America voted. Now the results will be determined by a combination of local election officials, state officials, corrupt urban political machines, targeted mass violence, lawyers, judges, and even Congress. Added into the volatile mix will be a thoroughly partisan and untrustworthy legacy media, social media giants, and even hostile foreign powers. It is 2020, after all.
Four weeks ago, I designed and ran a post-election simulation. It was a joint project of the Claremont Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. As a U.S. Army intelligence officer, now a lieutenant colonel in the retired reserve, I’ve used countless “wargames” as a planning tool to anticipate “what ifs?” and plan responses during a period of relative calm before a storm.
The Claremont-TPPF exercise brought together 35 experts in constitutional and election law, law enforcement, media and social media, and foreign affairs. Over the course of a week, the team gamed out the most difficult post-election scenario — one involving neither candidate winning with a clear 270 Electoral College vote majority and featuring widespread suspicions of election fraud, competing claims of victory, lawsuits, and destructive mobs.
Our simulation came down to Michigan and Pennsylvania, with both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden short of victory.
The post-election taskforce’s findings, detailed in its “79 Days Report,” envisioned the following possibilities, some of which have happened with others likely to follow:
- Election night featured a prematurely called state. We saw this election night when Arizona was erroneously called for Biden, potentially leading to some degree of last-minute voter suppression in Nevada.
- Among states too close to call, the simulation saw Michigan and Pennsylvania as the main states in contention with Georgia, Nevada, and Wisconsin as being slow to report.
- The unsettled nature of the contest served as a spark for urban unrest, most of it pre-planned with the objective to threaten a full and honest tally of legally cast ballots while shutting down any effort to investigate alleged election fraud in urban cores known for election irregularities (Detroit and Philadelphia).
- Foreign powers, especially China and Russia, leveraged social media to encourage mob violence.
- Riots, generally in cities with the highest share of votes for Biden, proved difficult to control as local politicians and governors were unwilling to restore order, seeing political utility in the mob violence and viewing the organizers of the unrest as allies.
- With America focused on the most-contested post-election period since 1824, communist China and Russia ramped up aggressive moves against their neighbors, with China stepping up its systematic genocide of the Uyghur minority.
- The conflicting lawsuits and court opinions and concern over election fraud eventually led to state legislatures impaneling their own slates of electors to cast votes on behalf of their states.
- Eventually, with a narrow Electoral College majority seemingly conferring victory on a candidate, a small number of faithless electors cast a ballot for someone other than the two main opponents. Without an absolute majority of electors, the contest was thrown to Congress, where the House must decide the president via state caucuses, with each state having one vote, 26 votes needed to win the presidency, and with the Senate voting for the vice president.
- Since each chamber determines the membership of its own body, the House speaker moves to prevent enough Republicans from being seated in time to prevent a 26-state majority. This effort is stopped by widespread public outrage at such a maneuver.
- Amid a tense Washington, with frequent riots threatening the constitutional process, Congress acts to vote for a president and vice president from among the top three finishers in the Electoral College vote.
As of this writing, it’s entirely possible that either Trump will win reelection or Biden will become the 46th president of the United States via the traditional route of winning 50 percent plus one of the Electoral College votes cast. There is also an increased chance that no candidate will secure an absolute majority of the electors’ ballots, sending the contest to Congress for the first time since 1824.
Despite the coming challenges — threatened violence, lawsuits, election fraud, distortion, and selective censorship by the media (both traditional and social) — our Constitution was designed to function in adverse times. This might be such a time.
It is incumbent on us, as Americans, to rise to the test and to act with firmness to see this election through to its lawful result with charity for all who might have peaceably disagreed. We have faced more difficult times in our past and have emerged a stronger, freer, and more just nation.
Regardless, one thing is certain: America will have a president on Jan. 20, 2021, and our republic will endure.