The Great Game in 19th century Europe was a geopolitical power struggle among nations. The chess game currently being played in full view of the country between Trump and Camp Biden is a similar epic battle for power. Biden and the Democrats are so close to victory they can practically taste it. By contrast, Trump and his supporters believe there was wholesale fraud in the election, are dug in and will not turn away from what looks certain to be a head-on collision with the Constitution. The impending impact is one not likely seen in America in almost 200 years.
The first rule in any competition is to always assume that the other side is equally as smart as you are. In this contest, both sides actually are equally smart. For a long time, Democrats have portrayed President Trump as dumb, out of touch and a bigot. However, like him or not, Trump has been hugely successful in business, against all odds won the Presidency and radically realigned the GOP’s governing coalition in the process. Dumb? Not a chance. Meanwhile, Camp Biden has been equally as smart. They obscured Biden’s weaknesses during the campaign and made the election about Trump, his handling of Covid and his general likeability.
Anyone who thinks that both sides didn’t have a strategy for victory is missing what was right in front of them. Notwithstanding the pre-election polls and media hype, the Democrats’ game was always predicated on winning a close election, establishing an image of inevitability and then pressuring Trump to concede. Alternatively, they planned to fight any anticipated recounts and lawsuits, and ultimately declare victory when the electors vote on December 14, 2020. Trump’s strategy was much simpler, if perhaps in retrospect, a bit naïve. Quite simply, he expected to win by a large enough margin to overcome any potential fraud based on his appeal to middle America, his America First accomplishments and the sheer strength of his personality. His massive barnstorming rallies seemed to be confirmation enough. The Biden camp obviously planned and executed their strategy equally, as well. After all, they are on the verge of an electoral success – once all the lawsuits and recounts are done.
In a normal election, recounts and court challenges rarely, if ever, change enough votes to affect the outcome. Trump surely knows this, which explains in large part his constitutional challenge strategy. It is his ultimate endgame. Trump supporters clearly believe there was systemic fraud, with all sorts of unanswered questions about the vote count. Stalin’s declaration that “It is not the people who vote that counts but the people who count the votes” may be relevant here. If systemic fraud can be proven, especially against Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, the courts would likely have no choice but to nullify the election results in several key states and turn the election over to the House of Representatives, as is required under the Constitution. This has been done three times in our history, the most recent occurring in 1836. Trump will also likely argue under Article 4, Section 4 that people of certain states were denied “a republican form of government” because their vote was disenfranchised. Certiorari only requires four Supreme Court Justices to agree to hear a case. If there is evidence, as Trump’s team contends, there is a high probability that Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Barrett would agree to hear such a case. It is anyone’s guess what happens at that point.
Voter fraud has always been a part of every presidential election. It is just a question of degree. It also seems clear that over the years, it has gotten more brazen. In the 1990s the Clintons tried to cloak their Chinese Connection with the veneer of legitimacy. Today, so long as “there is no proof of fraud” then nothing else seems to matter. Was there fraud? Others much smarter than this writer are tasked with figuring that out. Trump and his supporters most certainly think there is. What is clear is there are significant questions surrounding the election results as reported to warrant not calling the election until they are satisfactorily investigated and answered. The confidence of free and fair elections is at the very heart of our country. It is the very cornerstone of our democracy.
Trump’s Great Game is clearly to provoke a constitutional collision, hoping the Supreme Court will turn the election over for Congress to decide. After all, either the country is rooted to the Constitution and its founding principles, or it’s not. There is no in-between. To those who want to change the country to “fulfill its promise”, this may cause a rupture the likes of which we have not seen since the Civil War. Let’s hope not.
Either way, the country looks to be in for a crash course in the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps Thomas Jefferson was right: “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical…it is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.” Who knows? We might end up with President Biden and Vice President Pence, as happened in 1836. Only time will tell.
Robert B. Chernin is the chairman of the American Center for Education and Knowledge.