Please remember that scenarios are not predictions. They are ways to explore possible futures as a tool for formulating strategy. The probability estimates given are pure thumbsuck, intended only to show relative ranking of likelihoods in my sole opinion. Nevertheless: Remember that You Saw It Here First, Folks!
- Trump loses, leaves peacefully, and Biden gets to spend the next four years (assuming he lives that long) trying to rebuild some semblance of sane government. He cannot possible achieve much else in the time, given the level of destruction that’s occurred. 25%
- Trump wins through massive election fraud, voter suppression, pervasive gerrymandering. Darkness descends upon the face of the Earth. The Fourth Reich. 35%
- Trump loses, refuses to leave the Whitehouse. God knows how that plays out. I don’t believe the Dems have a game-plan for this eventuality — they simply can’t believe it possible, even though Trump-Republicans have consistently and repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to demolish all democratic norms, laws and process. 30%
- Covid epidemic gets so bad in the USA that Trump declares a State of Emergency right before the election and suspends/cancels the election altogether. The GOP Senate “asks” him to take the title “Emperor Americanus”. This scenario, if it comes about, is an already-running game-plan of the GOP. Trump himself is incapable of such “long” range planning. 10%
Let’s deal with the scary one first.
As non-American, do I care?
Well, yes. Like it or not, the US has massive influence on what happens in the rest of the world. An ascendant Fourth-Reich USA (with nukes) will support the already well-stoked right-wing “movements”/apparatchiks in other parts of the world. (“Right-wing” in this context does not imply any particular economic systems preferences, but refers to the leaning into authoritarian, fascist autocracy.) Jews everywhere had better seek cover.
We all thought our (great-)grandparents had won that war. Apparently not as totally as equality- and peace-loving people might wish.
Here’s how this scenario plays out in the short run: The GOP use Trump’s mob-appeal, their ideologically-aligned judges and their finely-honed election cheating skills to shoehorn the huckster back into the Whitehouse. After six to eighteen months (lower bound more probable than the upper) they declare that his Alzheimers/Dementia has degraded with startling rapidity and that he is no longer fit for the office, replacing him with his VP. The reasoning behind this is straightforward: The deranged-right-fringe that rules the present-day Republican Party knows that they have not a snowball’s hope in hell of winning an election based on their batshit crazy, anti-democratic behaviour of the past 4-10 years. Trump is the best/only lever they have for retaining the Executive. But beyond that the man is a liability. The GOP Politburo understand this. For them to cement a permanent stranglehold on American political power they must restore a semblance of sane governance, and that is impossible while the bull is still inside the china shop. The time needed to execute a resuscitation of their reputation and image is limited, hence the “6 to 18-month” estimate, leaving as much of the remainder of the term of office for a saturation-propaganda PR rehabilitation.
Only the gods know what happens in 2024. One is forced to suspect that nobody in US political circles is thinking that far ahead.
In the slightly longer run, I think that enough Americans detest the prospect and still hold dear the egalitarian ideals and myths of a past-USA that the country-as-it-stands will shortly cease to exist, splintering into five or six regional powers. The Balkanisation of the USA. The fracture lines are already clear.
The GOP Inner Circle will trot out some implausible but imaginative reason for supporting a Trumpian refusal to vacate, citing “election irregularities” and “the need for stability amid troubled times”, with running interference via Trumptweeted invective at the Fake News Media. Refer to current Covidian newspeak, BLM unrests, calls to defund Police, etc. for the playbook. Stoke up the textbook anti-China/anti-Europe rhetoric for some external enemy spiciness, and the same, tired ol’ formula gets put to work again. A war would suit them ideally, but the military might be disinclined to go for it given how massively they’ve denigrated and disparaged in recent years by that draft-dodging ignoramus.
There will be turmoil. Expect mass unrest. (And amidst a viral pandemic, that cannot produce a good outcome!) Both sides will call upon the armed forces to enforce their will. The military conglomerate might well fracture as a result, between those soldiers who hold their allegiance to their constitution, oaths and fact-based grounding-in-reality, and those who opt for following a wholly partisan, emotionally freighted Supreme Leader mythos. I suspect that latter group to be a minority within the ranks of those whose bodies get in harm’s way when the shit starts flying. But it’ll be bloody either way.
Like #2 above, this scenario runs a high probability that the USA disintegrates as a functional Nation-State.
Everybody (well, almost everybody) breathes a huge sigh of relief. Especially the rest of the world outside of Russia. President Biden faces not only the mammoth task of rebuilding a functioning government, but the even more daunting task of trying to regain some of America’s former credibility and gravitas in world affairs. Add to that a good dollop of domestic unrest from the newly-gelded, gun-totin’ American Right Wing stoked on by a foreign bot-farms and a complicit social-media cohort, and we see all the ingredients and potentialities for domestic insurrection and… (again)… a fracturing of the fatherland. A lower probability than the other two scenarios above, to be sure, but, even in the absence out an outright secession, some revival in the latest phase in the ever-ongoing American Civil War. Fortunately for the rest of us this is most likely to remain a purely domestic affair.
Perhaps the largest uncertainty in this scenario is whether Mr Biden has the robust good health and stamina needed to carry out what will certainly be a very demanding programme, whether he’ll live long enough to see out the term of office. He’s an old guy with a dodgy medical history. We’d best hope the Dems choose a very good VP to run with him.
Yes, it’s a low probability, but not impossible or even particularly implausible in this Act III Of The Shitshow That Is 2020. This is the very stuff of dystopic sci-fi: ice so thin that SF authors fear to tread because it can’t withstand the shattering gaze of an Acquiring Editor’s Willing Suspension of Disbelief. The trouble is, that’s pretty much what the past few years of Trumpian-GOP governance have actually produced.
This is the scenario where Alexandr Dugin can justifiably claim total victory — a permanent sea-change in geopolitical alignments with all the possibilities for a resurgent Russian Empire. (I don’t, in my heart, really believe the Kremlin’s current occupants have the resources to pull it off, despite their fondest fantasies, and certainly not while their vested interests are founded upon fossil fuels. But that’s another article for another day.)
The ramifications of Trump-as-Emperor, echoing the fall of the Roman Republic, are so deep, so far-reaching, that any predictions or forecasts of how the world might rearrange itself is a fool’s game. The biggest imponderable in the equation is whether and to what extent the US military would go along with this putsch; its success or failure hinges utterly upon the answer to that question.
So those of us who live a safe distance from the USA wait to see what happens (though no place on Earth is completely safe or far enough). Somewhat fearful, giggles just a tad hysterical, aghast at the speed and thoroughness with which the mighty have been brought low, we watch with bated breath. Just six months until we find out…
Pass the popcorn.