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Opinion Ignore the strongman fantasies. If Trump loses the election, he'll lose his job. Period.

16:35  26 september  2020
16:35  26 september  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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Do I think President Donald Trump will refuse to leave office if he loses the election? No. Do I think he’ll be able to wield his powers to prevent a legitimate result? No. Do I think he loves musing about sticking around no matter what? Absolutely. And that’s one of the many reasons we must stop giving him openings to weave fantasies, and stop the mass freakouts that routinely ensue.

a man sitting in a dark room: President Donald Trump addresses rally at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sept. 24, 2020. © Evan Vucci, AP President Donald Trump addresses rally at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sept. 24, 2020.

Trump’s president-for-life schtick serves him in many ways. Just look at the attention he’s gotten from his answers to questions this week about whether he’d commit to a peaceful transition of power (“Well, we're going to have to see what happens”) and whether the results are only legitimate if he wins ("We want to make sure the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be").

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Has any other president ever been asked questions like this, and would any other president have answered this way? Both are unimaginable.

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Trying to avoid legal reckonings

But Trump loves to sow doubt and handwringing, and this is the kind of own-the-libs red meat that fuels his base. He, and they, revel in his role as a faux iconoclast. They must know that he’s a rich man’s son, a (possibly) rich Ivy League graduate himself, who hangs out with millionaires at his own Mar-A-Lago resort and, CBS News reported, told them after he signed 2017 tax cuts into law that “you all just got a lot richer.” Trump’s pose as an enemy of the elite is pure fiction, but his fans seem happy to play along.

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And that affinity for international strongmen? Those not-so-veiled threats to occupy the Oval Office come what may in the election? These are features of Trump’s appeal, not bugs. As Bill Clinton memorably put it in 2002, “When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have somebody that's strong and wrong than somebody who's weak and right.”

In fact, Trump’s supposed strength arises from weakness. He is trying desperately to postpone his long-delayed season of reckoning. Who would doubt he’d happily depart the deflector shield of the White House to run Trump TV or some other Trump-centric media venture if he did not fear prosecution and, possibly, prison?

The tragic deference shown by special counsel Robert Mueller and the Republican senators he counted on to hold Trump accountable has brought us to this pass. It’s only logical for Trump to see the presidency as his best hope for avoiding consequences and the long arm of New York legal authorities.

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Backed up by his helpful Justice Department and other allies, Trump is speeding up the tempo of his attacks on the U.S. democratic process, planting falsehoods and sowing suspicions about mail ballots, fraud, foreign interference and the legitimacy of votes counted after Election Day.

He’s also escalating — not just raising public doubts about whether he’ll accept the election results but, according to The Atlantic, laying plans to keep those results in limbo until crucial deadlines pass, chaos reigns, Inauguration Day dawns Jan. 20 and, well, possession being nine-tenths of the law and all …

Crushing democracy: Trump has a plan to steal the election and it's not clear Democrats have a plan to stop him

Progressive strategist Anat Shenker-Osorio, host of the “Words to Win By” podcast, put it simply in a messaging guide for Democrats: “Trump knows he can’t win so he’s trying to cheat.”

Nothing has stopped Trump yet. Not even a Congress presented with enough evidence weekly to impeach him many times over.

Voters will determine Trump's fate

But many of the Republicans who ignored Trump’s blatantly impeachable acts and kept him in office are now saying America will have a peaceful transfer of power — that nothing can stop it, not even Trump. A unanimous Senate reinforced the message Thursday by passing a resolution committing to a peaceful transfer.

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There are also signs the sleeping giant of the U.S. military has awoken and is on alert. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reported last week that the U.S. Cyber Command has taken proactive steps it says will make it impossible for Russia or anyone else to disrupt voting systems in the states.

Rational fears: A Donald Trump coup if he loses in 2020? With all the norms he's busted, don't rule it out

And there is no indication the U.S. military is prepared to allow a Trump coup. In fact many see him as a danger. A bipartisan group of nearly 500 retired generals, admirals and national security officials — including retired Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, who until last year was the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Trump — endorsed Democrat Joe Biden on Thursday. They called Trump “not equal to the enormous responsibilities of his office” and the challenges of dealing with “a world on fire.”

In reality, Trump is swinging his metaphorical bat not at America’s elite but at its democracy and institutions, from the FBI, CIA and military, to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, to the ballots and elections that will determine his fate.

And determine it they will.

Jill Lawrence is the commentary editor of USA TODAY and author of "The Art of the Political Deal: How Congress Beat the Odds and Broke Through Gridlock." Follow her on Twitter: @JillDLawrence

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ignore the strongman fantasies. If Trump loses the election, he'll lose his job. Period.

The growing concerns over Trump and a peaceful transition, explained .
It’s unlikely that Trump will steal the election. But unlikely doesn’t mean impossible.“If I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with it,” Trump said, referencing unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud from his camp.

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This is interesting!