During our most recent Power Line show for subscribers (an edited version which you can listen to here), John asked Steve about the possibility that, given the deep divisions in the U.S., the country might one day split peacefully into two. Steve suggested that if President Trump is reelected, many on the left will probably wish to secede.
This prompted me to ask, what about on the right, if Trump loses. Steve responded that the right will accept a Trump defeat because we are constitutional conservatives.
Maybe I should have asked the question a little bit differently: What about Trump, if he loses? Will he accept the result of the election, in that event?
The answer, I think, is probably not. Trump didn’t even accept the fact that he lost the popular vote in 2016. He alleged that voter fraud accounted for his deficit of nearly three million votes. Trump had previously declined to say he would accept the result of that election, if he lost.
Given his past behavior and the problems with holding an election during a pandemic (or, if we’re lucky, its immediate aftermath), there’s a good chance that Trump won’t accept the result of November’s balloting if he loses. This doesn’t mean he will refuse to vacate the White House, in that event. It means he likely will insist that he won and that Joe Biden’s victory is illegitimate.
It also means that Trump’s core supporters won’t accept Biden’s election, either. Genuine “constitutional conservatives” will accept it, I assume, but a large segment of the right probably will not.
In a postscript to the edited version of our Power Line show, Steve discussed the Democrats’ history of not accepting the legitimacy of Republican victories in presidential elections and/or the legitimacy of Republican presidencies themselves. In the case of President Trump, many Democrats called for “resistance” and some have, in effect, resisted.
Republicans don’t have the same history. However, birthers like Donald Trump never fully accepted the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency and, as discussed above, many Republicans are unlikely to accept the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s (if things come to that).
In a portion of our Power Line show that was edited out, I looked beyond the 2020 election and asked about how conservatives would react in two scenarios. First, what if Democrats gain control of Senate, abolish the filibuster, and grant citizenship and the right to vote to 15 million illegal immigrants, thereby making it nearly impossible for conservative candidates to prevail in national elections and in most congressional ones? Second, what if Democrats impose radical gun control measures, including confiscation — a real possibility if, as many Democrats contemplate doing, they pack the Supreme Court?
In either scenario, I suspect that many conservatives will resist in one serious form or another.