Americans choose. To date, more than 80 million have cast a vote. And the world is excited to find out who will win the 2020 US election.
And there is a good reason for this fear.
Research by Pew has shown that more Americans will experience “very severe” partisan conflicts this year compared to the last two elections.
Regularly add headlines to the mix saying a president either casts doubt on the electoral process or refuses to accept the result.
But there will be some kind of result, that’s for sure. But what exactly happens next is up in the air.
Let’s go over the three scenarios that could happen on election day and what would happen in the days after.
1. Donald Trump wins
If you remember what happened in the days and weeks after Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, a lot of it will look the same.
There will be a lot of disbelief that Donald Trump once again defied the polls.
The Transition Integrity Project assembled a group of more than 100 current and former US government and campaign leaders to simulate the possible scenarios of the 2020 election.
Think of it like a game of dungeons and dragons, but with much higher stakes.
In the event of a Trump victory, the project expected widespread protests in the US with “widespread threats of violence and sporadic actual violence”.
There were also many protests on the night of the 2016 elections.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden said he would accept the election results if he lost, and he would urge his supporters not to get involved in civil unrest.
Lawrence Douglas is Professor of Law at Amherst College and the author of Will He Go? Trump and the upcoming election campaign in 2020.
He said that if Trump won, he could envision Joe Biden sticking to that promise.
And staying loyal to 2016 and not having to worry about a transition, the president will likely take another “thank you” tour of states himself that helped secure a second term.
And when it comes to arranging the return, expect the president to return to exactly what made him a television star – firing people.
The Washington Post reports that Trump and his advisors have spoken “repeatedly” about the firing of FBI Director Chris Wray and that the current Attorney General William Barr may also be in the line of fire.
Revenue at the start of a second term isn’t entirely uncommon, but given the Trump administration is burning employees, there could be many looking for new jobs once the president is relieved of the need to seek a second term.
2. A clear win from Joe Biden
A Biden victory means a new resident for the White House. This means that we are officially in a “Lame Duck” session and the change of power begins.
Well, the transition would continue as Joe Biden’s campaign team already has access to Washington DC offices to begin transition work and funding to process security clearance.
And despite the bitter elections, U.S. media reported that the early work between the Biden transition team and the Trump administration was actually going smoothly.
Of course, the moment Joe Biden wins, the battle for positions in his administration intensifies (it’s already going on behind the scenes). Former Democratic rivals Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren are reportedly in the mix of roles.
As well as two women Biden considers his runmate – Tammy Duckworth and Susan Rice. Biden is also reportedly considering several Republicans filling positions to get across the gang.
But all of that would depend on the current White House resident being ready to leave if he loses.
And that’s something Trump has repeatedly failed to say he would.
In its simulations of a Biden victory, the Transition Integrity Project had a laundry list of things a Trump administration could keep track of, including:
- Alleged fraud and solicitation to investigate the election result
- Prepare pardons for the President’s team
- Take advantage of the Lame Duck session to maximize federal funding for Trump real estate
- Working to hinder the transition process
“The Trump campaign initially denied the result of the vote,” the project said of its simulations of this result.
The project also found that Trump could get to work immediately to prepare himself or his son Don Jr. for a shot for the Republican nomination in 2024 and start a “MAGA TV” channel.
Douglas said that while Trump may never “accept” the outcome of a clear democratic victory, an outcome in which Biden wins 300 or more electoral college votes could mean Trump “submit” to a loss.
“I make a distinction between submitting to defeat, which is only acknowledging that there is no further fight, and defeating, which is acknowledging that you were right to lose,” said Douglas.
3. A close win for a or a contested election
Welcome to the “worst” result, says Douglas.
In simulations by the Transition Integrity Project, a close Biden win still sparked mass Democratic action on the streets and calls for the Trump campaign to stir up chaos by urging local police forces to crack down.
In that simulation, interventions by Republicans like Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell, as well as the joint chiefs of staff, ultimately resulted in Biden being recognized as president and the Secret Service announcing that it would physically remove Trump from office if necessary.
It’s worth noting that a delay in the election results counting doesn’t necessarily mean a close election.
However, if the results are close enough in one major swing state, the election could be held in court just like in 2000.
And Douglas said a Supreme Court decision, often viewed as the end of the dramatic 2000 presidential election, might not be enough to get things to bed in 2020.
“If the Supreme Court, with its current composition, were to make a decision that cuts in Trump’s favor, it would smell so dramatically of illegitimate intervention by the court that I don’t think it would in any way disperse the situation,” he said .
Concerningly, Douglas said that the US democratic institutions are not equipped for a truly controversial election result or a candidate who is unwilling to abide by the norms of a change of power.
“What saved us in 2000 wasn’t that the Supreme Court stepped in to put an end to the Florida recount. It was [Democratic nominee] Al Gore admits the next day, “he said.
“This normative substructure that people buy into is needed for the entire system to work. If people don’t get involved, the system will be incredibly vulnerable.
In three days we are going to find out how luck or character America could need to avert a crisis.
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