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5 Crazy Scenarios for the Election
5 Crazy Scenarios for the Election
1) Russia hacks software and flips votes
Let’s be clear. Currently, there is no solid evidence that Russian spy agencies have been able to penetrate US election infrastructure. Part of the reason is that a significant portion of US voting machines date back literally from the last century and are so antiquated that they are immune to the type of advanced centralized computer networks found elsewhere in the advanced industrialized world. In this case, America’s decentralized model of voting and its’ abject neglect of the tabulation machinery may actually be a blessing in disguise. Still, the news has been rife with reports that Russian intelligence agents have penetrated local databases including a confirmed theft of 500,000 voting records in Illinois through a hack known as “the SQL injection”. So far the Illinois incident has not resulted in any voting changes or sabotage and appears to have been intended merely as an act to sow chaos.
Given America’s sophisticated data analytics capability it would be nearly impossible to perpetrate large-scale fraud as the glaringly deviant voting patterns would be easily identified. Russian interference would only be effective in a highly contested battle where small unnoticeable changes could flip the result. Given Biden’s current lead of +8%, minor hacks would not be enough to alter the election. Still, US intelligence agencies have repeatedly warned that the risk exists and this scenario is not as outlandish as it sounds.
2) Violence Breaks Out at the Polls – Voting Prevented
For the better part of the 20th and 21st centuries, Americans have enjoyed peaceful, civilized elections. Certainly, there have been pockets of intimidation especially in the Deep South but for the most part, American elections have been free of the violence that has marred so many elections across the world.
This year may be very different. The deep division within the country is perhaps at its highest point since the Civil War. For many Americans, the fracture is so great that they see the other side as wholly illegitimate. Indeed it would be fair to say that many Americans at this point do not actually view themselves as US citizens first but rather as Blue American and Red Americans and find more in common with citizens from other countries than they do with each other. Talk to any progressive Democrat and they will gladly concede they want the US to become Canada or Northern Europe. Talk to many MAGA supporters and they will concur with the opinion of one gentleman at the recent Ohio rally who stated, “I’d rather be Russian than a Democrat.”
This complete absence of the comity of man in America is further exacerbated by the country’s lassez-faire attitude towards guns. The US has the highest guns per capita in the world averaging 120 guns per every 100 people. Yemen which has been involved in a bloody civil war for the better part the past decade comes in a distant second at 60 guns per 100 citizens.
The vast cache of firearms is just one problem. Many states in the US including many swing states such as Michigan allow the open carry of firearms. Furthermore, Michigan law is silent on the issue of firearms at polling stations presenting the possibility of not only voter intimidation but given the current state of affairs – outright confrontation.
Imagine if you will a mass shooting at one of the key polling places in a swing state. What would happen? Would officials in the state stop all voting out of concern for copycat killings or acts of retribution from the other side? Would officials from other states react in kind? What about the voters themselves? Any such horrible news would be disseminated on Twitter within seconds of occurrence and many voters may panic creating chaos at the polling stations. In all of its history, the US has never had to have a “do-over” for its voting day. Would that be even considered Constitutional? All of these remain open questions ahead of the most polarizing election in the country’s history.
3) Trump Declares Martial Law – Results Suspended
Until a few days ago this may have seemed like the most outlandish scenario of all but then the President when asked directly if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power flat out refused to answer the question. Instead, Mr. Trump speaking from the White House podium said, “Well, we’re gonna have to see what happens,” adding, “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”
The media went into a frenzy over the quote and it certainly sounds very troubling that the President of the United States refuses to conform to the most basic norms of the office. But if we learned anything over the past few years it’s that President Trump’s bark can be much worse than his bite. It is impossible to imagine a situation where the military apparatus of the country would obey what is clearly an unConstitutional order by the President.
Typically martial law is imposed by the national guard of the individual states and there is zero chance that two of the four most populous states in the nation both governed by deeply blue Governors would comply with such orders. Indeed, Governor Newsome of Califonia, America’s most populous state by nearly a factor of two has started to refer to it as “nation-state” in a clear rhetorical salvo at the Trump administration. Governor Cuomo of New York who has also positioned himself as a strong opposition leader would no doubt join Governor Newsome’s resistance campaign and Trump’s attempt at a coup d’etat could misfire badly by opening the way for a possible breakup of the country.
Instead, it is far more likely that Mr. Trump will try to rubber-stamp the election via the judiciary which is why the Republicans are in a desperate rush to fill the Supreme Court vacancy with an appointee that will ratify any and all attempts to suppress the counting of votes. With Justice Ginsburg’s body not yet even lying in state, the GOP leadership has announced that they will nominate and confirm a Supreme Court appointee – a process that typically takes months – in a matter of just a few weeks. It appears that at this time they have the votes to do so regardless of what Parliamentary maneuvers Democrats try to employ which suggests that Mr. Trump’s plan is to remain in office through the power of the Supreme Court bringing us to the following possibility…
4) Trump Refuses to Leave – Biden Refuses to Concede
If it weren’t tragic, it would truly be comic. Two septuagenarians fighting over the Presidency like it was a game of shuffleboard at Century Village. There is every possibility that with COVID, with US’s highly fractured and badly aged election infrastructure, with key battleground states essentially a tossup, and with a deluge of mail-in ballots that may never be counted by a very badly damaged US Post Office the results of the US election will be contested in every state, in every county, in every precinct.
Trump has already made it clear that he will not leave office willingly. But Biden is not sitting idly by and is almost certain to not concede regardless of the numbers on Election night. According to press reports, Joe Biden is “assembling an unprecedented army of lawyers for an expected legal scuffle over whether ballots will count in the weeks following the election. The effort will involve several other leading Democratic advocates on voting rights and electoral rights, as well as Eric Holder, the former attorney general.
The chads are long gone, but this year the Biden and Trump campaigns are expected to aggressively challenge the technical details that states use to verify ballots – issues such as postmarks (some states require that ballots are postmarked on polling day to count, but the entries may be illegible or missing) and if the elector’s signature matches the one on the election officials’ records.
The Biden campaign says its massive voter protection effort, which it has described as the largest in modern campaign history, will be led by Dana Remus, the campaign’s general counsel, and Bob Bauer, who served as general counsel in both Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. The effort has thousands of lawyers, the campaign said, including several working in a special litigation unit under Donald Verrilli Jr and Walter Dellinger, two former U.S. attorneys general. Holder will serve as a liaison between the campaign and the voting rights stakeholders.”
Election 2020 is setting up to be the most litigious event in American electoral history and almost no one can predict how it will resolve. Some experts suggested even the possibility of a dual swearing-in ceremony with Chief Justice Roberts swearing in Biden while Justice Thomas swears in Trump. Given the surreal nature of 2020 that would be a perfect denouement to the year.
As we noted a few days ago, “The most out of consensus trade in the market right now is to sell volatility into the Election.” Certainly, everyone in the financial markets is prepared for turmoil and upheaval with option premiums for November elevated way above historical norms. Traders are predicting at least a 3% move in the markets on Election day which could just be a taste of things to come if the day becomes both politically and physically violent.
Markets despite vacuums in leadership and Election 2020 is setting up to be the mother of all vacuums as Americans already highly jaded will question all authority convinced that it is illegitimate. Which is why perhaps the craziest scenario of all will be that nothing happens. The US has a standard election, the winner has an incontestable lead in both popular and electoral vote, and power is transferred peacefully and without much fanfare.
That indeed would be the biggest surprise of all.