Five months out from the election and we see momentous, era-defining issues such as the global pandemic and the killing of George Floyd ultimately swallowed by the rhythms of the election season into the partisan binary. After failing to unseat in 2004 a man they believed was a war criminal, and finding new levels of alarm in the past three or four years, what we’re seeing now is not just the building of a campaign infrastructure or a ground game, but societal institutions aligning themselves as we convulse towards November.
A non-minor number on the American left believes this election will determine whether we live in tyranny or freedom and that they are fighting to save the country. Ask yourself: if you truly believed that, what would you be willing to do to prevent the outcome you feared? Understanding the existential crisis mindset as a framework, it’s easier to understand the actions we see around us. It’s easy to understand how there were 125 leaks in the first 126 days of the current administration’s tenure. It’s easier to see how major corporations are so comfortable picking sides and getting prepared, whether it’s Jack at Twitter or the New York Times calling up Trump dossier publisher Ben Smith to its ranks; the neutral are castigated.
We have entered the Go Big Phase of the election, where every decision appears to be imbued with existential importance. In November 2014, President Obama decided to break explicitly with his oath of office and announce legislation written and enacted by the executive branch. Aware of the upcoming announcement and confident checks and balances were sufficiently diminished, his boosters encouraged him to “Go Big” in his violation of the constitution. They did so because they believed the righteousness of their cause outweighed their commitment to our institutions or the rules we once agreed to abide.
That’s the mindset that vice presidential candidate Abrams will have as she spends the summer actively seeding doubt about the credibility of our election, claiming, without evidence, the existence of widespread voter suppression and as election-related lawfare continues its unabated rise. She’ll be supported in that specific cause by celebrity author Michelle Obama, who’s husband will continue his unseemly involvement in politics from our federal capital. It’s clear now the Obamas will go the Clinton route, unsatisfied solely with untold wealth and so clinging to the spotlight and to power as long as they can, with Michelle a likely future occupant of the White House in a formal, elected position.
Obama will send his lauded-by-all-the-right-people tweets over the next few months, though it’s unclear if they will annihilate, torch, or shred President Trump based on my best read of the most likely successor verb to destroyed.
Direct action radicals will be more prepared than they were in 2016. Instead of the spontaneous protests that broke out nationally in the wake of Trump’s election, we’ll see preplanned and coordinated efforts with radical groups surging to the capitals of the states where we still await results. The media will be reluctant to call the results November 3rd, and activist groups will be ready to immediately file lawsuits in contested states. States grappling for the first time with the rollout of widespread vote-by-mail may struggle to meet election certification deadlines, while we’re reassured that any concerns about these processes are pure conspiracy. That same media that will reassure and fact check in embarrassingly partisan fashion will be brimming with divisive hot takes that will make “whitelash” seem tame.
What we likely will not see in the next five months is widespread investigation by the incumbent of members of the challenger’s campaign. In the ten weeks in between the election, we’re also unlikely to see as aggressive an attempt to kneecap the incoming administration, or widespread reporting in the press afterward on the use of Confidential Human Sources. Importantly, we are unlikely to see a historic avalanche of leaks in the first months of any new administration as we did in 2016, when the federal bureaucracy resisted the control of the new chief executive and, hence, the people’s will.