Analysis 10-12-2020


Vice Presidential Debates take on more Importance this Year


The Vice-Presidential debate took place on Wednesday.  And, although it did not attract the attention that the presidential debates do, it had some important features.  Obviously, given Biden’s declining mental health and Trump’s recent Corona virus infection, one of these two Vice Presidential candidates could very well become president within the next four years.

The second feature is that it is quite possible that one or even both participants could be in the presidential debate in four years.

So, who won?  Although the responses covered the spectrum, the complaints about sexism and racism by many meant that Vice President Pence was perceived to carry the flag for Trump and act as good soldier for him.  While Harris managed to defend Biden and promote his case to be president without and project confidence and merit for being his choice VP.

The debate was much more restrained than last week’s presidential debate.  Interruptions were fewer and the moderator kept control.

Pence was a former congressman, state governor, and radio talk show host.  He came clearly prepared for the debate, He did use a few verbal “zingers,” but he was calm, showed a performance from Trump’s last week.

On the other hand, it was clear that Biden had picked Harris for only two qualities – she was a woman and Black.

Some thought that Harris, a former prosecutor, would do well in the debate – forgetting her poor performance during the Democratic primary debates, where her only outstanding moment was to call Biden a racist.  She started out strong with attacks on Trump’s handling of the Corona virus pandemic.  However, as she was pressed by Pence and the moderator, her deflecting response that Trump had packed the court system with Whites, might play well with her base of social justice supporters.

The final proof that the debate did not matter much of changing the status of the  campaign substantially was the post-debate stories that focused on the fact that a fly was seated on Pence’s head for about two minutes.

Did the debate cause any dramatic changes in the race?  No.  People vote for the top of the ticket.  However, for a few Republicans who are concerned about Trump’s “over the top” style, the thought that a calm, Vice President Pence is in the background may make them more willing to vote for Trump. And Harris was able to maintain the momentum for Biden campaign over Trump nationally and some key battleground states.

The future of the 2020 debates is unclear.  The Presidential debate committee has announced, without consulting the campaigns, that they would hold a virtual debate next week, where the candidates and moderator would not be in the same room for health reasons.  Trump has already turned down this format and has announced that he intends to hold a rally instead.  That leaves the debate’s future up in the air.  Trump does well in a rally format – much better than in a debate.


Gearing up for the Post Election Fight

Elections, campaign rallies, and vice-presidential debates are the “bright shiny” side of the picking of a new government.  Unfortunately, there are many potential outcomes (some promising civil unrest) that could come from a close vote on November 3rd.

Although there has been quite a bit of focus on the 20th and 25th Amendments as they pertain to the transfer of power from one president to another, it’s easy to forget that there are other laws and parts of the US Constitution that will impact the next three months.  And, no doubt, lawyers from both the Democrat and Republican sides are studying the laws and precedents.

Here are some of the issues that could delay proceedings or even change the course of the election and the picking of a president.

Congress can refuse to certify the results of the Electoral College.  This was an outside possibility in the 2000 election, where Bush barely won Florida.  However, Vice President Gore squashed any attempt to do this – possibly stopping civil unrest because of a contested election.

Although the state electors vote for the president, it is not an automatic process because the US Congress (both House and Senate) must certify the results in a joint session.  Unfortunately, the details are in US law and are much more complicated than the process briefly covered in the Constitution.

The president of the Senate (Vice President Pence) presides over the meeting and calls for any objections to the validity of the electors of any given state.  The objections must be signed by a member of the House and the Senate.  The two houses then caucus separately and if both houses agree that the electoral votes were not properly certified, they can be thrown out.

If there are two competing sets of electors, the Senate and House will also vote to determine the properly certified group of electors.

If the Senate and House cannot agree, one interpretation of the law is that the state’s governor makes the final determination.  Another interpretation is that the choice is up to the state legislature.

Here is an example of how that may play out in Michigan, a normally Democratic state that went narrowly for Trump in 2016.  If the Democratic Governor Whitmer declares the vote illegitimate and the four person board of Canvassers (evenly split between Republicans and Democrats) fail to agree, Governor Whitmer may block the vote of the Republican electors or even declare the Biden electors to be Michigan’s electors.

However, Michigan’s legislature is Republican, and they could vote to endorse the Trump slate of electors.  This would lead to two slates of electors from Michigan and force the Congress to decide which one is the valid one or if Michigan loses their electoral votes entirely.

If the Congress remains divided as it is now, the process of picking the valid electors can be delayed for a long time, which will cause voters to question the results.  This could lead to more civil unrest.

There is also the possibility, if the Congress tries to disqualify electors, that there could be a tie in the Electoral College, which would give the final choice to the Congress (with each state getting one vote based on the vote by the newly elected House and Senate delegation.  This would probably give the election to Trump since more state delegations are controlled by Republicans.

If one party takes control of both the Senate and House, they can refuse to certify any result that helps the other party win the White House – which could lead to civil unrest.

No matter what, the results would likely end up going to the Supreme Court, which is why Trump nomination of a SCOTUS justice is so critical and why Democrats are rabidly opposed to a vote before the election.

The potential for a tied SCOTUS vote is troubling if Trump’s nomination of Barrett is delayed.  A tied ruling by SCOTUS means the lower court ruling stands.  However, there is a good chance that there could be more than one court case going up to the Supreme Court and rulings by lower courts could be contradictory.  Again, civil unrest could be the result.

But what if there is no decision by January 20th?  Trump cannot continue in office and the Constitution’s 20th Amendment takes over.  That leaves the Speaker of the House – as next in the line of succession – as acting president until a president is chosen.

Since the Speaker of the House is chosen at the beginning of the session that choice will depend on which party has control of the House.  As it stands now, if the Democrats retain the House and reelect Pelosi, she will then become the acting president.  However, the Republicans could have the majority, or the Democrats could pick another Speaker of the House than Pelosi.

This does not solve the problem.  If Pelosi becomes acting president and the SCOTUS ruling gives the election to Trump, Pelosi could use her short time in office to sabotage a second Trump Administration by making political appointments and cancelling Trump executive orders.  A Pelosi Department of Justice might even try to indict Trump in the interim.  Again, civil unrest could be the result.

In the end, barring a clear win by either Trump or Biden, there could be considerable unrest.  It all depends on how hard either side wants to push.  Hillary Clinton has already told Biden he should not concede no matter what.  And there is question of what Trump would do with a questionable outcome.

There have also been reports that the Democratic Party may encourage the secession of California, Oregon, and Washington if Trump wins the electoral vote, but loses the popular vote.  This virtually guarantees a second American civil war.

What would Americans do if faced with a potential secession?  A YouGov poll says most Americans (56%) fear a Post-Election Civil War.

A more troubling poll released a week ago showed that 61% agree that the US is one the verge of another Civil War.  Additionally, most Americans are stockpiling food and other necessities for such civil unrest.

This poll was not the usual political poll, but a marketing poll that was trying to determine consumer attitudes.  “This latest finding, while not anticipated, is yet another example of an extremely bifurcated population,” said Jon Last, President of the Sports and Leisure Research Group.

“This is the single most frightening poll result I’ve ever been associated with,” said Rich Thau, President of Engagious, one of the three firms that did the survey.

“The current data shows an alarming trend that extreme political polarization of our country could be a powder keg ready to explode into a Civil War,” said Ron Bonjean, Partner at ROKK Solutions.

The same evidence is seen at the retail level.  Gun stores report that the demand for guns is so large that firearms and ammunition are flying of the shelves and widespread shortages are now common.  Groups that monitor firearms sales are reporting that 40% of these new gun sales are to people who never owned a firearm before.  This includes traditionally non-gun owning groups like Blacks, Women, and those under 30.

The FBI, which monitors firearms sales, reported that last month saw more firearms sales than any September in history.  That implies that Americans are readying for civil unrest and a possible civil war.

It seems that as the election grows near, the number of peaceful options seems to shrink.