If Donald Trump is defeated at the polls, many fear that he will seek to cling to power at any cost. He would most likely be unable to do so.
As the chances of Donald Trump’s electoral victory dwindle, fears that he is seeking to remain in office by all means are not fading.
The years of his presidency were indeed marked by an authoritarian drift which makes it possible to fear this kind of scenario, but should we really fear that he could succeed in clinging to power if he is faced with a defeat at the polls? ?
Donald Trump refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in the event of defeat. He claims, without proof, that the election will inevitably be tainted with fraud and that any outcome that puts him at a disadvantage would be suspect and illegitimate.
He actively entertains doubts about what he might do in the aftermath of an unfavorable election, which justifies fears that he might be planning what would look like a coup.
These fears are not unfounded, but America’s electoral institutions are not that fragile and the chances of ending up in such a situation are slim.
Even if it is conceivable that Trump could retain the presidency despite a defeat at the polls, the road would be strewn with obstacles. To cross them, Donald Trump and his entourage would have to demonstrate a capacity for strategic planning that they simply do not have.
To be convinced of this, it suffices to note to what extent his campaign has lost control. For example, even though he absolutely needs their votes, Trump is doing everything to push back the elders and women of the suburbs. He couldn’t even convince his own party to pass an emergency stimulus package before the election.
To hold on to power, Trump would need allies in the military hierarchy, the FBI and the CIA, but he did everything to alienate these institutions and no one would follow him. Nor is it guaranteed that all the Conservative Supreme Court justices will back him if he concocts a botched, white-tailed court challenge.
Trump would also need to mobilize public opinion in his favor, but the biggest crowd movements would certainly come from his opponents. Many Republicans who have followed him so far might find the risks to their own political future of plunging the country into constitutional crisis too great.
Still threats without consequences
This is not the first time that Donald Trump has made threats that exceed his ability to deliver the goods.
Not long ago, for example, he threatened to expose “the greatest political scandal of all time” that would put his political opponents in jail, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The case went nowhere.
We can very well believe and fear that Donald Trump has the will to cling to power despite an electoral defeat, but we can doubt that he has the competence.