President Trump appears to be moving the country into unprecedented territory. If he loses on November 3, he is almost certain to fight the results in the courts – and in every other arena at his disposal. So where does that leave us, and where does it leave the country? What can be done about his repeated suggestions, even incitement, of open conflict? How should the country react to the howling mess Trump is about to lay before it? 

Trump is likely to be seen as the winner on election night

As things now appear, unless Trump’s numbers take a nosedive over the next few days, he is likely to be seen, at least to his supporters, as the winner on election night. Because in all likelihood the votes counted that night, will put him in the lead in enough states to give him the electoral votes he needs to win. But as we are all learning, that will only be half the story… if that. 

Because most ballots will not be cast on election day, and millions of those that are not are being delivered by mail, with some states having all their votes cast that way. So there will be huge lags in the counting. And those lags and the processes that create those lags, will be different in every state. Some states have laws allowing late-arriving votes to be counted, while other states prohibit any counting from taking place before election day. So the counting of some ballots in some states may not even begin until several days after the election.

Not only will that mean further delays in the counting, it will also mean that any issues – and the court battles that follow – will be fought state by state, perhaps even county by county. And that could easily go on for months. 

And what do you suppose Trump will be doing with that time?

Think about it. This is the fight of his life, and almost certain to be the fight for his freedom. Just think of all the pending criminal cases in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere – cases that only need his defeat to proceed.

You can’t prosecute a sitting president, or so the common wisdom seems to dictate. But that doesn’t stop any DA in the country from prosecuting a former one. And that means the possibly, if not probably, that the only thing keeping Trump out of jail over the next four years, is going to be his ability to stay in the White House. 

And if you think he gets vicious and unhinged when being called out for his COVID response or his separation of children from their parents, wait until you see how he gets when faced with things he actually cares about. Wait until it gets personal and close to the bone, and it is no longer just his fragile ego on the line. Wait until he sees attorneys general from around the country lining up to indict him. Wait until his very freedom is at stake.

And if you think Trump’s power to fend off the attacks and rally his supporters will be weakened by his lame duck status, or even by finally being forced from office – think again. 

Unlike past presidents, this one doesn’t need the trappings of state to maintain his aura of power. He doesn’t need the Oval Office or the rose garden or Air Force One. He only needs Twitter. That’s his presidential platform. And that’s the only platform he really needs – the only one he’s ever needed. And there is no way congress or the supreme court or Joe Biden can stop him from using that. In fact even if Twitter tries to cut him off, he will just switch to another, more accommodating platform. And his supporters and others will no doubt follow him there.

And sure, some weak-kneed Republicans in congress may suddenly feel emboldened by his electoral defeat, along with the expectation that he will ultimately be removed from office. But Trump will still have his bully pulpit in hand. And he will still be able to use it to rail against anyone in congress or elsewhere who opposes him. And his followers, all of whom will be voting again in a couple of years, will be sure to remember who it was that joined the deep state in removing their hero from office. So there is likely to be much less pushback from the Republicans in congress than some might expect.

And even if there was, what could congress really do? Would there be time to impeach Trump before the inauguration? That seems unlikely. And short of that, what tools would they have at their disposal? What could they do to force him to stand down? 

About all they might be able to do to appease him, is pass some sort of legislation that would give Trump lifetime immunity from prosecution. But the Democrats are certainly not going to go along with that. And even if they did, there would surely be challenges to the constitutionality of such a law. 

So there is unlikely to be anything congress can do to ensure Trump that he will never face prosecution. Which means there is nothing they can do to clear the way for him to peacefully leave office. Which in turn means that all those assurances now being spouted by congressional Republicans, about how there will be a peaceful transition of power, are likely to be nothing more than empty words.