Imagine that, after a narrow Joe Biden victory in November’s election, Donald Trump refuses to concede defeat — citing, among other things, alleged voter fraud in mail-in ballots. Imagine that this goes on for months, right up until Inauguration Day in January. Imagine huge protests in the streets on both sides, massive unrest that the police are unable or unwilling to contain. Imagine that some armed pro-Trump supporters, furious with what they see as a coup attempt, take matters into their own hands.Those were the same answers Full Frontal with Samantha Bee got when correspondent Allana Harkin asked Election Night Simulation: What Happens In A Contested Election?
This may sound far-fetched. But in June, an organization called the Transition Integrity Project (TIP) convened a group of more than 100 bipartisan experts to simulate what might happen the day after Election Day — running a kind of political “war game” where veteran Democrats role-played as the Biden campaign and veteran Republicans acted as the Trump team.
They simulated four scenarios: a big Biden victory, a narrow Biden win, an indeterminate result à la the 2000 election, and a narrow Trump victory. In every scenario but a massive Biden blowout, things went south.
“We anticipate lawsuits, divergent media narratives, attempts to stop the counting of ballots, and protests drawing people from both sides,” TIP writes in a post-exercise report summarizing their findings. “The potential for violent conflict is high, particularly since Trump encourages his supporters to take up arms.”
What happens when Trump loses the 2020 election but refuses to leave office? Allana Harkin sits down with a number of experts to run through all of the possible scenarios we could expect out of a contested 2020 election. It’s the worst Choose Your Own Adventure you’ll ever play! #ExpectTheWorst2020Yikes! At least Rosa Brooks, co-founder of the Transition Integrity Project, had good advice on how to deal with the possibilities.
This piece was produced by Mike Rubens with Ishan Thakore and edited by Anthony Mascorro.
That was a comedic take on the subject. For a serious one, watch WGBH's video, What If Trump Refuses To Concede A Loss In November?
In June, a bi-partisan group calling itself the Transition Integrity Project ran a simulation of different ways things might play out if President Trump loses in November and refuses to concede, as he has hinted at in the past. In the end, not a single scenario in the game ended well. To discuss, Jim Braude was joined by two Transition Integrity Project members: Trey Grayson, former Kentucky secretary of state and director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government; and David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, now a senior editor at The Atlantic and author of two books on how Trump has undermined American democracy.The possible tactics Trey Grayson and David Frum describe are even more grim than the responses Harkin got from Brooks in the first video, but at least Frum has a "forewarned is forearmed" attitude about the possible outcomes. I hope Biden's campaign and the rest of the Democratic Party heed Grayson's warning not to rely on the law and conventional thinking, because the Trump campaign and the Republican Party won't. As the saying goes, "don't bring a knife to a gunfight."
That's the advice for the elites. I'll quote Nils Gilman, one of the co-founders of the Transition Integrity Project interviewed by Vox, for what my readers should do.
Let’s start with what ordinary people can do. I think the first thing everybody can do is you can call your senator, your member of Congress, your state legislator, your governor, and insist on a couple of basic democratic principles, which really ought to be totally noncontroversial and nonpartisan: Everybody who wants to vote should be able to, and everybody who’s voting should have their vote counted properly.I plan on taking that advice and I hope my readers do, too. After all that has happened this year, I think we should have learned to "expect the worst." We can at least be prepared for it.
The second thing we need is for people to be prepared to take to the streets in nonviolent protest if that doesn’t happen. I want to emphasize nonviolent.
We’ve learned over the last couple of months, since the Movement for Black Lives protest really took off again in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, that taking to the streets and showing commitment to a democratic process beyond just the ballot box is a really important part of driving change. We’ve also learned that there are violent elements, both on the left and agent provocateurs on the right. Both of those things, in fact, manifested themselves in the protests that we’ve seen over the last few months.
I think if people are going to take to the streets, which they may need to do in order to insist that our democracy be maintained, then they need to be prepared to be very disciplined about insisting that it be nonviolent.
That’s what ordinary citizens can do.