Although Joe Biden has been declared president-elect of the United States of America multiple times over the past few weeks, Donald Trump and his administration still continue to contest the results of the election. To be clear, there is no evidence whatsoever that any wide-spread voter fraud took place, with the Department of Homeland Security issuing a statement that this was perhaps “the most secure election in US history.” However, that doesn’t prevent a large portion of the US from insisting that Donald Trump is the rightful president. That said, is there really any way for Trump to still be sworn in? And if so, how likely is that possibility?
As of right now, swing states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan are ratifying their results, and getting ready to send their electors to the electoral college. Trump has fought this effort at every turn, throwing the entire weight of his influence and legal team at these states in hopes of disrupting the process, but so far to little avail. Every legal challenge thrown at the states so far has been immediately dismissed by the courts due to an overwhelming lack of any real evidence of voter fraud. But even if Trump was winning recounts and legal battles, Biden’s lead is so large that the amount of votes that would have to be overturned to affect the result is insurmountable. So, what is Trump’s goal? What is the point of all this? His objective it seems is not to overturn votes so much as it is to create chaos and uncertainty to cast sufficient doubt on the election proceedings in order to send it to the state legislatures. There is a provision in American law that would enable Republican-controlled state legislatures to overturn election results in their state if there is no definitive choice made by the time the electoral college votes. However, since many key states have already ratified their results, there no longer seems to be much of a path to victory for Trump through this channel.
After failing to overturn the results in individual states, Trump will no doubt attempt to affect things at a national level. Although there is speculation about possible ways to send the decision to the house of representatives, it is highly unlikely that this could be accomplished without significant legal uncertainty surrounding the decision of the electoral college. However, if the decision did somehow get to the house of representatives, that could bode poorly. Since each state would get a vote instead of each representative, the vote would lean very far to the right. This is currently the only remotely legal path to victory for Donald Trump, and an extremely unlikely one at that.
The very last option for Trump, discussed more as an intangible fear than a real alternative, is a coup. This would involve Trump rallying his support with the heavily armed militias across the country to take the government by force. This would no doubt spark widespread panic and plunge the nation into civil war, but would depend largely on the military’s response. If they act quickly to shut down any insurgencies and remove Trump from power, then little harm will come of it. But if for some reason they continue to heed Trump as the commander-in-chief, then democracy in the United States will have come to an end. Altogether, this is an extremely unlikely scenario and should be taken with a grain of salt.
To conclude, Trump is running out of options to overturn the election as doors continue to close for him. But even if he does manage to cast enough doubt upon the results of the election that a president is not named in time, his term ends on January 20th regardless of what he does. And as Joe Biden recently said, “…the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.” Be that as it may, Trump’s inability to accept the results of the election could have real and disastrous effects on the smooth transition of power. This could hinder Biden’s ability to hit the ground running, and cost the president-elect valuable time and money. Taking the state of the pandemic in America into consideration, Donald Trump’s petulance will ultimately end up costing many American citizens their lives.