 vote for each State decided by the majority among Reps from that State). In 2016 Trump won in 30 states. If the Electoral College is deadlocked he only needs 26 States in 2020. I see no reason to assume that opponents would defeat his candidates for a majority of seats in the House in enough of the States that he won in 2016.”
The Democrats never did recover from their heads exploding with insane conspiracy theories about the Kremlin and contemptible pleas for the intelligence agencies to mount a coup d’etat. Trump still looked set to win until covid-19.
I was wrong about the splits. The GoP just capitulated completely to Trumpists and the Democrats “united” behind a zombie candidate from the party establishment, despised by most of their base.
But there is still a way Trump could win, and it is still about the House of Representatives voting by State delegations. Here’s today’s ABC report on it:
After the vote on November 3, the states have until December 14 to settle any disputes over the election result.
That’s when the state “electors” meet to report their results. If the result is still in dispute in any state at that time, the electoral college votes for that state aren’t allocated and the rest are counted up.
The magic number of electoral college votes is 270.
If neither candidate hits that number, the matter goes to Congress for a vote in the House of Representatives, with one vote per state.
There are 50 states, so someone needs to get to 26 votes in the House to win.
This is not really a time when holding the majority of seats in the House of Representatives matters.
The sole Congressman for Alaska — who happens to be a Republican — would get to cast one vote. The entire delegation from California — which has 45 Democrats — would also have to combine for a single vote.
Currently, there are 26 states where Republicans have more members of Congress than Democrats.
In other words, if enough electoral college votes are disputed for long enough, the President is almost certain to retain power.
I don’t know whether that scenario could actually work out, or what impact the second unknowable contigency of Trump getting covid-19 will have. But if Trump survives he will certainly have achieved his goal of being leader of a large far right party in militant opposition to a corrupt and bankrupt liberal establishment that has already capitulated to his isolationist populism and has no credible policies.
Whether he is President or not, the absence of any left makes that dangerous.