Expert Opinion: Professor Lawrence Douglas Wrote The Book:; Will He Leave? Trump and the looming 2020 election crisis .
NEW YORK – First Tuesday after first Monday in November, every four years, US Constitution – an important day for Americans, presidential election day. They sit in front of televisions late, watching the counting of votes in different states. TV channels compete to see who will be the first to announce the winner. But this time, the winner will most likely not be immediately known. – because of the pandemic, tens of millions of Americans will vote by mail. Counting the sent newsletters can take many days, weeks or even months..
President Trump is extremely critical of this prospect and insists that the winner of the election should be announced on the same evening, November 3rd. He has already stated many times that all the ballots sent by mail cannot be counted correctly, and in one of his tweets he even suggested postponing the election date. – which has never happened in the history of the United States:
«Universal vote by mail – and I’m not talking about absentee voting, it’s something good – in 2020 will be the most inaccurate and deceitful in the history of elections. It will be a big shame for the United States. Postpone elections until people can vote correctly, reliably and safely???»
If, following Trump, a significant number of voters do not recognize the election results – a crisis of power may occur in the country. We spoke with Amherst College Law Professor Lawrence Douglas, who wrote the book: «Will he leave? Trump and the looming 2020 election crisis».
Victoria Kupchinetskaya: Professor Douglas, why did you decide to write a book that President Trump may not admit his election defeat??
Lawrence Douglas: The first time this thought came to my mind was in the 2016 elections, during the last debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If you remember, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would admit to defeat in the election if he lost. And Trump then replied: «I won’t tell you anything yet, let it be intrigue». And then I still thought: «It’s very dangerous when a candidate from one of the main parties says this. And if the already elected president adheres to the same position before the elections?» From that moment on, I began to think about a book on this topic..
Victoria Kupchinetskaya: What can we expect from the November elections?
Lawrence Douglas: the main thing – this is what we may not know by the evening of November 3, who was elected president. Usually on this day we watch TV late, we wait for the results, we are full of delight or despair. But this year, millions of Americans will vote by mail – and we will not find out the election results on the same day. Americans must be prepared for this. And the media should prepare the Americans for this. You need to understand that this is just a distinguishing feature of these elections. – not evidence that they go wrong. It worries me greatly that Trump wants to convince his supporters that the mail-order vote – it is an anomaly that there will be corruption and deception in the elections, and that they, his supporters, should not accept the election results.
Victoria Kupchinetskaya: How can we prepare for this??
Lawrence Douglas: Much depends on the media. Usually on November 3, TV channels directly compete with each other, who will be the first to announce the winner. And now they would have to announce: most likely, we will not know. And this is normal in the context of elections in which voters vote by mail in very unusual conditions..
Victoria Kupchinetskaya: In your book, you provide various scenarios for what might go wrong in an election. – tell about them.
Lawrence Douglas: I don’t do this because I like to imagine disasters. I just think it’s very important to be prepared for such things. Here’s one scenario: By the end of the day on November 3rd, Trump is leading the faltering states. Leading because the ballots sent by mail have not yet been counted. It takes weeks to count them all. And when they are finally counted – it turns out that Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, won in those states. Trump will say: I won on November 3rd, and by mail – this is all a false vote. And Biden will say: no, he wants to steal my victory, which is based on the ballots sent by mail. All this can cause unrest in the country..
Victoria Kupchinetskaya: The question of foreign interference in the American elections will probably arise more than once, and this time President Trump will most likely blame China, not Russia, because it is China that Trump considers America’s main adversary. Do you think – it will be real interference or politicized accusations?
Lawrence Douglas: Russia does not have a monopoly on foreign election interference. There are many compelling reasons for China to seek to influence our elections. And some other countries too – for example, Iran. And this is also a potentially toxic situation, because it is difficult to separate accusations of interference from actual interference. It is not even necessary to penetrate our electoral matrix. All you have to do is pay social media to inflate conspiracy theories and accusations. Many would like to see chaos in the US after the November 3 elections.
Victoria Kupchinetskaya: There is a chapter in your book: «The system cannot defend itself». Can the U.S. Constitution prevent the usurpation of power in America??
Lawrence Douglas: I’m not really worried about the usurpation of power or the coup. My fears lie elsewhere. If election results are inconsistent, our system of federal and constitutional laws is not very ready to resolve this conflict. In many ways, she simply relies on the good intentions of the candidates. You can remember the 2000 elections, when Al Gore and George W. Bush were running. Al Gore resolved the electoral dispute the day after the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Bush, refusing to continue the fight. Moreover, the Democratic Party and its in-house lawyers tried to persuade Gore to continue the fight. It seems to me that our system assumes that candidates themselves follow the norms of constitutional law and are ready to respect the system more than personal political interests. But this is not always the case in real life..
Victoria Kupchinetskaya: You predict that the elections can be long and difficult. Should we expect a crisis, outbreaks of violence, economic collapse?
Lawrence Douglas: I hope no! But I guess there might be some chaos. Because of the pressure that will be put on the Election Commission staff to sort these tens of millions of mailed ballots. The system will be overloaded. This will lead to a lot of lawsuits. Because each state has its own rules for when these ballots must arrive at the headquarters of the Electoral Commission in a particular state. We have a very good example – local elections in New York, counting of ballots sent by mail, which has now been going on for many weeks. It’s the same in Georgia, in Wisconsin. There are many different problems with voting during a pandemic. And we can only hope that the counting of votes after November 3rd will not come to a standstill and lead to the collapse of the system..
Television journalist, staff correspondent for Voice of America since 2009. She worked in Washington, DC, covering the presidential elections, legislative process and socio-political movements in the United States. After moving to New York, she covered the work of the UN and city government institutions. Victoria works on special television projects that reflect the life of unusual American communities.