Friday, September 11, 2020

The Transition Integrity Project makes a scary national election even more so -- but it has one point exactly right

A report detailing "crisis scenario planning exercises," conducted by a self-appointed group of solons calling themselves the Transition Integrity Project (TIP), has been available online now for about a month, apparently.

The Washington Post had a lengthy article about the TIP report on September 3, written by Georgetown Law Professor Rosa Brooks, a TIP founder.

The authors of the report believe it "likely" that President Trump will "contest the result by both legal and extra-legal means."

In other words, the authors of the report assume that there is no way Trump can win a second term.

Implicit in that assumption, of course, is the further, danagerous assumption that, if the results appear to show otherwise, the results must be wrong.

This is the exact same type of magical thinking -- Trump can't possibly win -- that cost Hillary Clinton the White House in 2016.

I fell into that same trap in 2016. I was so sure Trump would lose. My wife was mad at me for some time after the results became clear: "You told me he couldn't win," she said. And I had.

But I learned from that.

Obviously, a lot of prominent people have not.

I don't know if Trump will win this November. But, once burned, twice shy: I acknowledge the possibility that he might. I am inclined to believe it will be very, very close, either way.

I do expect Trump to lose the popular vote: Mr. Biden's huge margins in California, New York, and here in Illinois should more than account for the nationwide margin.

But that's not how we elect presidents in this country.

A successful national candidate must win in the Electoral College.

Since 2016 (and since 2000, really) many people have disparaged the Electoral College, calling it obsolete, old-fashioned, and undemocratic. This last charge is certainly true -- but only because, since our Constitution was duly ordained and established in 1788, the United States is not a democracy, it is a republic. A federal republic. A union of states.

So if Trump wins the Electoral College, he wins.

The truly important thing is that we must not let partisans on either side -- on both sides! -- delegitimize the election results before a single vote is cast. Just in case their candidate loses.

Trump -- as is his infuriating custom and practice -- has poured gasoline on this fire by refusing to state that he will accept the results of the election, win or lose. Indeed, the TIP authors cite Trump's recalcitrance as a reason for convening their war games.

But, whether they mean to or not, with their doomsday imaginings, the TIP authors are themselves contributing to the advance delegitimization of the 2020 election. With Trump and TIP, and the many pundits, left and right, who assume 'the other side' will 'stop at nothing' to win, who needs Russia?

But there is one point that the TIP report makes with which I wholeheartedly agree: Quoting now from the Executive Summary of the TIP report, "The concept of 'election night' is no longer accurate and indeed is dangerous."

In this Year of Never Ending Pandemic, more people than ever are going to vote by mail. It is going to take time to collect and count those votes. Even though millions of mail-in votes will be cast before the election, in many jurisdictions, they can not be counted before the polls close on Election Day.

Nevertheless, all the networks will have sharp-looking maps on giant screens, with states flashing red or blue as returns come in. And each will want to be first to 'call' this state or that one.

The media covers every national election like it's a horse race -- and that was always horse-hockey. Candidates don't 'close the gap' or 'widen their lead' as votes are counted. These ups and downs merely reflect the order in which votes are counted and reported.

This year, the horse race model is less appropriate than ever. With so many mail-in ballots, there will be hundreds of thousands of timely-cast ballots still wending their way through the U.S. Mail when the in-person polls close. Therefore, in a close election -- and this presidential election is likely to be close in the Electoral College, where it actually counts -- results will not be known on Election Night. It may take a week or longer to figure it all out.

And that's OK -- or it would be, if the networks don't fan the flames of suspicion and discontent with their "wall to wall coverage" and speculations dressed up as projections.

On Election Night, watch a movie. Read a book. Both sides will be watching each other warily enough. The election authorities will do their best, in these unique circumstances, to fairly report the result. As quickly as they can, too -- but it will take time.

In the meantime, whatever your rooting interest, resolve to ignore those already seeking to delegitimize the results of this election. Even though you may have no faith or confidence in this candidate or that one (or either of them), trust in the integrity of the process, and in the integrity of the people counting the votes.

The people of the Roman Republic lost faith in the fairness and integrity of their elections, and their Republic died. We do not have to follow their tragic example.

1 comment:

JER said...

Good post! I thought your closing line was right on that we should be wary of those already seeking to delegitimize the results. Unfortunately, I think that ship has sailed and no matter what happens there will undoubtedly be widespread dissent, unrest, and distrust about the results (even in a Trump landslide). The media machine is already floating the narrative that Trump is not going to accept the results of the election and setting the stage for a long, drawn out election night. The only question I have is, if Trump legitimately wins, and by a healthy electoral college margin, will Democrats be the ones willing to accept the results? To your point, they've already 'tipped' their hand with these war games exercises and assuming that there's no way he can [be allowed to] win.