There’s a lot of discussion about who will win the presidential election in 2020. Democrats are convinced that Biden can’t lose. Republicans are even more convinced that Trump can’t lose. After all, everybody they know agrees with them!! But there are still some independents who could be swayed. So the arguing goes on, thanks largely, to foreign governments, who realize that Americans would much rather hate than to think rationally about elections.
Despite the early polls, it’s likely to be another close election. In fact, recent polls show a tightening race. But what would happen if Trump does lose?
Well, to begin with, Trump has already said he may not abide by the outcome. As one of the most litigious people in the country—he has been involved in 3,500 lawsuits—he will likely contest various states, demand recounts, claim fraud, and sue a lot of people.
It’s a far cry from 1960, when the election came down to Illinois, which Nixon lost by only 9,000 votes., There was some question about vote totals in Chicago, run by Richard J. Daley. Nixon’s supporters urged him to contest the election, but Nixon refused, saying he wouldn’t be a party to a Constitutional crisis. And although Hillary Clinton has complained for almost four years, she gave a very gracious concession speech–right away. There was no question about who would be in the Oval Office. There never should be.
In 2000, Al Gore conceded, but then looked at the numbers and called back. That didn’t seem quite right. When an election is over, it’s over. That led to the “hanging chad” fiasco in Florida, and has inspired a lot of people to be dubious about American elections, ever since. But the peaceful transfer of power was always a proud American tradition.
Time notes only two other US presidential elections that were contested after the vote. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied in the Electoral College. The odd thing is that they had run from the same party. In those days, the top vote-getter became president and number two became vice president—such as they now do for many offices in California.
The election ended up in the House of Representatives. It took seven days and 36 ballots for Jefferson to win, thanks ironically, to his main opponent, Alexander Hamilton, who hated Aaron Burr, who became vice president. Burr later killed Hamilton in a duel.
The only other such contested election was in 1876. Samuel Tilden had won the popular vote, but there were disputed votes in Louisiana, South Carolina, and you guessed it, Florida. It ended in “The Great Compromise of 1877,” in which southerners gave up the presidency in exchange for an end of Reconstruction (and beginning of the Jim Crow era).
We know if Trump loses that there will be no end to the complaining and threats. Earlier, Trump had sent up a trial balloon, to see if he could cancel the election, ostensibly because of Covid-19. That didn’t go so well, with a swift backlash, so now, he’s claiming that the only way he’ll lose, is because of a claim of voter fraud.
He’s relying on a report by the Heritage Foundation that notes a thousand instances of claimed voter fraud. That sounds impressive, until you actually read the report, and see that they had to go back 50 years to get that many cases, and they included local, state, and federal elections. We’ve cast many hundreds of millions of votes during that time, so a thousand suspected cases is infinitesimally insignificant. It’s also ironic that one of the things they consider “fraud” is exactly what Trump committed this year, claiming residency in Washington and then Florida.
Of course, despite the claims and excuses, Trump has acknowledged in a Fox News interview that he’s been behind in the polls, and it’s not about cheating or even about Biden, saying ‘He’s gonna be your president because some people don’t love me maybe’.
That leads us to a new article, with a whole new angle. We originally had “Trump 2024” as our main headline, but that could mean that Donald Junior or Ivanka might follow The Donald: In the way that George Bush followed GHW Bush; John Quincy Adams followed John Adams, Franklin followed Teddy Roosevelt, and Hillary tried to follow Bill Clinton. No, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re also not talking about repeal of the 20th Amendment, limiting presidents to two terms (or ten years).
The YouTube explanation, by FiveThirtyEight, suggests that if this year’s election is close, and Trump loses, he may spend every day of the next four years tweeting his displeasure, rallying his base, and sucking the air out of the room, so that no other Republican could run.
If he has only served one term, he could come back in 2024. He likely would not have to run against Joe Biden, since Biden has made it clear that he only plans to run for one term. And age wouldn’t be a problem, because four years from now, Trump will be the same age as Biden is now. So Trump could try for a second, non-consecutive term.
This has only happened once before in American history. That’s because “losers” usually fade away. Some become a joke, like perennial candidate Harold Stassen, who was considered a “wonder kid” the first time he ran for the GOP nomination in 1948, but was taken less and less seriously, ending with his attempt to run in 1992—at the age of 85. Then there was Adlai Stevenson II, who ran against Ike twice, losing soundly both times. In 1960, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was considered the mother of the party (as the late FDR’s wife) campaigned tirelessly for Stevenson, but the party picked the newcomer, John F. Kennedy, instead.
Other than that, there was Richard Nixon, who lost on his first try, against JFK in 1960, but won the presidency in 1968. But he had not been president already when he made his comeback.
No, the only time we’ve had such a comeback was when Grover Cleveland won the presidency in 1884, to become the 22nd president, lost to Benjamin Harrison (although Cleveland won the popular vote) in 1888, and became the 24th president in 1892. It’s ironic that Cleveland’s second vice president was—Adlai Stevenson, grandfather of the Adlai Stevenson mentioned above.
Another interesting thing about Cleveland was that, between his two terms, his daughter was born, and she became a national sensation. They called her “Baby Ruth.” Dolls were made in her image, and the Curtiss Candy Company even came up with the “Babe Ruth” candy bar, in her honor, in 1929, when she was, by that time, 38 years old. Later, George Herman Ruth, Jr. got the nickname “Babe Ruth,” partially for the same reason. Ruth was an orphan, and Jack Dunn signed the 19-year-old to a baseball contract. Dunn adopted Ruth, and so, the kid was called “Dunn’s Babe.” But we digress. . .
Donald Trump would like nothing more than to be in the headlines, criticizing Biden for four years, and then becoming president again for four more years after that. We have said elsewhere that Trump’s future will depend on this election. If he wins, he’ll be president. But if he loses by a landslide, he would likely have the same fate as Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, and Michael Dukakis—forgotten except as a punch line.
However, this third option, of losing by a small amount, and coming back in 2024 is a real possibility. Trump has a rabid following who are not likely to desert him, even as he has said, if he murdered someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. This would be like the Richard Nixon model. Nixon lost the presidency in 1962, and was humiliated by losing the California governorship in 1962. Nixon was so hurt that he gave a press conference and famously said, “you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore!”
It looked like the end of the line, but Nixon went across the country, avidly campaigning for Republicans in 1966. By the time 1968 came along, too many people owed Nixon chits, so he walked into the nomination with little trouble in that year. If Trump loses, by a little, as Nixon did in 1960, and if he keeps a public profile (could he ever do otherwise?), Trump would be the only logical GOP candidate in 2024. And if he won, he’d be only the second president in history to serve non-consecutive terms.