The Coming Failed Biden Presidency

Back during the GOP primary process for the 2016 elections, there was widespread speculation that, in the unlikely event that Trump ever won both the primary and the November election, he would get nowhere while in office. This is because so much of what he wanted flew in the face of the established positions of both parties at the time. Instead, the rest of the GOP fell in line, and surprisingly easily.

At that point, speculation (including on this site) was made of events that might prompt the GOP to abandon Trump in a tipping-point scenario. As time passed, various triggers for such a scenario were put forth. The tipping point never happened.

The current presumed tipping point involves growing acknowledgment of the fact that Trump lost the 2020 election. While there have been more defectors than usual in this iteration, the vast majority of the Fascist Party is still squarely behind Trump and his insistence that he has not lost the election (at least not yet).

Jennifer Rubin is correct: at this stage, the most plausible time line going forward involves the Fascists continuing to, by and large, line up squarely behind their führer. Given that, what is such a future likely to be like?

A brief digression: In general, runoffs in Georgia have been won by the candidate with a plurality. In both Senate runoffs, a Fascist has the plurality. Therefore the most likely outcome is that Fascists will win both seats. So Moscow Mitch will remain Senate majority leader.

What does this mean? Maximum obstruction. Biden will not be allowed to so much as choose non-Trumpist cabinet officials if he wants to get them through the Senate confirmation process. Also forget about passing any legislation that deviates much from Trumpist desires. His will be a do-nothing caretaker administration.

An effective campaigner might be able take two years of such unreasonable obstruction in the Senate and use the resulting negative partisanship to engineer a highly unusual midterm election that results in the party controlling the White House walking away with more power. There is nothing to suggest that this outcome is likely. All available evidence suggests that Biden is a doddering old fool who firmly believes that he can re-create a vanished era of bipartisanship by the sheer force of his own will. He will be unwilling to engage in the sort of bare-knuckled rhetoric needed to delegitimize the opposition’s tactics and motivate support in the midterms.

What Biden does will be accomplished via executive order. Much of what Trump did was accomplished via executive order, so Biden can (and will) take a chain saw to those Trump-era orders. However, keep in mind the previous paragraph: Biden won’t be allowed to appoint a cabinet of his choosing. Instead, he will be compelled to do what Trump did and appoint a series of acting officials. The absence of the ability to get any legislation of consequence through Congress will also compel Biden to innovate and push the envelope on the boundaries of executive power, much like Trump did.

The most important thing we need to do in the post-Trump era is to scale back the power of the imperial presidency. Instead, we are going to get the Trumpist notion of an increasingly powerful imperial presidency cemented into place by bipartisan precedent.

Such executive power won’t be enough to save the Biden Administration. The Fascist party, unlike the Democrats, believes strongly in its principles (primarily führerprinzip, the alleged virtue of following a strong leader of their own), and are willing to fight hard for what they believe in. Instead of only timidly and reluctantly opposing the chief executive, the GOP-led Senate will vigorously oppose him. This opposition will work, and Biden will be a failed president.

The most likely outcome in 2024 will therefore be a victory for the Fascist Party, inheriting a stronger imperial presidency than ever. Even if the Fascist victory does not come in 2024, it will come no later than 2032. No party has held the White House for longer than twelve years in the post-World War II era.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

The Defense Department Firings Are Frightening

This is because the sacked individuals are traditionalists who despise the notion that the military has an active role to play in domestic politics. The recently fired Mark Esper took offense when Trump ordered the military to repress protesters.

I was going to say that Trump is planning ahead, sees unrest growing as he presses onward to remain in power despite losing the election, and is attempting to create a more compliant military in advance. However, that is giving Trump way too much credit: he is a childish sociopath who cannot plan ahead.

Instead, he has probably already asked the military to do something grossly inappropriate in the past few days, and received a firm “no” in response. That’s right: Trump has already attempted to literally stage a coup d’etat. It failed, of course, because such a thing runs counter to both the law and to over two centuries of military culture. Any reasonably intelligent person could have foreseen that, but Trump is too consumed by his elephantine ego to act reasonably or intelligently. So here we are.

The sackings of top officials in the Department of Defense won’t accomplish what Trump desires, either. He may end up with compliant appointees on top, but the generals below them will still balk.

The result won’t be as bad as a full-blown fascist coup d’etat, but it will be bad enough. The result will basically be chaos: some more pro-fascist generals will comply, but most generals will be traditionalists and resist. The pro-fascist media will then portray the resisting generals as rebelling against Trump and attempting a pro-Biden coup d’etat. Then when Biden takes office as a result of winning the election it will be portrayed as Biden being installed by a leftist coup.

The result will be a country more bitterly divided than ever, with the fascist side more certain than ever that tactics like military coups d’etat are legitimate.

Will the Fascists Get Their Coup?

I am of course using “coup” very loosely here; they are not planning to have the military impose its will by force. Most of the top brass is highly averse to the idea and moreover harbors personal animosity towards Donald Trump. When personal desire aligns with institutional policy against an idea, that idea has no chance whatsoever.

So this leaves a metaphorical coup and not a literal one. Interestingly, Hitler did not take power via a literal coup, either. He was voted into the chancellorship by the proper constitutional process, then used existing provisions for declaring a state of emergency to make himself dictator. Likewise, a legal coup is the most likely route here.

A coup via the courts is unlikely to succeed, for reasons already elaborated on.

That leaves a coup via the state legislatures, which per the Constitution have the power to appoint electors. In all states, they have chosen to use this power to pass legislation requiring electors to be chosen by popular vote. So changing this will require the Fascist Party (a more accurate name than Republican Party, so I will use it for the remainder of this article) to pass legislation repealing or nullifying the existing provision for choosing electors.

This will require a Fascist majority in both houses of the state legislature, and a Fascist governor. The only states Biden won that satisfy this requirement are Georgia and Arizona. If both of them successfully appoint slates of Fascist electors, Biden’s electoral vote total drops from 306 to 279. He still has enough votes to become president.

At that point, the Fascist-controlled legislature in Pennsylvania might by vote proclaim 20 Fascists to be Pennsylvania’s electors. Note I said “proclaim” and not “pass a bill.” The governor of Pennsylvania is a Democrat, so any such bill that ends up on his desk will get vetoed. Instead, both houses of the legislature must pass proclamation, then the Fascists will go to the Federal courts and argue that their electors are the real ones, because they were chosen by the legislature, as the Constitution literally says.

To which I say: good luck with that. Again, the courts are unlikely to rule the way the Fascists want. There is extensive precedent, going up to the Supreme Court, backing up the legislation that states have passed requiring their electors to vote the way popular majority in their state (or, in the case of two states, their Congressional district) voted. This is how electors have been chosen since the turn of the nineteenth century, i.e. for over 200 years. Its legality is a settled matter.

The Fascists’ hand is not strong enough — yet — to force a coup. Their goal is not to stage a coup now, but to pave the way for the next Fascist president (and there will be one, in 4 to 12 years) to stage a coup later. It is to delegitimize elections in the eyes of their base. And it is working.

The Fascists will eventually get their coup, and those of us who oppose fascism need to use the intervening years until they get it to plan how to resist it. But they will not get their coup this time.

Looking Rather Better, but Not Really

It’s clear that Biden has won, and it’s probably not going to be a squeaker in the electoral college, either. In fact, many pundits are speculating that it already would have been called, were it not for the particular circumstances of this election.

At any rate, it’s simply a matter of time, and it is certain to get called sooner than the 2000 presidential election was. That was the famous Bush/Gore tie, which was not called until mid-December.

Unfortunately, the rest of what I wrote remains. Trumpist fascism has not been repudiated, but has instead proven itself to be an astoundingly popular and successful ideology. While it is a minority opinion, it is the opinion of a large minority, one that is exploiting faults in our antiquated constitution to give it disproportionate power. The majority is, by and large, too weak and timid to challenge this state of affairs; American liberalism is approximately as rotten an institution as the overall society it resides in.

The American empire seems well into the process that caused the Roman one to decay, and because the pace of history moves faster these days, our decay will transpire in a matter of decades rather than centuries.

It REALLY Does Not Look Good

At this stage, odds probably favor Trump winning a second term.

They are just odds, and not certain, however. Biden should definitely not concede! There are lots of mail-in votes to be counted. Long odds are not zero odds.

The trouble is, even if Biden wins, America very much still loses. A Trumpism that almost wins despite a badly mismanaged pandemic is an amazingly successful and resilient platform. It is a very different thing from a Trumpism that loses resoundingly, which would have prompted a recalculation.

What was the most likely problem? I think it was the tactic of making this a referendum on Trump. The opposition in Italy tried to make elections a referendum on Berlusconi. They failed. The opposition in Venezuela tried to make elections a referendum on Chávez. They failed. I was worried about this tactic early on, then let those worries go, prompted by the siren song of negative partisanship (which always made a great deal of sense to me).

It turns out that lessons learned from bitter experience with actual campaigns against actual authoritarian populists were more relevant than academic theories.

So, No Biden Landslide

If there were going to be a Biden landslide, he would be handily winning all swing states. Instead, he’s just about lost Florida (and probably will).

Overall, I do not have a very good feeling about this. Things are starting to feel eerily similar to 2016.

One note of hope is that Biden seems to be doing much better than expected in Ohio, to the point that he might actually win it. It would be bizarre to have Trump win Florida but lose Ohio, but sometimes bizarre things do happen. It would mean that the white working class is probably not the lost cause for the Democrats that many pundits seem to think it is.

Note that if Biden wins Ohio, it is probably game over for Trump. It, like Florida, is one of many states that Biden (but not Trump) can afford to lose. The path is simply much narrower for Trump; it is why he was given a 10% chance and Biden a 90% chance.

Moreover, Ohio has cultural similarities to other Rust Belt states that also broke for Trump last time. If Ohio, statistically one of the reddest Rust Belt states, goes to Biden, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin also probably go to Biden. The blue wall returns, and Biden wins.

It might just be a problem particular to assessing the Latino vote in Florida (and Florida Latinos are quite different from Latinos in other states). Let’s hope so.