If Trump is elected, it very likely won’t be with a majority of the popular vote. Imagine the scenario: Trump has won the Electoral College with 46 percent of the vote because third-party candidates funded by Republican donors successfully splintered the anti-Trump coalition. Having failed to win the popular vote in each of the past three elections, Trump has become president for the second time. On that thin basis, his supporters would try to execute his schemes of personal impunity and political vengeance.
In this scenario, Trump opponents would have to face a harsh reality: The U.S. electoral system has privileged a strategically located minority, led by a lawbreaking president, over the democratic majority. One side outvoted the other. The outvoted nonetheless won the power to govern.
The outvoted would happily justify the twist of events in their favor. “We are a republic, not a democracy,” many said in 2016. Since that time, the outvoted have become more outspoken against democracy. As Senator Mike Lee tweeted a month before the 2020 election: “Democracy isn’t the objective.”
So long as minority rule seems an occasional or accidental result, the majority might go along. But once aware that the minority intends to engineer its power to last forever—and to use it to subvert the larger legal and constitutional system—the majority may cease to be so accepting. One outcome of a second Trump term may be an American version of the massive demonstrations that filled Tel Aviv streets in 2023, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to remake Israel’s court system.
And what might follow that? In 2020, Trump’s advisers speculated about the possibility of using the Army to crush protests against Trump’s plans to overturn that year’s election. Now those in Trump’s circle are apparently thinking further ahead. Some reportedly want to prepare in advance to use the Insurrection Act to convert the military into a tool of Trump’s authoritarian project. It’s an astonishing possibility. But Trump is thinking about it, so everybody else must—including the senior command of the U.S. military.
If a president can summon an investigation of his opponents, or summon the military to put down protests, then suddenly our society would no longer be free. There would be no more law, only legalized persecution of political opponents. It has always been Trump’s supreme political wish to wield both the law and institutional violence as personal weapons of power—a wish that many in his party now seem determined to help him achieve. [Continue reading…]