At noon on Jan. 20, 2021, Donald J. Trump’s presidential term expires. Whether he plans to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration is the subject of much speculation, even amusement, but important consequences hang in the balance. We’re left to wonder: Will the great American “smooth transition of power” exhibit rough edges?
On Sunday morning, during a “Fox & Friends” airing of an interview with President Trump conducted a day earlier, host Brian Kilmeade dared to broach the touchy subject of inaugural attendance. The president bluntly responded, “I don’t want to talk about that.” (Note: Even having to put that question to an outgoing U.S. president is far outside the norm since attendance is assumed.)
If Trump takes a pass, he would be only the fourth U.S. president to snub his successor’s swearing-in ceremony. The prior three were John Adams in 1801, John Quincy Adams in 1829, and Andrew Johnson in 1869. Similarly to Trump, Johnson was impeached by the House of Representatives and acquitted by the Senate. Unlike Trump, Johnson did not win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 1868.
Thus, 151 years later, when the president says, “I don’t want to talk about it,” that likely translates as “no-show.”
Trump’s empty inaugural seat would add just another non-traditional post-election presidential action to his growing list. Others include refusing to concede, insisting that he “won big,” and encouraging numerous (many say frivolous) state and local lawsuits culminating with a clear Supreme Court rejection. Trump fired a government cyber agency official who was responsible for ensuring a “safe and secure” election. Then he called and tried to bully state officials to overturn election results.
Before the end of Trump’s term, we can expect more unpresidential actions, questionable pardons, high-level firings, and head-turning statements. Among the most glaring so far are two zingers from the Kilmeade interview: “I worry about the country having an illegitimate president.” And, even more outrageous, “What happened to this country is we were like a third world country.” (Something he ought to say while looking in the mirror?)
Still, there is a chance that Trump will be persuaded to attend the traditional Inauguration Day events, details of which are in pandemic-era flux. Typically, the president and the first lady would welcome the Bidens to the White House for tea. Donald would leave Joe an encouraging personal note in the drawer of the Resolute Desk. Together they would ride to the Capitol, and Trump would quietly watch Biden take the oath of office. Afterward, the former president would depart Washington for the adoring crowds awaiting him in the Sunshine State.
If all that happened, it would make headline news around the globe for its normalcy. Such mature, traditional, non-Trumpian behavior would demonstrate, in the end, that the 45th U.S. president is an American patriot. It would speak to his upholding of democratic ideals while loving the nation more than personal power.
Perhaps close to Jan. 20, he will recognize that his presence at the swearing-in could help change the hearts — if not necessarily the minds — of 68% of Republican voters and the 36% of all voters (according to a Fox News poll) who believe that the election was “stolen.” Moreover, it would show that Trump was a big, strong, and tough man who accepted the election outcome, but is still personally a “winner.”
Best of all, imagine this scene: During President Biden’s inaugural address, he calls out Trump and gives him credit for pushing through the COVID vaccine — by that time injected into millions of American arms. Trump stands and basks in the applause. If he attends, that could happen. It’s a scene that would be Biden’s generous and gentlemanly response to Trump’s Nov. 26 statement that “the vaccines — and, by the way, don’t let Joe Biden take credit for the vaccines … because the vaccines were me, and I pushed people harder than they’ve ever been pushed before.”
Think about it. With Trump present and Biden applauding his “medical miracle,” a powerful message could be sent to the nation and world:
Despite bumps in the road, American democracy abides. This is how we do it — we fight like hell and then move ahead. We are on the path to unity. Don’t mess with the USA! We are strong, will continue to lead the world, and in four years, do it all again!
Besides the national symbolism encompassing our vaunted “smooth transition of power,” Trump could personally benefit if he attends the ceremony. There, he will be in the company of the four living former U.S. presidents, who could welcome him into their ultra-prestigious “club.”
After all, we know how much Trump loves exclusive clubs. Then, at their gatherings, he could always brag that he is still the “greatest winner” since he received more votes than any of them.
Anyone who follows politics is familiar with the long, colorful career of Roger Stone. On Feb. 20, that career reached its nadir when the unconventional Republican operative was sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress, obstruction, and witness tampering. Widely reported was U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s statement that Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” Stone and his lawyers were quick to point out that “covering up” was not among the official charges.
Given Stone’s more than four-decade personal and professional relationship with the president, it was no surprise when the president commuted his sentence — just days before he was to report to prison.
Now, amid all the post-election legal wrangling, Stone is doing all he can, unofficially, to keep Trump in office. Curious about his plans going forward, I requested a Q&A with the man who is often called “a dirty trickster” but now publicly speaks about his faith in Jesus.He agreed; what follows is our exchange, which has been edited for length.
Myra Adams: On July 10, President Trump commuted your sentence, which means your conviction on seven felonies still stands. Are you anticipating that the president will issue you a pardon?
Roger Stone: At midnight on Election Day, the Department of Justice released the unredacted portions of the Mueller Report, which now prove definitively that Mueller’s hit squad had no evidence whatsoever of my having advanced knowledge of the source or content of the WikiLeaks disclosures [about hacked Democratic emails] — or any evidence of coordination or collaboration between me and WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. This information was withheld from us at trial so that federal prosecutors could insinuate throughout my trial that I had lied to Congress regarding my coordination with WikiLeaks — which they now admit there is no evidence of, and even BuzzFeed said I was “vindicated!”
It is a fantasy of the left that I somehow traded my silence regarding alleged misconduct with the president in return for clemency. That is false and there is no corroborated evidence to support this contention. I did say that I refused to give false testimony against the president in return for leniency.
I only reluctantly dropped the appeal of my conviction. While the willful misconduct of the jury forewoman who attacked me by name in social media postings in 2019; kept these posts on a private setting during jury selection and the trial, and deleted them afterwards — would have been among the strongest issues on appeal. The judge’s pretrial ruling that I could not raise the issue of misconduct by the special counsel, the FBI, the DOJ, or any member of Congress was also highly unconstitutional.
Despite these strong legal arguments, it became clear that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals was so politicized that I could never get a new trial and, even if I had won a new trial, it would have been before the same judge who demonstrated her bias repeatedly.
In fact, no misstatement I made to Congress hid any underlying crime. I had no motive to lie. It’s clear that my prosecution was political and contrived to pressure me to bear false witness against the president, which I refused to do.
In view of all of this, I hope the president will consider granting me a pardon so that I can clear my name.
MA: Have you been in contact with President Trump, either directly or indirectly, since he began all the post-election controversy?
MA: On Nov. 14, the Palm Beach Post reported that you spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally attended by 500 Trump supporters in Delray Beach, Fla. [an upscale community 20 miles south of Palm Beach]. Here are some quotes from the Post’s report:
“Stone suggested the CIA changed vote tallies to benefit Democrat Joe Biden.”
“He [Stone] then hit on how the CIA used a supercomputer called the ‘Hammer’ and a program dubbed ‘Scorecard’ to alter the vote.”
Can you elaborate?
RS: As I wrote in stonecoldtruth.com, I believe there is both overwhelming and compelling evidence of extensive election fraud of the old-fashioned variety to include abuses in the mail-in ballot system; ballot harvesting; dead people voting; people voting multiple times; and the wholesale manufacture of ballots after the polls had closed since Democrats knew the margins by which Trump won.
I believe that there will also be substantial hard evidence of cyber manipulation of the 2020 vote. I raised the question of the “Hammer” and “Scorecard” programs, which [CIA] whistleblower Dennis Montgomery – who designed the [latter] program – specifically said was created for the purpose of voter manipulation in foreign countries. In fact, confidential audio recordings released by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow in November 2015, revealed that this computer program was used by the Obama campaign on Florida state election computers to steal the 2012 presidential election for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
I believe there is also substantial evidence of cyber manipulation of the 2020 vote by Dominion Voting Services, among others. The company has been subjected to substantive allegations in the past. It’s funny to see Democrats who told us for four years that our elections were being interfered with through the cyber efforts of the “Russians” now insisting that such a thing is impossible.
MA: Why have Trump’s lawyers been unable to confirm a single example of voter fraud?
RS: I reject the premise of your question. The president’s lawyers have produced multiple examples of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere. Don’t give into the mass hypnosis of the fake news media. If you want to see proof of this evidence you can go here.
MA: Let’s move ahead to Jan. 20, 2021. From the following scenarios, select the one that you believe is most likely to happen:
All the traditional Inauguration Day activities associated with a peaceful transition of power between the president and the president-elect occur without a hitch, culminating with Trump attending Biden’s swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol.
The president chooses not to attend Biden’s inauguration. Instead, Trump hosts a $10,000 a ticket “alternative inaugural” event at Mar-a-Lago to kick-off his 2024 presidential campaign.
Trump refuses to vacate the White House, insisting that he won if not for (unproven) election fraud. The president is physically removed and escorted to Air Force One bound for Florida.
RS: As a general rule, I try to avoid answering hypothetical questions. I don’t think there is any evidence under which President Trump will abandon his correct belief that he won a majority of legal votes cast.
Should he ultimately have to vacate the White House, it is clear that 73.7 million people will always believe was cheated out of the presidency and he will still enjoy the bully pulpit of a former president. He will always have the ability to make news and rally his movement against the misguided policies of an illegitimate successor.
Donald Trump is at heart an entrepreneur and he likes making money. The presidency has been an extraordinary financial burden on him. So, if he is no longer president, I do expect he will return to his business pursuits.
Meanwhile, the Trump movement has changed the face of the Republican Party, forever. Elitist “country club” Republicans like former Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Ben Sasse are dreaming if they think that the Trump Revolution is an aberration and that they will retake control of the Republican Party.
Should there be a Biden administration, I am certain that a former President Trump will be a most effective critic of the new president’s handling of COVID-19, the economy, foreign affairs, and trade deals. If Biden ever becomes president, his economic policies will make Herbert Hoover look popular.
MA: Where do you think Trump will rank among our presidents?
RS: When Trump became president we were told by the economic experts that the revival of America’s economy to be a world leader again was structurally impossible. They were wrong. President Donald Trump gave us record job growth, record wage growth, and the highest levels of employment among every group of Americans in our history. He rebuilt our military strength. He renegotiated trade deals, which have benefited the United States and fostered job creation here rather than abroad. The liberals will hate this, but win or lose Trump will rank among America’s greatest presidents. Trump’s personal style, which grates on the political class, will long be forgotten while his great accomplishments are remembered.
MA: Do you foresee any circumstances where Trump fades from the scene and allows Biden to take center stage?
MA: Can you talk about any plans you have for 2021?
RS: I intend to host a weekly syndicated radio show as well as doing a daily podcast at StoneColdTruth.com. Currently, I am writing the definitive book regarding my political prosecution because I was unconstitutionally gagged through much of the process and have never had an opportunity to lay out the abuses and misconduct by the prosecutors both during my trial and in its aftermath.
MA: How are you earning a living at this time?
RS: This almost three-year ordeal has essentially bankrupted me and my family. Last week when the IRS released a tax lien of $1.5 million against me in Miami-Dade County, Florida (where I do not live), a dozen media outlets reported that “Trump had canceled a $1.5 million tax debt.” None of these media outlets reported that within minutes the IRS refiled the exact same lien in Broward County. where I do live.
On the day of my commutation, Facebook announced that based on the entirely false claim that I owned over 100 fake Facebook profiles, I would be banned from Facebook and Instagram for life. …
Between being banned on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, I lost well over one million followers. These are the people who bought my books, which was a substantial portion of my income. My wife and I are struggling to rebuild our finances and I have been doing some paid speaking for both political and non-political groups, deriving some income from my Cameo profile, where you can get a customized video that can be a shout-out, a birthday or anniversary congratulations, or even the answer to a political question.
MA: Our RealClearPolitics interview back in April focused on your new-found faith in Jesus as you prayed for a pardon. Now, how is your faith journey impacting your everyday life?
RS: I have been very forthright about the fact that I believe that God spared my life for a specific purpose, and I have rededicated my life to Jesus Christ and will continue to do my best to walk in His way. I recognize that because of my 40-year career as a hardboiled political operative that many elites, who don’t believe in God anyway, will scoff at this. I don’t really care, as He knows what’s in my heart. I intend to continue speaking out about the awesome power and mercy of Jesus Christ and invite others who have problems to invite Him into their lives.
Checking out at the grocery store recently, I saw People magazine’s cover featuring Joe Biden and Kamala Harris with the headline “It’s Time for America to Unite.” And I thought to myself, “But do Americans want to be united?”
Sorry for the skepticism, but I had just come from lunch with a prominent Republican activist. We talked about the election and, coincidentally, I raised the issue of national unity under a new president. My friend emphatically said, “Republicans will never unite under Biden.”
I asked, “Who then?” He answered, “Trump in 2024.”
He may be right. Speaking as a longtime Republican, I believe the vast majority of Trump’s 73.5 million voters will not be supportive of the promise Biden made Nov. 7 during his first televised speech as president-elect: “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify. Who doesn’t see red states or blue states, but only sees the United States.”
Unfortunately, that sounds like political “kumbaya” suited for carving into a stone wall at Biden’s future presidential library.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this nation and, for its sake, I wish Godspeed to the 46th president, but also understand the mentality of my party. In today’s kill-or-be-killed mega-polarized political climate, Biden might as well be talking to a stone wall because to many partisans, “unity” means surrender. At the very least, it means compromise, and compromise leads to fear that what Republicans hold dear will be whittled away.
Conversely, many Democrats feel the same.
Simplified and in general, the red vs. blue divide is as follows:
They stand for all that is good in America: religious freedom, law and order, the sanctity of life, school choice, conservative judges, Mom, apple pie, guns, God, the flag, minimum government interference, and no masks. They believe Democrats stand for socialism, open borders, unlimited immigration, and transgender cultural decline.
Republicans are white nationalists, afraid of losing power as the white population ages and shrinks in proportion to minorities. They believe Republicans want to turn back the clock to the 1950s when white men ruled; they are intolerable obstructionists to any progressive social views or movement that will better the nation. They are pro-coal, pro-oil, anti-anything that protects the environment. Republicans will blindly follow Trump off a cliff.
Democrats believe in economic equality for all, and that change must spring from the working class on up. Social justice and climate change must be among the highest priorities. Government spending solves most problems. They believe Democrats are the tolerant ones.
Substantiating this synopsis is a Pew Research Center statistical report headlined, “America is exceptional in the nature of its political divide.” Pew found that “both Trump and Biden supporters say that if the other wins, it would result in lasting harm to the country.”
Now irrelevant and long forgotten is President Ronald Reagan’s governing philosophy. In 1983, journalists accused him of “moving away from the policies and principles that got him elected.” Reagan replied, “I have always figured that a half a loaf is better than none, and I know that in the democratic process, you’re not going to always get everything you want.”
Ahh, ancient times. Today “all-or-none” is the preferred method guiding partisans’ democratic process. Half a loaf? Only if the loaf was made this morning in an “opportunity zone” at a non-union processing plant that grants workers time for prayer. (Or, from the other perspective, by workers who receive full health benefits, parental leave, and make at least $20 an hour.)
After talking with Trump voters, I can attest that there is no hope or desire for unity. This “stolen” election has brought only more anger and fear, motivating them to fight harder. As for Democrats, they want unity — but on their terms.
Therefore, where is there room for compromise? How can Biden pledge to be “a president who seeks not to divide” while governing a nation where fostering division is politically and financially profitable and ingrained as a way of life?
A subhead on that People magazine cover says, “The next president and his history-making Vice President promise healing — and get right to work. There is nothing we can’t do if we do it together.” But how is that possible when 52% of Republicans believe Trump “rightfully won” the election and 68% are concerned that the voting was “rigged,” according to a Reuters-Ipsos opinion poll released this week. A new Monmouth University poll found that 77% of Trump backers say Biden’s win was due to fraud.
Meanwhile, Trump has a supernatural, super-glue hold on his party. He will do everything in his power to keep power as he “rules” in exile from Mar-a-Lago. Although Trump won 47.2% of the vote compared to Biden’s 51%, losing is winning with the 45th president. After all, winning 73.6 million votes provides the bragging rights to say he won more votes than any Republican presidential candidate in history!
Moreover, Trump won 10.7 million more votes than he did in 2016, and 11.6 million more than the last Republican president to be reelected — George W. Bush in 2004. Trump won 7.7 million more votes than Obama in 2012, and all of these stats will be repeated ad nauseam over the coming months and years.
But to stage a “comeback,” the president has to stay in the public eye (think Trump TV) and continuously counter Biden’s lofty “unity” plans. We all know that Trump and his tweets will never go away until he is “sick of winning” (which is never). Even on Inauguration Day, if Trump does not attend, there will be media saturation about his absence. Why? Because he generates clicks and ratings, a media addiction. Plus, he’s guaranteed long-term attention by insinuating that he will run again in 2024.
Then imagine when he announces his plans for the Trump Hotel Presidential Library, Golf Resort & Spa. The biggest, greatest, and most lavish presidential vacation retreat in the world. It will even have a replica of the Trump Tower escalator that you can descend with a hologram of Trump and Melania! (Not sure I am joking about this.)
Circling back to the grocery store checkout line, millions of Americans will see the People cover touting that “It’s Time for Americans to Unite” — and 51% will applaud this effort. But suppose Biden’s attempt at unity fails. In that case, Democrats will be quick to blame Republicans’ intransigence while GOP leaders’ continue to fear Trump’s tweets, sure to chastise them if they favor compromises (half a loaf) to pass problem-solving legislation.
Nonetheless, in that grocery checkout line are 47.2% of Americans who voted for the president. Many (or most?) will see the same People cover and think, as my friend said aloud, “Republicans will never unite under Biden.”
Trump knows that is true and plans to keep it that way.
“If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham on Fox News Channel, Nov. 8, 2020.
The South Carolina senator was specifically addressing why “President Trump should not concede” the election after “allegations of system failure [and] fraud.” But he also indirectly broached a wider truth. So let that truth come marching in about the GOP’s bleak prospects for no “Republican president elected again.” If Republicans choose to confront it, they need only look at exit polls from the Washington Post,ABC News, and NBC News, all reporting similar demographic voter data (and subject to change).
At this writing, it appears that Joe Biden is on track to win 306 electoral votes. Ironically, that is the exact number Donald Trump won in 2016, which he often characterized as a “landslide.” (Officially, and after two electors defected, Trump won 304 votes.) Yet, Trump failed to win the popular vote in either of his presidential races. Although not the final 2020 numbers, Biden has a respectable margin of 50.9% to 47.3%. Nonetheless, Trump deserves credit. Yes, Biden is ahead by 5.5 million votes – 78.2 million compared to Trump’s 72..7 million – but the president increased his 2016 total by a whopping 9.8 million votes, up from 62.9 million.
We know that winning the presidential “popular” vote does not grant entry to the Oval Office. The candidate must have robust support to muster the math needed to earn at least 270 electoral votes. But the popular vote points to a stark, inconvenient truth that is tough for the GOP to handle.
Starting in 1992, there have been eight presidential elections, but only once, in 2004, has the Republican nominee won the popular vote. And my party cannot count on the rare Electoral College “flukes” of 2000 and 2016 that delivered the White House. The truth of the GOP’s demographic crisis becomes more apparent after examining the pertinent 2020 exit data.
Let’s start with whites – 67% of all voters, but down from 70% in 2016. That decrease should shock Republicans for three reasons.
First, three percentage points in four years is greater than the decrease from 2012 to 2016 when the white vote dropped two points, from 72% to 70%
Second, the exit polls agree that Trump triumphed with white voters, winning them by 17 percentage points, 58% to 41%. However, in 2016 he won whites by 20 points over Hillary Clinton, 57% to 37%. It does not take a math genius to figure that Trump losing three percentage points of white voters after the white electorate itself decreased by three points contributed to his defeat. Conversely, if Trump had won the white vote by at least 20 points or more a second time, he would be planning his second inauguration
Third, in January 2020, the respected Pew Research Center projected that eligible white voters would be 66.7% of the electorate. Pew underestimated by 0.3 percentage points, probably due to record turnout, but will the white electorate shrink another three percentage points, or more, by 2024? The aging and dying white population could support such an estimate.
Consequently, the next GOP presidential nominee must capture an ever increasing share of the white vote if he or she lacks greater appeal to minority voters. In 2024 perhaps the nominee will need to earn 20 to 25 percentage points more than the Democratic candidate in order to win the popular vote and reach 270 electoral votes.
Here are more reasons why Lindsey Graham spoke truth.
In September, I wrote a RealClearPolitics piece headlined “How the Hispanic Vote Is Growing in Power.” Again, I used Pew Research Center data projecting eligible Hispanic voters to be 13.3% of the 2020 electorate. In 2016, Hispanics were 11% of voters.
The new exit poll data shows Hispanics at 13%, a record two-point increase, doubling what had been a steady one percentage point increase every four years. Joe Biden won 65% – down slightly from the 66% that Clinton won in 2016. In the meantime, there has been much reporting about how Trump increased his percentage among Hispanic voters. Yes, he did, winning 32%, up from 28% in 2016. However, as I wrote two months ago in that Hispanic power piece, “By now, [Hispanics’] two-thirds support for Democrats is a well-established voting pattern.”
If trends continue, the 2024 electorate is likely to be about 15% Hispanic. Thus, with the GOP traditionally winning only about one-third, dramatically increasing the share to 40% or 50% will be a challenge for any Republican presidential nominee. Remember that in 2004, George W. Bush won reelection with support from 44% of Hispanics. Does that help explain why he is the only Republican to win the popular vote in the last eight presidential elections?
Let’s look now at African Americans. They are also 13% of the voting electorate, one percentage point up from 12% in 2016. Blacks even surpassed Pew’s 2020 projection of 12.5%. Furthermore, during Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 elections, African Americans’ share of voters grew to 13% but shrunk back to 12% in 2016. Now this group is back to 13%, giving the Biden/Harris ticket some bragging rights.
Biden won 87% of Black voters but dropped two percentage points from Clinton’s 89% in 2016. Trump increased his share of African American voters, winning 12%, up from 8% in 2016. By comparison, since the 1980 election, the GOP presidential nominee who won the highest percentage of African American votes was Ronald Reagan with 14%, and Blacks were then 10% of the electorate. In 2020, Trump, with his 12% share, is tied for second place with Bob Dole in 1996.
Asian American voters stayed steady at 4% of the electorate. Biden won them by 27 points, 61% to 34%. But Trump increased his margin by seven points over 2016 when Clinton won Asians 65% to 27%. That is good news for the GOP, but more improvement is needed as this demographic continues to grow.
Overall, the 2020 non-white vote was 33% of the electorate, with Biden winning 71% to 26% for Trump. Henceforth, with the non-white vote potentially growing every four years, if the GOP continues on its current trajectory, Lindsey Graham’s inartful statement is destined to be a political reality.
But what exactly did Graham mean when he said, “If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again”? We know he is accusing Democrats of cheating now, but is he also insinuating as much into the future? And, is he slyly suggesting that the GOP permanently try to suppress the non-white vote?
Here is a more grounded suggestion: The Republican National Committee should dust off and update its famous “2013 autopsy report.” It was written after Mitt Romney’s 2012 devastating loss to Barack Obama when it was clear that although Romney won white voters by 20 points – 59% to 39%, with whites then 72% of the electorate – the demographic crystal ball looked more brown and black. (Romney won only 6% of Blacks, 27% of Hispanics, and 26% of Asians.)
Astonishingly, in 2016 Trump blew up the autopsy recommendations of “widening the tent” by focusing on engaging whites, especially blue-collar men in the Rust Belt. Now that Trump has lost the “blue wall” states – and potentially the reliably red states of Arizona and Georgia – a new blueprint (or should I say “redprint”) is needed to build the most massive, inclusive political party that policy, attitude, and money can buy.
In the meantime, bottle the policy ingredients that Trump used to marginally increase his percentage of non-whites and that helped win back House seats and likely keep control of the Senate. Then, ban Lindsey Graham from publicly discussing “challenging and changing” the U.S. election system when it’s demographic changes that are the greatest impediment to electing another Republican president. This is a truth the GOP must handle.
Whether you are voting for Donald Trump, Joe Biden, or another candidate, my Election Day advice is the same: Pray for a peaceful outcome.
Remember, this is America, the world’s oldest democracy that many believe the Almighty had a hand in birthing. Our nation grew into a proud example of representative government without election-related violence ever associated with the quadrennial exercise of choosing our next leader.
Yet today, there are numerous mainstream media reports of militias forming. For example, at NPR: “Five states – Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Oregon – have the highest risk of seeing increased militia activity around the elections: everything from demonstrations to violence.”
On Sunday, a veteran Republican strategist told me he firmly believes a civil war is imminent if Trump wins. And I say perhaps the reverse is possible if Biden wins. After all, on several occasions, the president has publicly stated that if he loses, the election was “rigged.” Not surprising, since I know many Republicans who think that all this talk about a landslide is good news for Trump, not Biden. (Check out Rush Limbaugh’s radio show transcript from October 14.)
Then a handful of Republicans and boatloads of Democrats have told me that a Biden landslide would guarantee the most peaceful outcome. How could Trump rally his troops for an uprising if the results are indisputable?
That is one question on a list of thoughts, observations, and prayers for my last column of this nature before Election Day.
Topping the list is a strong feeling that Americans are totally fed up with the Electoral College. If an alien from Pluto observed the election campaign, it would think that the United States had only six states. The alien would beam back to the Mothership that two of those states reigned supreme – Pennsylvania and Florida – and those voters ruled over Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arizona.
Currently, Republicans generally oppose ending the Electoral College after losing the popular vote in 2000 and 2016 and still winning the White House. Moreover, the GOP thinks that big “blue” population states would tilt the election to the Democratic nominee. But, if (BIG if) Biden were to win Texas – the “red” state “crown jewel” with 38 electoral votes – Republicans could quickly have a change of heart and start embracing a direct presidential popular vote.
Furthermore, a blue Texas under the electoral vote system would mean a significant chunk of the 2024 presidential campaign energy and attention would shift to winning the Lone Star State. Watch closely because, according to the RealClearPolitics Texas poll averages, Trump only leads Biden by 2.3 percentage points – within the margin of error in a state that Trump won by nine percentage points in 2016. If you are a Republican, pray that Texas does not go “blue.”
Second on my observation list, if Trump loses, his refusal to appeal to swing voters might prove to be his reelection campaign’s most egregious strategic error.
In June 2019, I wrote an RCP piece headlined “How GOP Insiders View Trump’s ‘Base-Only’ 2020 Strategy,” after being prompted and intrigued by a Trump quote in a Time Magazine interview. When asked if the president should reach out to swing voters, Trump replied, “I think my base is so strong, I’m not sure that I have to do that.”
Yikes, bravado red flag warning!
At that time, the economy was humming along strong, and “Contagion” was a virus horror movie. Still, Trump’s RCP job approval average in mid-2019 hovered around 44% – exactly where it is today – a remarkedly stable number that would foretell a tough reelection.
It’s worth quoting Mark McKinnon’s prescient quote from my piece. McKinnon was speaking from experience as the chief media strategist for George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign. Talking about Trump’s base-only strategy, he said, “It’s a risky strategy because in order to be successful, it means the campaign has to suppress turnout with Democrats to a level at or lower than it was in 2016. And given what we saw in 2018, Democratic turnout is likely to be significantly higher.”
Today’s record early-voting turnout and accusations of Republicans trying to suppress the vote are double scourges striking Team Trump that point to the inherent flaws of a base-only strategy. Not only lousy public relations for the GOP but when the voting pie grows, even a solid, static base serves up a smaller piece.
However, since the election is not over and if the president wins through prayers and Divine Intervention, then his base-only strategy will be considered brilliant but risky and non-traditional – like so much of Trump’s presidency.
Third on my list is a Trump action that could be looked back upon as a crucial turning point that did immense harm if he were to lose reelection. A poignant example of Trump serving his base with a “red meat all the time and to hell with blue land” attitude, this event took center stage Monday night when Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the Supreme Court’s newest member. Justice Barrett, a lovely, brilliant, pious, well-qualified woman, offers Trump the opportunity to please his base, especially “values voters” like no other presidential act.
Yet, rushing her through Senate confirmation in record time could yield some Election Day consequences, impact Supreme Court decisions for decades to come, and result in “court packing” if Biden wins. But for this discussion, let’s focus on the Senate optics.
The nation is hurting. No new COVID-related economic relief packages were passed, and now the Senate is adjourned until after the election. What signal does that send to non-base voters? Trump and GOP Senate leaders only had the base in mind when they rammed Barrett through while millions were in the process of voting. Furthermore, were those antics on the minds of record numbers of women and minority voters waiting in long lines to vote on Monday and through Election Day?
My last and overarching thoughts about the 2020 election is that Americans are sick of division. They are tired of all the Trump drama. Americans want to be unified, and Joe Biden, flawed as he is, offers that hope for millions of voters. Will this be a “hope over fear” election where unity wins over division? Or will Americans vote to keep the status quo? Never forget that for the vast majority of religious Republicans, Trump is their hope for a better America and with thousands of prayer groups asking to keep him in office.
Nevertheless, if “Blue America” defeats Trump and the Republican Party with resounding force, then the president and GOP leaders should look in the mirror and say, “We were the dividers. We fostered fear over hope. But we will be back in 2022 and 2024 when the Democrats overreach and with a kinder gentler message.”
In the end, no matter who wins, America will be transformed with God’s help.
But in the meantime and on Election Day, pray for peace. And depending on the outcome, an orderly transition, if that be His Will.
“But you can tell the story of why this year might genuinely be different as well! In particular, you can see how there may be many Republican-leaning voters who genuinely like his [Trump’s] policies but dislike him personally on such a visceral level that they cannot bring themselves to vote for him.” – Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics senior elections analyst, Oct. 20, “What a Big Biden Win Would Look Like.”
What Trende wrote is true, but also there is an opposite reaction — Republicans who admit that they personally despise the president but are voting for him anyway because they like his policies.
Such contradictions in voter behavior diminish the chances of predicting the presidential winner once afforded by a light-hearted, hypothetical question asking voters: “Who would you rather have a beer with?”
(Note: After searching during this election cycle, I have yet to find that question asked by any polling company.)
When this theoretical, quadrennial beer question entered the political domain (around 2004, based on my research), pollsters concocted that pop-culture scenario to gauge “likability” as a factor in predicting outcome. To be clear, that poll served as a metaphor only, as two recent commanders-in-chief – and at least one candidate for the job – did not drink.
After all, beer sharing aside, Americans are not only voting for a president but someone who they will invite into their homes over the next four years.
However, it just so happened that the “have a beer” question was a decent predictor of who would win the White House.
For example, in 2004, a poll found that 57.3% of undecided voters preferred President George W. Bush as a drinking buddy over Sen. John Kerry. Voters picked Bush even though he abstained from drinking, while Kerry — his “elite” Democratic challenger — was perceived as more “snobby.”
During the 2008 election pitting Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, I read a revealing modern twist on the beer bro’ question from a young male’s perspective. He said that McCain would be “more fun one-on-one in a bar crawl.” But, Obama “would get me into better clubs” and “make sure the ladies paid equal attention to me.” Now that is some focus-group insight! A window into why Obama’s perceived magnetic personality and nice-guy image was key to his decisive 2008 win over McCain, who was considered more hot-tempered.
In 2012 when President Obama was up for reelection, he again won the brew challenge with favorability numbers that surpassed his weaker job approval rating while running against Republican Mitt Romney. (As a member of the Mormon faith, Romney did not drink.)
That data from a June 2012 report on Mediaite also quoted an MSNBC guest describing Romney as a “geeky, awkward candidate on the campaign trail” who “doesn’t project a lot of personal warmth. He doesn’t seem the kind of guy you’d want to sit down and have a beer with.” Likeability was a significant factor in 2012, and the more popular Obama was overwhelmingly reelected.
Then in June 2016, Rasmussen reported polling results for the presidential candidate with whom “likely voters” would prefer to have a beer. Donald Trump won 45% to Hillary Clinton’s 37%, with 18% undecided.
Yet, Trump and Clinton were nearly tied at 42% to 41% when likely voters were asked which candidate “they’d prefer to invite home to dinner with them and their families.” Again, a large percentage, 17%, were unsure. Those mid-year polling results predicted the tough, unsettled race that lay ahead.
Four years later, we are less than two weeks from what everyone calls “the most important election of our lifetime.” (In a December 2019 RCP piece, I argued that voters think that way about every presidential election.)
Now let’s revisit the all-important beer-buddy question from a new perspective. Sean Trende’s analysis about Republicans who like Trump’s policies but won’t vote for him due to his unlikeable personality is supported by Politico’s Tom Alberta, who wrote:
“Generations of pollsters and journalists have fixated on the question of which candidate voters would rather have a beer with—a window into how personality translates into political success. Here’s the thing: Americans have been having a beer with Trump for the past four years—every morning, every afternoon, every evening. He has made himself more accessible than any president in history, using the White House as a performance stage and Twitter as a real-time diary for all to read. Like the drunk at the bar, he won’t shut up.”
Nonetheless, for the vast majority of Republicans, Trump is their favorite “drunk” who “won’t shut up,” and they don’t want him to. Millions of loyal, banner-waving, rally attending, MAGA hat wearers enthusiastically love and support the president because of what he has done, will continue to do, and are gladly voting to keep him in office.
Even Republicans who find Trump personally abhorrent will hold their nose and cast their vote with the other hand. I know this firsthand because these voters are my friends.
Last week while making a point in my controversial Trump piece, I included a text received the prior week from a dear friend who is a Republican leader explaining why I had to support Trump. It read in part:
“Pay attention to ISSUES, not personalities.”
In so many words, that is the mantra I hear repeatedly, and often this way: “Your house is on fire; do you care if the fireman is a jerk?”
Furthermore, reacting to my piece last week, RCP readers sent me numerous Gmails. These mostly angry messages exposed the schism facing our nation when millions of voters would relish that proverbial “beer” with Trump because of what he is doing for America. An example:
“Trump is one of the few people standing between mainstream American and the precipice.”
Also, I heard from Republicans who want to kick Trump out of that proverbial bar, such as this RCP reader:
“I have never seen the virtue of a group of people so much undermined by one person than the typical Republican has been by Trump.” The reader ended his long message writing, “Thank you and God Bless You for writing your article and making me feel less alone. I now have some hope.”
Finally, before I go drink a beer, here is an RCP reader’s message that best represents the view of most Trump-voting Republicans:
“Yes, President Trump’s tweets are boisterous in nature and hurt him. Yes, he certainly has flaws. At least I know he will fight for my rights and has demonstrated a willingness to do so. That’s why I’m voting for him…I can overlook everything else.”
Hey Trump campaign, an RCP reader just wrote your next commercial!
Since 1975, I have remained a proud, loyal member of the Republican Party through decades of winning and losing. But with Election Day fast approaching, my requested mail-in ballot from the nation’s most decisive battleground state – Florida – remains unopened after nearly three weeks.
A permanently sealed ballot would stand as a personal time capsule to what I believe was an egregious strategic error perpetrated upon this nation by my party on Feb. 5, 2020. That day Senate Republicans failed to convict President Donald J. Trump on the articles of impeachment approved by the House, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Given all that American voters have endured since — the double scourge of an out of control, mismanaged pandemic, resulting in great economic harm —Trump’s impeachment has largely been relegated to ancient history. Although only the third U.S. president to be impeached, Trump is the first to run for reelection after acquittal.
And because he was not convicted and removed from office, and legally allowed to run for a second term, I consider the Senate’s not-guilty vote to be the most egregious strategic error of 2020. Hence, if only the GOP had acted responsibly, today my sealed ballot might read the name of Michael R. Pence on top, in place of Donald J. Trump.
Before my fellow Republicans stop reading, let me explain and defend myself.
First, I know many Republicans will take umbrage with my suggesting that Trump was rightly impeached and should have been convicted over a “phone call” with the president of Ukraine. However, I believe the specific charges were emblematic of the president’s “anything goes,” “I can do no wrong,” and “no rules apply to me” attitude. This same attitude accounted for how he comported himself pre-impeachment and further emboldened his post-impeachment behavior and authoritarian-leaning tendencies.
On display now is how this “Trumpian” attitude is backfiring, especially among suburban women, evidenced by him pathetically asking voters at a Pennsylvania rally, “Will you please like me?”Well, they don’t.
That helps explain why the words “Biden and landslide” are increasingly linked in polling and news reports. And, why Drudge Report headlines recently screamed: “BATTLEGROUND MAP EXPANDS, SHOCK POLL: BIDEN +17, ‘91% CHANCE’ OF WINNING.”
Furthermore, check out the RealClearPolitics “No Toss Up States” Electoral College map projecting Biden to overwhelm Trump by 375 to 163 electoral votes. Might it look more balanced if Pence had replaced Trump?
And what if the actual results are close to that RCP projection? I will point to the root cause as a self-inflicted wound from the trigger pulled on Feb. 5 by Republican senators, primarily out of fear.
Not all, but enough GOP senators voted to acquit Trump fearing blowback and name-calling attacks, especially those facing tough reelections. After seeing Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announce his intention to convict and the Trump treatment he received, they understood that casting an acquittal vote was a safer and quieter decision.
Many senators also feared retribution from Trump-supporting MAGA constituents about being “primaried” and voted out of office. Ultimately, those senators prioritized their political careers over what I believe was best for America. While selfishly doing so, they set an unimpeachable, unconstitutional behavioral precedent for future presidents to exploit. (Looking back to 1974, applying this 2020 standard to President Richard Nixon means that he might not have been forced to resign.)
Second, I am well aware that it is revisionist history to imagine “President Pence” topping the GOP ticket and most likely accompanied by a woman VP nominee. Still, I am confident that Pence would have successfully stepped in and made a valiant attempt to unite and heal the nation. Perhaps other Republicans think that Pence would not have been the strongest candidate to replace Trump on the ticket. However, in February 2020, keeping Pence in place as the new incumbent president would have been the more prudent and stable choice.
If only 19 more Republican senators had voted “guilty” on Feb. 5. Then Americans could have been spared what has evolved into a daily “theater of the absurd” — a chaotic White House reality show starring “Superman.”
Worse are childish and desperate statements from Trump’s Twitter account, or directly from his mouth. With utterances and behaviors more associated with banana republic dictators, Americans have come to accept and ignore them as “Trump being Trump.”
Here are three recent episodes that stand out and should not be ignored.
First, last week Trump asked (or rather, insisted) on national cable television that Attorney General William Barr issue indictments against Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Just another “normal” day on the campaign trail! But in America, an incumbent president does not ask for his predecessor and current opponent to be indicted. Sadly, Trump’s astounding request was not treated as a major news event.
Second, on several occasions and at the presidential debate, Trump has refused to state that he would leave office if he disagreed with the election results. He also has said that the only way he could lose is in a “rigged election.” Such outlandish remarks have prompted many Americans to hope Biden wins in a landslide so that GOP leaders will be forced to assist in a peaceful transition of power.
Fortunately, all Americans believe that a “peaceful transition of power” is a hallmark of who we are as a nation. The pride embodied in this foundational concept is always on display during the inaugural swearing-in ceremony when the incumbent (defeated or term-limited) is present, along with all former presidents physically able to attend.
Third, information leaked from Trump’s tax returns reveal that he is in severe financial distress. The president owes $400 million coming due during his second-term time frame. But unknown is to whom — persons, groups, corporations, banks, or even countries (friendly or unfriendly) — does he owe these millions.
The Trump financial revelation prompted Mike Morell, former acting director of the CIA, to write a Washington Post op-ed headlined: “Trump is in debt. We can’t ignore the national security risks that come with that.” Morell noted that if the president were instead an applicant seeking a sensitive job, “Trump would have been denied a [security] clearance” over concerns that “high levels of debt would create an unacceptable counterintelligence risk.”
Still, matters such as these three and many more are of no consequence to my GOP friends (who might not be my friends after reading this piece). I have written twice during 2020 that my party has turned into a “Trumplican” cult of personality where reasonable, educated, successful, patriotic Americans dismiss or rationalize Trump’s behavior for reasons spelled out in a recent text sent to me by a VIP Republican and longtime friend:
“Quite frankly, Myra, I don’t know how you can call yourself a Christian and not support Trump. Pay attention to ISSUES, not personalities. You judge a tree by its fruit, not how pretty its flowers are.”
As I see it, the truth is Trump only cozied up to Christians for political expediency and certainly does not comport himself as one. But yes, a big yes, is how his policies and judicial selections have been pleasing to conservative Christians. Nonetheless, I know Mike Pence is a Christian — a real-deal prayer warrior and humble man of God. But, because Pence’s name is in second place on my unopened ballot, I cannot, in good conscience, vote to reelect Trump after supporting him in 2016.
Conversely, neither can I bring myself to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. That would be a vote to support a future beholden to the anti-Christian left — transforming the American economy and culture into one with socialist leanings and empowering a Democratic Party that worships at the altar of climate change and secular humanism.
“Thy will be done” is my response to my friend.
On Election Day or soon after, I fully expect my party to lose the White House and Senate, stemming from the controversial consequences of the majority of GOP senators’ reckless decision back on Feb. 5.
Finally, it pains me to write that I will not be casting a presidential vote for the first time since age 18. Instead, I will pray on Election Day that God helps and blesses our nation.
Those who follow politics know that the future is uncertain for an overwhelmingly white Republican Party, due to clear-cut demographic trends. Voters who identify with the GOP are more likely to be male, over age 50, have no college degree, live in rural areas, and worship as Christians.
I joined the College Republicans in the aftermath of Watergate when the GOP was also in decline. Yet, our handful of student members were optimistic that conservative governing principles would eventually prevail. In 1980, that is precisely what happened: Ronald Reagan was elected.
Forty years later, conservative governing principles are largely passé, and Republican gatherings resemble a focus group of aging white Americans. Moreover, in 2020 whites are projected to be 66.7% of the voting total, dipping from 70% in 2016 and down steeply from 88% in 1980.
In the last three presidential elections, the Republican nominees lost the popular vote but won the shrinking white electorate by sizable margins. Trump in 2016: 57% to 37%. Romney in 2012: 59% to 39%. McCain in 2008: 55% to 43%.
Turning to the current White House race, a recent national Fox News poll found a significant shift in white voters’ presidential preference. Among likely white voters, President Trump is leading Joe Biden 54% to 43%. But Biden’s campaign is celebrating that 11-point gap because, in 2016, Trump won whites by 20 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. If these Fox poll percentages hold, Trump’s nine-point decrease among two-thirds of the electorate will make it statistically challenging for him to win the popular vote and, more importantly, the Electoral College.
In the meantime, election reporting is fixated on the Hispanic vote, and for good reasons. This is the first election when Hispanics are projected to be the nation’s largest minority voting group, at 13.3% of the electorate, surpassing the projected 12.5% for African Americans.
Compare those percentages to 2016 when Hispanics were at 11%, just behind African Americans at 12%. (In 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama boosted African American participation to 13%, a record high.)
I vividly recall when the national Hispanic vote was only 7% around the turn of the century – and the mantra among anxious GOP strategists was “We can’t lose the Hispanic vote like we lost the black vote.” And in the next breath came some variation of “or we will go the way of the Whigs.” The strategists were fearful because “safe” red states such as Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, and Florida had growing numbers of Hispanic voters who were voting Democratic at 60% or more. Unfortunately for my party, the continuation of that trend is exactly what has happened.
Since around 2000, when the Hispanic vote started to gain traction, the Republican Party’s success in attracting this group has been dismal. Over 60% of Hispanics have voted for the Democrat presidential nominee in every presidential election starting with 1992, shown below with one sub-60% exception.
What follows are Hispanic presidential voting percentages since that year and their share of voting totals shown in parentheses.
2016: Clinton 66%-Trump 28% (11%)
2012: Obama 71%-Romney 27% (10%)
2008: Obama 67%-McCain 31% (9%)
2004: Kerry 53%-Bush 44% (7%)
2000: Gore 62%-Bush 35% (7%)
1996: Clinton (record holder) 73%-Dole 21% (5%)
1992: Clinton 61%-Bush 25% (2%)
Currently there are numerous reports about how Biden is not attracting Hispanic voters compared to previous Democratic incumbents and nominees — especially Hillary Clinton. Therefore, the Trump campaign should be encouraged since numerous polls, such as the one cited earlier from Fox News, show that among likely Hispanic voters, Trump is earning 41% compared to 57% for Biden. (Remember that nationally in 2016, Trump only won 28% of Hispanics.)
But among registered Hispanic voters, the Fox poll shows Trump dipping to 38% with the same 57% for Biden. In a national You/Gov poll, again measuring registered Hispanic voters, Trump sinks to 30% with 52% for Biden and 12% “not sure.”
Next, let’s look at battleground Florida, where it is almost imperative that the president win the state’s 29 electoral votes if he hopes to secure a second term. Last week a St. Pete poll of likely voters had Biden winning the Hispanic vote 53.3% to Trump’s 41.5%.
This week, a Monmouth poll of registered voters shows Biden leading Trump among Florida’s Hispanics 58% to 32%. To compare, in 2016 Clinton lost the state to Trump by 1.2 percentage points, but won Florida’s diverse Hispanic vote 62% to 35%. So this survey is not good news for either candidate since both are down from 2016 percentages, but Trump’s deficit of 26 points mirrors his gap four years ago.
Now let’s examine the 2020 battleground states through the lens of 2016 Hispanic voting by party along with their percentage of the state’s voting total. Note that the states listed below are likely to increase their percentage of Hispanic voters by about two points or more this year. The states selected are all “toss-ups,” according to the RealClearPolitics 2020 Electoral College map and presented in order of the largest Hispanic electorate.
Texas: (D) 61% (R) 34% (24%)
Florida: (D) 62% (R) 35% (18%)
Nevada: (D) 60% (R) 29% (18%)
Arizona: (D) 60% (R) 30% (16%)
Pennsylvania: (D) 74% (R) 22% (6%)
Michigan: (D) 59% (R) 38% (5%)
North Carolina: (D) 59% (R) 39% (5%)
Wisconsin: (D) 63% (R) 34% (4%)
Ohio: (D) 68% (R) 28% (3%)
All we know for sure in mid-September is that 2020 will be another step up for the growing Hispanic electorate’s clout in close battleground states and, ultimately, the national election.
Circling back to the GOP’s “losing the Hispanic vote” mantra of decades ago, there was much discussion about how Hispanics “should be Republicans.” The thinking was that, in general, Hispanics are conservative, family-oriented, and religious, with many starting and owning businesses. However, in the ensuing years, this bloc has remained in the Democrat fold, likely because of immigration issues and “not feeling welcome” in the GOP.
By now, their two-thirds support for Democrats is a well-established voting pattern. That, combined with Asian voters also trending toward Democrats, the shrinking (and always split) white vote, and African Americans virtually in lockstep with Democrats, suggests a daunting long-term future for the Republican Party. But I remind myself that after President Ford’s 1976 election loss, I had the same thought.
Of course, there is always the possibility that a GOP presidential candidate will emerge who “looks like the new America.” Already, three prominent Republicans come to mind, but let’s save that discussion for after November.
This week in September 2016, I wrote a report headlined “Confirmed by Trump insider: ‘Trump TV’ is Plan B after election.”
Four years later, but not confirmed by any “Trump insiders,” the same conclusion seems appropriate for similar reasons — it makes both good business and political sense for Donald Trump to launch a “Trump TV” media venture should he suffer a reelection defeat. It’s an assessment based on the president’s narrow path to winning 270 electoral votes, which grows statistically more daunting by the day.
(Cue “There you go again” — Ronald Reagan’s iconic pronouncement from his October 1980 debate with President Jimmy Carter.)
Briefly, here are two key reasons to dust off and update “Trump TV as Plan B.”
First, students of politics know the phrase “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.” It’s a well-deserved maxim, since the 1960 presidential election was the last time Ohio did not vote for the winning candidate.
In 2016, Trump won the Buckeye state and its 18 electoral votes by a whopping margin of 8.1 percentage points — seemingly securing a “safe” spot atop the 2020 red-state column. Instead, the current Ohio RealClearPolitics poll average has Joe Biden leading Trump by 2.4 percentage points, a statistical tie bringing the state back to its traditional battleground status. Despite scant media attention, Trump’s Ohio slippage is an ominous sign.
Second, RCP’s Electoral College map is a reality check for Team Trump, where Biden is credited with 212 votes, either “solid” or “leaning,” compared to Trump’s 115. Remaining, and spread among 16 states — several of them traditionally reliably “red” — are 211 electoral “toss-up” votes. Biden needs to win only 58 to reach 270 and remove “vice” from his former title. Conversely, Trump must draw the political equivalent of a royal straight flush in poker to win 155 out of the 211 remaining votes to reach 270. Not favorable odds for an incumbent.
However, the president could eventually “win” by losing should he launch Trump TV on popular delivery platforms with a wide range of programming.
Here is a concept paper for such a venture:
In 2016, Trump earned 62.9 million “popular” votes. For our purposes, let’s assume he wins close to that number in November, so even 10% of it would account for a potentially substantial audience.
By comparison, according to the Fox News Channel, in August “Hannity” was “the most-watched show on cable news, averaging 4.7 million viewers for the show’s best month ever.” In second place was “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” averaging 4.4 million viewers. Therefore, it is plausible that Trump TV programming, geared to his loyal base, could easily compete with the most popular Fox prime-time shows.
Currently, Trump TV (not labeled as such) is already operating with show production values rivaling cable television while hosted on the campaign’s official website. Campaign events are live-streamed and in-person ticket registration is offered. (Similar to the arena rallies of old, these events are primarily used to gather voter contact information.)
If Trump loses, he and his family could stay politically relevant and ripe for a comeback by offering counter-programming to the Biden administration. “His family” is the operative phrase. Ivanka, currently a White House senior adviser, also courts the limelight with a domestic lifestyle brand rivaling Kim Kardashian’s, while Don Jr. appears to have caught “Potomac Fever.” In an extensive August profile, the New York Times Magazine requoted him saying, “It’s sort of cool if you’re at a stadium of 15,000 people and they start chanting ‘46’ when you’re speaking.” (Donald Trump is the 45th president.)
Speaking of the Kardashians, it was widely reported this week that after 14 years and 20 seasons, their reality show, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” is ending in early 2021. What fortunate timing for launching the Trump TV network’s first reality show. (My suggested working title: “Keeping Up With Trump’s America.”)
Mirroring the Kardashians are the Trump family’s “star” spouses. First and foremost is Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner. History could view him, at age 39, as the second most powerful man in Washington, and perhaps the world, during the Trump administration. How then, does he go back to being a run-of-the-mill NYC real estate developer/socialite after spending four years as the de facto White House chief of staff; secretary of state; head of domestic and legislative policy; pandemic CEO; Middle East peace envoy; the Trump campaign’s 2016/2020 chairman; and most trusted adviser to the president of the United States?
Henceforth, Jared’s new perch could be as president of the Trump TV Entertainment/ Lifestyle Brand/Data Services/News Network and Make America Trump political party. (His father-in-law would be CEO.) Jared could manage and exploit Trumpism to foster a political dynasty well into the 21st century. (Trump has 10 grandkids.)
Ready to assume a leading role on Trump TV is Don Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, currently head of major donor fundraising for the reelection campaign. She is already a seasoned television personality after spending 12 years on air at Fox News. (A made for Trump TV subplot involves Guilfoyle’s ex-husband Gavin Newsom. He is currently the governor of California and is believed to have national political ambitions, so one can imagine a Gavin vs. Don Jr. presidential race.)
Another telegenic Trump spouse is Lara, wife of Eric. She also comes to the family from television, where from 2012 to 2016 she was a story coordinator and producer for the CBS news magazine “Inside Edition.” Lara Trump’s title is senior adviser to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. She is also a campaign media surrogate, often seen promoting her father-in-law on Fox News.
Once the family is decoupled from the White House, a Trump TV enterprise offers the perfect opportunity to reposition and reload for whatever comes next. But what platform could be acquired? Since the Fox News Channel is so successful and not for sale, I suggest two conservative network options.
First is One America News Network. Although OANN attracts a small audience to the right of Fox, President Trump is its No. 1 fan. At times, he has unabashedly promoted the fledgling outlet when Fox has not supported him 100%. Now there is much talk about a rift between Trump and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, with Trump making accusations of “unfair treatment” and how the network is “going rogue.”
Second is NewsmaxTV, owned and led by Christopher Ruddy, a longtime Trump friend. Maybe for the right price, Newsmax TV could be rebranded as Trump TV? Or, at the very least, host some pilot programming?
But does Trump TV really need a cable network? If millions of MAGA supporters are already clicking DonaldJTrump.com — the campaign’s official URL — then after the election, the site can be repositioned into the family’s all-encompassing platform.
Trump TV offers endless programming possibilities, starting with polishing the 45th commander-in-chief’s legacy while he builds his presidential library. (“Buy your personalized gold-plated MAGA bricks now!”) Moreover, international/domestic lifestyle/travel/golf/spa/real estate programming will help rebuild, promote, and sustain what was formerly a lucrative revenue stream: licensing the Trump name.
Non-political family-specific programming could include Melania hosting a modeling and fashion design show called “Be Best Dressed.” Ivanka could make cameo appearances on every show every day, no matter the topic, but she and her children might star in their own series, “Size Four Mother of Three.” Barron, now a tall, handsome teenager and a magnet for young ladies, might emcee video game championships at Trump hotels around the world.
(Another lineup possibility: Roger Stone as host of a dirty-tricks game show titled “Pardon Me!”)
The former president could continue his regular schedule — chatting up friends and loyal supporters while touring and playing his golf courses, all presented on-air. Between swings, he would surely remind viewers of his greatest presidential achievements that Biden is now dismantling.
For “news” purposes, the former president could hint at a 2024 comeback, unless he passes the torch to the next generation. They, in turn, will battle it out for the nomination, driving up ratings on “Keeping Up With Trump’s America” — which by that time is a hit reality show — proving that losing the White House means winning prime time. But, since we all know that Trumps never lose, stay tuned.
A veteran GOP political strategist told me he likens the current state of America to pressure building inside a volcano and predicts, “It will blow its top immediately after the election.”
Living in Florida, perhaps I watch too much of The Weather Channel, but my own election natural disaster analogy resembles the tracking of a monster hurricane as it moves closer to the U.S. mainland. Based on present conditions, we know at least a Category 3 will strike late on Nov. 3 and gather strength on Nov. 4 or 5. Virtually everyone is aware of the potential for devastation, and millions are taking pro-active precautions — buying guns and ammunition.
Last month, Fox Business reported, “Gun sales surged 135% year-over-year in July to about 2 million and have already matched all of last year, according to a report released earlier this week by research consultancy Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting. Sales were up 145% in June, 80% in May and 71% in April.”
A Brookings Institute report based on data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System found, “In just the first six months of 2020, approximately 19 million firearms have been sold, representing more than one firearm for every 20 Americans.”
Notably, gun sales dramatically rose in response to the George Floyd protests, resulting in 150,000 per day on June 2 and 3. August gun sales, to be reported in about a week, are projected to set another record — contributing to surpassing the total 2019 U.S. gun sales in only eight months. Women are part of this national gun buying spree, comprising 40% of first-time owners, according to NSSF, the trade association for the firearms industry.
More detailed information about female owners can be found in a recent survey by A Girl & a Gun Women’s Shooting League. A fast-growing national organization with 138 chapters, AG & AG promotes gun ownership, safety, training and “encouragement,” while redefining “girls night out” with shooting range social events. What about “suburban women” — that highly sought-after voting group? Some will be “packing heat” on Election Day, just as they do every day in their attractive “carry purses.”
All this gun-buying data reminds me of a song lyric — “Paranoia strikes deep/ into your life it will creep” — from 1967’s “For What It’s Worth.” This protest anthem by Buffalo Springfield was recently resurrected during the Democratic National Convention, but performed with a modern twist.
Americans have become paranoid about Election Day since the daily violence and upheaval we are seeing could be perceived as a warm-up for post-election chaos when either Joe Biden or Donald Trump “wins.” My quotation marks are in anticipation that determining the next president could take days, weeks, or even months — plunging our nation into levels of civil unrest not seen since the Civil War. We can expect various mail-in ballot controversies, along with potentially millions of rejected or fraudulent ballots to trigger something resembling the “Election Lawyers Full-Employment Act” with endless lawsuits at every state and local level.
The critical question is when the winner is ultimately announced, will the losing candidate accept defeat and calm his supporters? Will they listen to him anyway? In the interim, if both sides are claiming victory, chaos could reign. Municipal police departments, as we’ve already seen, are ill-equipped to handle large numbers of violent protesters. And based on explosive gun sales, these mobs might be armed.
With paranoia striking deep, unprecedented small arms sales have caused a nationwide ammunition shortage. In a July NRA report headlined “Manufacturers Struggle to Keep Up With Soaring Ammunition Sales,” a spokesman from Brownells, a weapons and ammo company, said, “Ammunition continues to fly off the shelves.”
The August edition of NRA Shooting Illustrated was headlined, “Ammo Shortage May Last Until 2021” and mentioned Winchester Ammunition experiencing a 17% increase in orders over the last three months.
A banner atop Winchester’s website reads:
PRODUCT DEMAND NOTICE: Like many manufacturers in the shooting sports industry, we are experiencing an extremely high demand for our products. We are continuing to manufacture and ship our high quality products on a daily basis. We appreciate the support and thank you for choosing Winchester.
John Fischer, CEO of Winchester parent company Olin, was quoted saying, “We expect this elevated level of demand to continue at least until the end of the year.” And why is ammo demand predicted to remain “elevated”? NRA Shooting Illustrated cited perhaps the understatement of the year:
“A Presidential election in November will have an impact on the prediction.”
Circling back to election weather analogies, the most optimistic forecast is a “political hurricane” goes “out to sea.” Imagine a clear winner is declared late on Nov. 3 or early into the next day. There are peaceful coast-to-coast celebrations for our newly elected or re-elected president, and all is well across the “Armed States of America.”
Conversely, the hurricane could strike as a mild regional tropical storm or, worse case, strengthen to a Category 5. If the latter, our nation could “blow its top,” resulting in disrupted supply chains and nationwide curfews. There might be widespread deployment of the National Guard or the most dreaded scenario — President Trump invokes the Insurrection Act, deploying federal troops and declares martial law.
After seeing that A Girl & a Gun has a chapter near me, it might be time for a “girls night out” at the gun range because November is coming.