Can Trump and the GOP cancel/suspend/invalidate/overthrow the upcoming election? (spoiler: no, they can't)

Donald J. Trump, great healer, spiritual leader and man of the people. Today was the day he truly became the greatest President in history.

What a fucking shitshow. The worst part is, you just know he’s practically gleeful to have something to focus on instead of 100K dead and 40 million unemployed Americans. Riots in June, martial law by July, a resurgent COVID outbreak in the fall, looks like those elections will have to be suspended indefinitely!

Monthly “They can’t suspend elections” reminder. ;)

Monthly “That hasn’t stopped them with anything else so far” reminder. ;-)

Actually it has. Like a lot of things, elections are in the hands of the states, and for all 45’s vocal frustration and claims to the contrary, he’s had exactly no success forcing state governors to do anything.

Things are really bad, but let’s not make them seem even worse than they are.

I know, sorry @vinraith and @triggercut, I was being facetious out of frustration.

I hate to wish time away given it’s value, but damn we need November to get here FAST. I mean, on the one hand every time Trump opens his mouth lately he seems to erode his chances for reelection that much further, but on the other hand I’m not sure the country can take much more of this with his idiocy at the helm.

The next 5 months are gonna be an E ticket ride, for sure. I am tired of living in interesting times…

Monthly “You assume they give a rat’s ass about the rule of law and The Constitution” reminder. Your institutions will not save you.

I’m not saying they are definitely going to suspend elections but I am saying it’s a possibility and if they really want to do it they’re not going to care what the constitution says they can and cannot do.

Describe in detail for me the mechanism by which that happens.

(And realize that if Justice Roberts is going to side with the liberal wing of SCOTUS on giving Governors the power to keep churches open and keeping the citizenship question off census documentation, he’s probably not going to rule against something like the plain and explicit language of the 20th Amendment…or Ex Parte Milligan.)

The President declares a State of Emergency or martial law and says that the elections must be postponed due to the virus or voter fraud or foreign interference. Republican Senators rally around him and possibly introduce legislation that won’t make it past the house. Most states ignore his pronouncement as invalid and proceed with elections. Trump declares these elections to be invalid. Some states follow Trumps lead. Maybe he fires the head of the FEC and replaces her with a lackey. Maybe he dissolved the FEC as being an illegitimate deep state department gone rogue. Chaos ensues. Election results are incomplete because some states chose not to hold elections. Many States sue the federal government. The DOJ takes up Trumps position. The Supreme Court weighs in and sides with Trump. (But the Supreme Court would never come up with a convoluted legal justification to determine the outcome of a Presidential election!)

Alternatively, they just cheat like hell. Suppress the shit out of votes, manipulate tallies, turn a blind eye to foreign hackers outright changing votes in our vulnerable electronic voting machines, etc.

Where there’s a will there’s a way. Authoritarian regimes like to give the illusion they are Democracies but they always find a way to maintain their gold in power.

The Constitution is 100% clear: on Inauguration Day 2021 the current President’s time in office ends.

It doesn’t matter if there wasn’t an election.

He has no Constitutional power to do so. As vinraith notes above, elections lie in the hands of the states, governors, and state legislatures.

That’s a fun conspiracy, but won’t hold up as we’ll see.

Yes. They would do that.

He has no power to do so, in the Constitution. And Presidents have challenged this power, and have been slapped down.

Not sure what that means. They’re welcome to follow his lead. It means those states will not be electing new representatives – and this is the important thing – or electors. Because (just a reminder here) at its core, the election of a president is not a popular vote. Electors choose the president. Majority wins. Alabama is welcome to not send electors, if they so choose.

The FEC doesn’t really do any of this. The FEC’s main purpose is to enforce campaign finance law. They do not get to override the Constitution.

Again, those states are welcome to not send electors.

Probably would happen in this fantasy.

The Supreme Court would very likely not hear the case, because of precedent (Milligan) and explicit rule from Article I, II and the 20th Amendment written into the Constitution.

Finally, should states decide to not have elections, the terms of senators and representatives end just as explicitly as the term of a president. So, there’s no one in the House. But there’s also a bunch of expiring senate terms, too, leaving a very partially filled senate body.

How many senators, you ask?

Well, enough that in such a case, the Democrats would have the majority.

So, counting it back:

President: term expired
VP: term expired
House speaker: term expired
President Pro-tem of the senate: Democrat (probably, hilariously, Pat Leahy.)

Here’s a little more color. It would be messy for sure, but one thing is certain: Donald Trump would not be President on January 20th at noon if there is no election. There is no Constitutional path to that. It is quite explicitly defined.

I’m going to assume that every other democracy that descended into authoritarianism had laws and mechanisms in place to prevent that from happening. And yet it happens on a regular basis.

You are probably right that it won’t happen but it’s not impossible regardless of our laws or institutions. It happens all of the time in failing democracies.

No worries, I certainly understand that. I’m just trying very hard these days not to borrow trouble, for my own mental health (what little remains of it).

If Trump somehow got the entire military to back him and they just shot their way through the Supreme Court, sure, he could make anything he wanted happen.

Nancy Pelosi declares them valid. She is equally capable of doing this as Trump.

That’s like saying “Election results are incomplete because some people choose not to vote”. There is always a vote total, even if some voters abstain. This is true in popular votes, in legislatures, and in the Electoral College.

Remember, nine states did not send electors in the 1864 election. Lincoln won because of the states that did.

Very unlikely, for reasons that triggercut explained.

That’s where I’m at. At the end of the day, the Constitution is a piece of paper. It doesn’t have any will or power of its own. I’m pretty sure this same paper says other things that Trump can’t do but is currently doing.

Not saying the election will be off, but Trump is crazy and his cult are fanatics so it is something I consider at least possible.

I mean, we’ve seen that some of the vague-ish language in the Constitution struggle to keep up with the Age of Trump. But goddammit, those bastards were awesome and on point when describing election deadlines and term limits.

And then when the 20th Amendment came into being after FDR, the folks who penned that were staring straight at an era with Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini and wrote super explicit language into that document as well.

I really appreciate you taking the time to address these point-by-point. It has done a lot to help keep my anxiety in check.