It’s almost exactly what everyone didn’t want to happen.
An early Trump lead. He declares victory immediately. Electoral officials carry on counting votes (because that’s their job and that’s how elections work). The early votes and mailed votes swing things for Biden. There is chaos involving lawyers, protests, accusations of electoral fraud and the angry use of exclamation marks.
That said, it was always the plan. The Trump plan.
When it became clear that a huge number of Americans were planning to vote early and by mail to avoid the corona-riddled crowds, the Trump camp had an idea. It was clear that the majority of these voters would be Democrats because Republican voters are prone to believing that the virus doesn’t really exist, except in the minds of liberals.
So when electoral officials in swing states quite sensibly suggested that they be allowed to start counting the early votes earlier to avoid delays, the Trump camp used their Republican allies at state level to fight this tooth and bloody nail. And they succeeded. The plan seems to have been to use this tactic to allow Trump to run up an early lead which would enable him to declare victory and then … er … it’s not quite clear what the plan was at that point, because all legal votes have to be counted.
But clearly this tactic would provide ammunition to a campaign run on outrage, anger and a sense of grievance.
As the early votes and mailed ballots were counted, it became clear that Biden was likely to triumph by winning states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and (probably) Nevada.
But unless the Pennsylvania count pushes that state with its 20 electoral college votes into the Democrat column, it will be very close. Several of the results in other states (Wisconsin and Arizona) seem to have been won by margins of less than 1%, which will probably trigger recounts. Recounts that will involve lawyers, shouting on Fox News and much angry blogging on right-wing websites. The use of unpleasant emojis on social media cannot, at this point, be ruled out.
All this will go on for quite some time. But the Supreme Court will be exceedingly reluctant to get involved. Those of them recently appointed by Trump will be terrified of appearing to repay their appointments by intervening in his favour, as anything like that could muddy their illustrious judicial reputations forever.
Analysts seem fairly sure (despite claims to the contrary by the Tweeter-in-Chief) that Biden will secure his 270 electoral college votes and the presidency, but it’s unlikely that things will stop there. It is very, very, very unlikely that Trump will then accept the outcome and focus on golf. Instead it seems likely that he will retreat to his holiday resort/stronghold in Florida and pour his energies into setting up a government-in-exile there.
Republican officials in need of his blessing will visit while he holds court and rains scorn on the Biden administration. Tweets will be tweeted. Interviews on Fox will be had. And plans will be made for the next election.
It is very possible that Trump will become a sort of right-wing JFK figure, cheated out of his rightful second term by liberals, the media and the deep state — whatever that is. His supporters already feel betrayed by the establishment. This narrative could grow in strength, fuelled by the consumption of fast food and excessive use of self-tan products.
Kamala Harris will be a vulnerable candidate in 2024. And who better to take her on than the young prince, son of the original Donald Trump, Donald Jr? A massive defeat would have badly damaged a Trump brand that is built on the idea of “winning”, but a narrow defeat dressed up in the ugly clothes of electoral fraud could well strengthen it.
And with the brand rampant, the mantle could well fall on the skinny shoulders of this sharp-suited and sharp-tongued young firebrand.
All we do know is that the narrowness of Biden’s victory means that the election won’t be settled soon, and things may now play right into the hands of the Trump family, who promise to be in our lives for quite some time.