The chattering caste of Washington DC has spent much of the summer obsessed with the idea that Donald Trump will refuse to leave office if he loses in November, as Cockburn has already noted.
This perennial topic was silly enough when it was restricted to Nancy Pelosi making awkward assertions on cable television. But in the last two weeks, like QAnon, the fantasy has become substantially more elaborate, and less healthy. Numerous outlets, led by the Boston Globe, have showered attention on an endeavor calling itself the ‘Transition Integrity Project.’ The project brought together…well, not exactly big names in American politics, but certainly many people who would like to think they are big names: former Scott Walker aide Liz Mair, ex-Bush speechwriter David Frum, former DNC chair Donna Brazile, and so forth. Once assembled, these sort-of-distinguished personages played out simulations (‘games’) of four possible 2020 election outcomes: a large Biden win, a narrow Biden win, a narrow Trump win (while losing the popular vote), and an election with no real clear winner at all.
The headlines, and the Transition Integrity Project, all emphasized that the simulations showed the threat posed to democracy by the Apricot Adolf.
‘We…assess that President Trump is likely to contest the result by both legal and extra-legal means, in an attempt to hold onto power,’ the project’s final report says.
But Cockburn has a quibble. Though labeled ‘bipartisan’, the simulation seems to be entirely the work of Democrats alongside anti-Trump Republicans. Nobody actually allied with the President appears to have played a role in the simulations. Cockburn isn’t always the smartest but, saying that President Trump is ‘likely’ to contest an election result, simply because his enemies think he wants to, doesn’t strike him as very newsworthy.
Far more interesting, and totally unnoticed, is the behavior of former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Podesta also took part in the simulations, and unlike the anti-Trump Republicans, he wasn’t pretending to be someone he hates. Instead, organizers did the sensible thing: they had an anti-Trump Democrat portray an anti-Trump Democrat. Because the simulation designers apparently wanted to torment him as much as possible, Podesta had to endure an exact 2016 repeat: he played Joe Biden in a simulation where Trump loses the popular vote but wins a close but convincing victory in the Electoral College.