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Jedediah Purdy @JedediahSPurdy
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Thread on Anticipating & Preventing Constitutional Crises:
1/ Here are some things that, assuming Trump remains in office, might happen in the next 4 years, & would be broadly consistent w/ events so far--& are troubling enough to think on in advance.
2/ (A) Trump in 2020 once again wins the Electoral College while losing the popular vote--maybe by even more than the ~3m of 2016, after massive mobilization in "blue" states. He is widely regarded as illegitimate, especially given efforts to suppress Dem votes in close states.
3/ Suspicion about the integrity of voting technology and evidence of foreign provocation intensify the feeling of illegitimacy. As Trump pushes an aggressive agenda, states like NY, CA, and MA begin openly claiming the power to nullify federal actions they regard as illegitimate
4/ The country begins to splinter into two regimes. As blue states defy the federal government, red-state legislatures and executives face (or lead) calls to defy federal court judgments limiting vote-suppression laws and other controversial actions. Nullification runs both ways.
5/ (B) A Democrat wins narrowly in 2020, but Trump refuses to recognize the results (consistent with his persistent claims of fraud, etc.), or leaves the White House but becomes a key figure in a "True the Vote" movement that treats the Democrat as illegitimate.
6/ Same general result: parts of the country becomes effective no-go zones for the administration. Tens of millions of people (& some jursidictions?) are more or less strongly committed to "nullification" of EPA rules, civil rights laws, federal law enforcement, etc., etc.
7/ (C) Under extreme legal and political pressure, Trump gives an order that leading military officers, already highly skeptical of his judgment, regard as posing a precipitate threat to peace. They refuse. He takes the conflict public on Twitter, and they do not stand down.
8/ After a nightmarish, week-long standoff, with increasingly strident rhetoric from the White House, they remove him from office with support from key segments of a divided class of elected officials, senior bureaucrats, and commentators, and a majority of a riven population.
9/ The other forms of nullification sketched in the earlier scenarios intensify, especially after Pence loses the next election to a Democrat.
10/ The third (C) is deliberately nightmarish, and I'd set the odds on it very low--but it's more conceivable now than ever. The first two (A) & (B) are well within the plausible band of events. The deliberately extremely part is the warring nullification agendas;
11/ but these follow plausibly if you just maintain the current momentum of political division.
12/ What would make these situations structurally less likely. (A) is easy-ish. The Electoral College is a disaster. Two catastrophic presidencies in 18 years have begun by losing the popular vote. This anachronism makes it easy, even natural, to doubt legitimacy.
13/ The state-legislation proposal at has been adopted by states totaling 172 electoral votes. Supporting it should be a priority for any progressive, centrist patriot, or normcore person concerned to cool division.
14/ As for (B), in the medium term progressives need to keep pushing hard for a robust national right to vote and a good old-fashioned voting system that's impossible to hack because it happens on stacks of paper. (Stacks of paper + universal smartphones = anti-fraud nirvana.)
15/ (That is, ballot-stuffing gets very hard when everything is open and filmed.)
16/ The strong voting right is indispensable. It should include the end of ex-felon disenfranchisement. I'd push extend it to the presently incarcerated and non-citizen residents, though I know this will be controversial.
17/ These interventions all have the same pattern. A key to the crisis is that political system generates these ambiguities about who is legitimate: electoral college vs. popular vote, public sentiment vs. who was allowed to vote, etc. Clear majoritarian rules are ...
18/ the best way to resolve such issues. They give every member of the community a core of voice (vote) and count each the same. It's not perfect, but all rigging (making it hard to vote, counting rural states for more) is worse. @JeremyJWaldron is splendid on this.
19/ It's a great virtue in a political system to be able to resolve deep conflicts, not by bringing people together in deeply felt harmony, but by establishing clear, principled, and decisive means for settling the conflicts in practice.
20/ Problems (A) & (B) both prey on fault lines in the US system on this front, and a clearer, more civic-egalitarian democracy is the consistent quality of the response I'm pushing.
21/ Crisis (C) is different--maybe it belongs in a different discussion. It highlights some combination of the following. (1) We've built systems of complexity & destructive potential such they aren't separable from massive authority by military & technical administrators.
22/ This is true of the global economy (see @adam_tooze's great new CRASHED) and the military, to give the easiest examples. (B) As @jamalgreene has pointed out, a democracy that would make Trump the nominee of one of two major parties would have been in deep crisis ...
23/ ... even if he'd lost. A feckless political order & massive technocratic/technological orders will predictably come into other crises of legitimacy. Democracy has to get deeper, stronger, and more informed, or get pushed back in crisis.
24/ No easy solutions there, but a rubric: Democracy or Disaster. That's how it seems to me, anyway.*
/fin *Tweet does not mean I agree with myself.
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