Saturday, March 14, 2020

Trump's Alternate Path To Victory

NBC News' Jonathan Allen believes (hat tip to Steve M)

No one needs to "flatten the curve" more than President Donald Trump, and he may have begun to bend the politics of coronavirus on Friday.

Before Trump declared a national emergency, critics insisted, and some allies worried, that his response to the pandemic posed a greater threat to the health of the American public and the stability of the national economy than the disease itself....

 if Americans are able to slow the outbreak of coronavirus — to "flatten the curve" of infection, as epidemiologists say — if equity markets bounce back and the overall hit to the economy is contained, his Rose Garden news conference on Friday could amount to a turning point in which he finally signaled to the public that he would take the threat seriously enough to lead the fight against it.

His relatively somber and focused remarks accompanied a bear hug of congressional Democrats that could help him stabilize his standing if all goes well from here on out. Graded on a curve, Friday was a good day for the president, according to longtime observers of Washington politics.

That would help Donald Russia get re-elected. But it might not be necessary in order for him to remain President for 4+ more years. And it wouldn't even require him to cancel the election.

The President of the USA cannot constitutionally cancel the election, lawyer and Slate contributor Mark Joseph Stern points out. However, Trump could employ a similar, constitutional strategy also prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. Stern explains

There are 538 electors, and a candidate needs 270 of them to win. Currently, every state assigns electors to the candidate who won the popular vote statewide. (Two states add a twist that’s irrelevant here.) But the Constitution does not require states to assign their electors on the basis of the statewide vote. It does not even require a statewide vote. Rather, it explains that each state “shall appoint” its electors “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” In other words, each state legislature gets to decide how electors are appointed—and, by extension, who gets their votes.

Luckily for Donald Trump, Republicans constitute the majority of 28 legislatures of states which collectively have- control- 294 electoral votes.  (In Minnesota, Republicans are dominant in one chamber, Democrats in the other; Nebraska has a non-partisan, unicameral legislature.) The President

could ask these GOP-dominated legislatures to cancel their statewide presidential elections and assign their electors to him. It’s doubtful that we will face this situation in November. But imagine a worst-case scenario: The election is approaching, and the coronavirus remains rampant in our communities. States are unsure whether they have the personnel and resources to hold an election. Congress has failed to mandate no-excuse absentee balloting, and many states have declined to implement it. Or the postal service is so hard hit that it cannot reliably carry ballots to and from voters’ residences. It’s not difficult to envision Trump’s allies in state legislatures assigning their states’ electoral votes to the president, insisting that these dire circumstances justify pulling a constitutional fire alarm.

It also is constitutional, Stern notes, "for a state legislature to disregard the winner of the statewide vote and assign electors to the loser. And because the Constitution grants legislatures the authority to pick electors this way, Congress cannot stop them."

Neither scenario may come into play. The incumbent may win the Electoral College outright. Or perhaps these state legislatures may refuse to play ball with him.  But unless Trump cuts a deal with the campaign of the Democratic nominee (presumably Biden) before the election, he cannot risk the possibility that the 46th President would not pardon him.  He is keenly aware that he has more at stake than any presidential nominee in history, and he will let nothing stand in his way of remaining unencumbered by Lady Justice.

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