We have another election season behind us. Well, not quite – it seems that somehow, Schrodinger’s ballots have yet to fully collapse into the ordained Democratic victory in Georgia and Florida, so we must consult the priests on the correct way to count them.
Why do we bother with this charade every two years, when it has become abundantly clear that the US election system inspires less confidence than Iraq (purple fingers do seem to have prevented any significant level of multi-voting), let alone Mexico (land of universal voter ID)? Elections officials admit on camera to straightforward schemes, easily preventable by trivial measures, and blatant ballot stuffing is routine. The principle here is that if you intentionally set things up to be untrustworthy, there is a reason for doing so. Despite the fact that Democrats love tiny giveaways to their constituency, there is no push for universal free IDs as there is by the left in India. That gives away the game.
Elections exist an an alternative to warfare. Instead of actual, physical factional battles, you line up everyone, those on the wrong end of the match-up gracefully concede with no casualties. “It’s a hell of a lot better than a war“, especially when you’re so likely to be weakened by a roughly 50-50 internal struggle you succumb to outside forces (too many examples to link here).
But that only works if there is a rough correspondence between the simulation and reality, and if the consequences of losing the game are significantly less severe than losing an actual conflict. If either condition fails severely enough, there is no longer any incentive to avoid the fight in favor of the game.
So, to answer the question – why does the charade continue? Simply – because no one is willing to go to the mattresses over a midterm election with a minor effect on substantive outcomes. The GOP will have maybe 52, maybe 53 seats in the Senate, when all is said and done, lost the House, and conceded a handful of legislatures and governorships. Defeated politicians in the US typically do OK. One can count on one hand the corruption prosecutions initiated after the target has left the building. Less legislation will get passed. Fine – both sides would rather Trump be on the hook for whatever changes happen.
So the GOP establishment has had little incentive to push the envelope, so far, as long as they get paid and left shenanigans only rise to a level easily obscured by the media.
The direction here is clear though. 2020 will be a shitshow. Trump must go, as far as the left is concerned; both the left and the right are undergoing a centrifugal process that is purging moderates in favor of politicians capable of playing to their base. The incoming House has promised to use their subpoena power (such as it is; Eric Holder made abundantly clear how limited that power is in practice) to dig up whatever embarrassments they can; pass purposeless bills (healthcare! guns! immigrants! global warming! etc.) destined to die ignominiously in the Senate after much competition to see who can screech for them the loudest; and plausibly impeach Trump (only for their voters to realize that is not a synonym for “remove”). The point is to display the loot and ethos of simian dominance that could rain on their constituency if only they get rid of the orange man in 2020. Conversely the right is happy to point at the loons and warn darkly about what will happen if they ever achieve power again; please donate now to stop Nancy Pelosi.
Under such circumstances, does anyone really believe the left would be able to stop their lower echelons from rigging the game for maximum effect, even if they wanted to? And if all intra-left competition is centered around who can promise the greatest vengeance as soon as they achieve power, where does this leave us in 2020?
Trump flirted with the idea of contending the 2016 election, depending on circumstances, and made noises about the midterms and the resulting Democratic House of Representatives lacking “legitimacy” (whatever that means). This is smart – any businessman will tell you to never foreclose the option to rip up the contract and take it to court. GOP legislators seem to be wising up to the game here, or at least testing the waters and waiting for someone to make the first move. Anecdotally, the idea that the left in power is physically dangerous to anyone who has worked in a GOP office, donated to their campaigns, or even is of their demographic constituency, is gaining currency.
The term “constitutional crisis” is wildly overused, usually to mean “Drumpf did something I didn’t like”, but it does exist. There is no provision in the US for annulling an election, on any level as far as I can tell. “Safety valves” exist in certain bodies, for instance the ability of most legislatures to refuse to seat particular members, or the role of the Electoral College in the presidency. But there is no way to trigger a re-vote in the case of a contended fraud, or a natural or man-made disaster with a clear effect on the outcome, and breaking the glass on the override mechanism is approximately as unprecedented as bypassing the machinery altogether.
Trump has, in 2020, the ability to initiate a constitutional crisis at will. His main political skill in power has been the ability to exploit his freedom of action to completely dominate the left’s OODA loop – it is simply impossible to win more than a half news cycle against the man before he switches the conversation to more advantageous territory. If the left uses the next two years to indicate the consequences of losing an election are just as bad as the consequences of losing a war, the only question for Trump in 2020 is – how likely is he to win the latter?