Back in July, we published a fascinating article by Daniel Baer entitled ‘How Trump could refuse to go’, which detailed how President Trump might reject the election result if it wasn’t in his favour. He sketched a hypothetical scenario:
But he doesn’t read the speech. “Today was a very bad day for real America and for real Americans!” he adlibs, “because we won this election. But right now, just as I warned, just like we all knew would happen, Joe Biden and the Democrats are printing millions of fake ballots, they are helping illegal aliens cast fake votes by mail, and they are trying to steal your White House!”
It has not played out exactly like this, and Trump may well yet win the election fair and square, but in the past hour a similar scenario began to play out in real life. The result is still unknown, with millions of absentee ballots still to count and with it all to play for in the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia. But the President broke with precedent by already claiming victory and then asserted that the result is being stolen from him:
You know what happened? They knew they couldn’t win, so they said, ‘let’s go to court.’ And did I predict this? I’ve been saying this from the day I hear they were going to send out tens of millions of ballots… This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election — frankly, we did win this election…
This is a very big moment. This is a major fraud on our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner, so we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court, we want all voting to stop, we don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o clock in the morning and add them to the list, ok?… To me, this is a very sad moment. We will win this, and as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it.
Vice President Mike Pence then took the microphone and seemed to temper Trump’s language with the more typical formulation. “While the votes continue to be counted, we are going to remain vigilant, as the President said. The right to vote has been at the centre of our democracy since the founding of this nation and we are going to protect the integrity of the vote.”
But the gun had already been fired. An incumbent President had claimed victory and rejected the legitimacy of the result, before all the votes have been counted.