Gaming Out the Election


Reading time – 5:25  .  .  .

Friend Mel passed along a link to a USA Today article which reported an exercise that was conducted by both red and blue pundits who gamed out the upcoming election. The report said:

“After gaming out various scenarios, the group said its conclusions were ‘alarming:’ In an election taking place amid a pandemic, a recession and rising political polarization, the group found a substantial risk of legal battles, a contested outcome, violent street clashes and even a constitutional impasse.”

Click through and read the frightening essay after reading this post. It is guaranteed to keep you awake at night. On the other hand, it’s highly likely that nothing in the essay will surprise you.

With any luck, Biden’s team is gaming this out for themselves and is prepared both to defend against Trump’s anticipated outrageous malfeasance and to go on offense to protect the election and the nation.

Trump knows no boundaries, so expect more strategy-free actions to promote himself, like sudden and complete U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan with absolutely no plan for or consideration of consequences. He would do that just so that he can claim a bigly win right before the election. That’s the kind of thing that has to be gamed out by Biden’s team, because Trump would do even worse. That’s especially important in light of the 20th anniversary of Bush v. Gore. There’s a history lesson from that mess of an election that applies to today.

The question was what to do with the very problematic intermediate Florida election results, a decision that would determine the winner of the presidential election. Have a look at this piece of the dissent to the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in favor of Bush:

“What must underlie petitioners’ entire federal assault on the Florida election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law. [emphasis mine]”

That was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, with Justices Breyer and Ginsburg concurring.

They were right. Confidence in the judiciary in general has fallen precipitously since that decision. Confidence in the Supreme Court itself dropped 15% following the Citizens United debacle in 2010. That was predicted by Justice Stevens in his blistering dissent and no amount of Justice Scalia’s arrogant certitude could stop the loss of respect for the Supreme Court. Making things worse, Trump has delivered a regular drum beat of infantile tantrums attacking the courts when he doesn’t get his way, further undermining confidence in our judiciary.*

The point of inserting the Bush v. Gore reference is concern about public acceptance of any judicial decision affecting our upcoming election. Indeed, Bush v. Gore was an enormous trust killer for millions of Americans. By extension, it raises concerns for our 2020 election if a judicial decision goes against what Trump supporters want. Indeed, in 2016 Trump predicted violence in the streets if he were to lose the Republican nomination, almost giving permission to his supporters to be destructive.

Bear in mind that he has been undermining the judiciary and stoking violence since 2015. He announced that he would pay the legal fees for supporters at his rallies who physically attack protesters. He told us there were “good people on both sides” in Charlottesville, even as one side was threatening violence. And he had his goons attack Black Lives Matter protesters in 7 cities. Clearly, he encourages violence.

The point is that those dissenting justices in the Bush v. Gore case were right. Judicial decisions that are adverse to Trump are almost certain to be disrespected and rejected by his supporters. That’s driven in large measure because of the loss of confidence in our courts and the disrespect for our system of justice that has been building for years. Trump has orchestrated the worsening of this, fanning the flames of anger and violence.

Speaking to the despair, anger and self-hatred in America, Anne Applebaum wrote in her new book, Twilight of Democracy, quoting Donald Trump:

“You know what solves [this]? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have  .  .  .  riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.”

And here we are with a crashed economy and so much is a mess, a disaster even, while at the same time respect for our institutions, including the judiciary and the rule of law, is at such a low ebb. Note, too, how frighteningly close Trump’s prediction of violence is to that of the folks who recently gamed out our upcoming election (see above).

We aren’t just in strange times; we are in times that may transform into physically perilous times. Whatever firmament we used to have has become a leaky boat in a hurricane.

Back to Bush v. Gore for a moment:

In a later full counting of all votes cast in that election as tracked down by numerous investigative reporters Gore won Florida by 537 votes. But Chief Justice Rehnquist had announced the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the counting of votes in Florida, which gave the state and the presidency to Bush. It is accurately said that elections have consequences. So do judicial decisions.

That Gore wasn’t sworn in as president brought us 9/11 (Bush ignored multiple warnings of an imminent attack); two continuing, fraudulently crafted wars (justified by lies too numerous to list); Bush’s refusal to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, which led to the invasion of Afghanistan and an episodic backward march of the goal posts; the effectively homicidal Katrina response; the financial meltdown of 2008; a decimated State Department and alienated allies; and the grossly expanded national debt through starting two wars and cutting taxes at the same time. All of that and more hinged on a judicial decision.

The conservative Supreme Court justices got their way in the Bush v. Gore case. They also got their way in disemboweling the Voting Rights Act and by supporting states’ actions to create massive voter suppression. Those decisions, complemented by Citizens United and other decisions harmful to We the People undermined confidence in the rule of law. And for the past four years that’s been joined by Trump’s cheating, lying, stoking violence and hatred and even insurrection.

All of that is why it’s so important that Biden’s team is gaming out everything so that they are ready.

We can’t change public trust in the judiciary in just the next 75 days, so there is literally only one way to ensure we protect against further deterioration of our democracy and create a hedge against violence in our streets:

We must vote to create an overwhelming defeat of Donald Trump in November.

If you doubt that, just recall the mobs of angry people who stormed the Michigan and Ohio state houses in May. Many were carrying guns. Many were brandishing semi-automatic weapons. The threat of violence if they didn’t get their way couldn’t have been clearer. And those demonstrations were just to protest efforts to stop Covid-19. In the absence of an overwhelming defeat of Trump in November, what do you think those people and others similarly inclined will do?

The pundits reported in the USA Today piece were gaming out the upcoming election. But this is no game. This is life and death for people in our streets and for our democracy itself.

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Covid Corner 1-2-3

1. From STAT, reporting on seemingly random distribution of face masks by the Trump administration:

“A 140-student charter school in Florida received 37,500 masks [from the Trump administration], for instance. A beekeeping company got 500 masks as an “emergency services” provider, and despite reports of Covid-19 cases in hundreds of facilities, few poultry producers received any masks. ‘If you can’t find a method to the madness a few months later, it may mean it’s all madness,’ Juliette Kayyem, a former Obama administration-era homeland security official tells STAT. “Where did those masks actually go?” Read more here.”

2. Be sure to print last Wednesday’s post; then cut out and tape the face mask graphic to your refrigerator and front door, per instructions.

And check out this from “STAT.” It’s a confirmation and update of what you learned from your Required Reading about the spread of the pandemic in the July 15 post.

3. Headlines of the Week

Dumb story:

‘This is no longer a debate’: Florida sheriff bans deputies, visitors from wearing masks

Tragic Story:

Finally,

Admiral (Ret.) William McRaven was the top guy of our Navy Seals and the head of all of our Special Operations Forces worldwide when they captured Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden and when they rescued Captain Phillips. He is a greatly decorated veteran and scoffs at the title “hero;” nevertheless, that’s what you’ll call him when you read his book, Sea Stories. Better yet, get the audio book and listen to him tell his stories in his own voice.

Further, click here to take in his commencement address at the University of Texas (Austin) in 2014. Then go make your bed. You’ll understand that last after you watch his 19 minute video.

Most important for right now, read Admiral McRaven’s essay in The Washington Post regarding our upcoming election. He gets this right.

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* From the apolitical University of Denver Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) blog last September:

James Lyons, a longtime lawyer and one-time diplomat, offers the view that President Trump’s attacks on our judges and the rule of law undermine the legitimacy of the legal system in unprecedented ways.

Here’s a link to Lyons’ paper, “Trump and the Attack on the Rule of Law.”

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JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
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One Response to Gaming Out the Election
  1. Robert B Bloom, Ph.D. Reply

    The Dean of Loyola Law School gave a presentation on Scalia at the North Shore Senior Center. At the end I asked him how could Scalia, the classic originalist, allow the Supreme Court to take over the Florida Bush v Gore law suit given that it is expressly reserved to the States. He said he asked Scalia that and Scalia responded, “sometimes things have to come to an end”.