Can Trump really steal the election?
The short answer is no. But that’s not going to stop him trying.
The initial path the Trump campaign is trying to go down in terms of trying to challenging the legality of the vote and the results, is, at face value at least, a non-starter. One of Trump’s expectations in packing the Supreme Court with conservative judges was that, if push came to shove and his case ended up in the Supreme Court, they would find in his favour. His problem here is twofold. Firstly that this approach may have been more effective had the election come down to a small number of votes in one state, a la Gore vs Bush in 2000. However Trump has lost 6 or 7 critical states, and by large margins in most; all are either outside of the margin of a recount or have already been subject to a recount. This is not a close election, and Joe Biden is on course to win the popular vote by around 6 million votes, as well as the electoral college by a handsome margin.
The issue here for Trump is that there is no legal basis for his challenges. His loud claims of fraud and corruption are very, very clearly outlandish and nonsensical, and he has so far been unable to provide a shred of evidence in court or the public sphere in order to back up his claims. And the complete lack of evidence or legal basis has been very clearly noted by the judges and courts through which the arguments have so far been heard; currently his 2–33 in terms of court cases challenging various state results, and the campaign has been repeatedly criticised in court for its conduct.
This is really not much of a surprise for anyone taking notice. If you want to claim electoral fraud, then you need to provide evidence of electoral fraud. And there very, very clearly has not been any such evidence provided. But this misses the point; its is not about the legal challenges. The legal challenges are there to eat up time so that the adminstration can pursue it’s actual strategy; the grift.
Which brings us to the second, and more pertinant, reason for Trump’s actions over the last couple of weeks; the push to delegitimise the the foundations of American democracy and American society. This has essentially been the foundation if his Pesidency over the last 4 years; the never ending deluge of fake news, lies, gaslighting, firings, undermining of rules and norms, lies, trolling, lies, abuse, and did I mention lies? This strategy has been designed, specifically and purposefully, to create widespread mistrust, panic, and chaos in US society. Think Fox News on steroids (more about Fox shortly). One might argue, if one was suspicious enough, that everything Trump is doing in his Presidency is everything that Russia and Vladimir Putin would want to see happen if they had the control.
From Trump’s perspective, the grift is everything. Immediately after the election on November 4th, the Trump campaign, his campaign launched an agressive email fundraising campaign for the ‘fight electoral fraud’ campaign, to the point of directly guilting potential donors for not donating. Very prominently within the mail was the text informing donors that 50% of the donation would go to the Trump campaign’s electoral debt. There was no attempt to even diguise this, it was hidden in plain sight.
This plays into the actual long term goal of this celebrity obsessed former reality TV host; his own media network. It’s why he got into the Presidential race, which he never expected to win, in the first place. The stakes are now higher, and it’s also about control of the Republican party now (rumours are abound about which of the Trump family will run in 2024, of Trump Jnr running for GOP chair, and of his daughter-in-law Lara Trump running for the North Carolina Senate seat in 2022. There’s still no word on Baron’s political intentions….), but it still boils down to the desire for a media empire. You can see Trump and his allies creating a space for this empire at the moment, by turning against Fox News and painting them as insufficiently loyal or conservative.
These two aspects go hand in hand; the creation of an ultra right wing media empire will help cement the Trumpification of the GOP, and vice-versa. There is a split within the Republican Party coming, from which there can only really be one winner, and it’s not going to be the more moderate Romney/Murkowoski wing of the party.
Which leads us back to the real reason Trump is refusing to concede; the longer he draws this out and the more mistrust and suspicion he can sow regarding the electoral and political system amongst his conspiratorial supporters, the greater the space he can create for his media empire. It’s a relatively rational move in all honesty; it’s very much in the Trump family’s personal interest to do as he is doing.
The problem lies with the fact that Trump’s personal interests are not the same thing as the interests of either the Republican Party or the United States, and he is actually doing an incredible amount of damage to both with his actions. And this is reflected in the lack of support Trump is receiving from elected Republican officials across states where he is trying to contest results, or from establishment Republicans. They understand the consequences of the President behaving like a pound shop dictator. And an interesting sidebar to everything that is going on will be how Trump’s behaviour affects the two looming Senate races in Georgia, the results of which could help define the Biden Presidency.
Once you boil everything down, the fact is that Joe Biden won the election handily and will assume office on January 20th. But Trump will not go quietly into the night. He will rage, rage, rage against the dying of his Presidency. Likely on a golf course…