Why 2024 presidential election outcome could lead to violence
Perhaps the most popular question in politics is whether former President Donald Trump can win the 2024 election.
The simple answer is, of course he can. President Biden has some of the highest negatives ever recorded for a sitting president, and there is understandable anxiety about his age and the qualities of Vice President Kamala Harris. He is probably heading toward receiving between 45% and 51% of the popular vote, with much of that weighted toward California, Illinois and New York.
At the same time, Mr. Trump, if he is the Republican nominee, is likely to receive between 45% and 48% of the national vote.
Stir into that mix a legitimate third party such as the Green Party, which already has a nominee and is on the ballot in about 30 states.
In short, the recipe that worked in 2016 (and almost worked in 2020) for Mr. Trump — stay close enough nationally and win by close margins in places such Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona — remains operative.
Those close election results may lead us, in about 13 months, to an extraordinarily dangerous moment.
In the event that Mr. Trump is elected president in November 2024, there almost certainly will be widespread riots in our cities and violence in our streets. Otherwise normal people would encourage this violence by questioning the legitimacy of the election.
It may be very difficult for the new administration to recruit and employ political appointees, because the city of Washington may not guarantee their safety as they enter and exit the grounds of the White House complex — or any federal agency, for that matter.
The United States may become ungovernable.
Similarly, in the event of Mr. Biden’s reelection, large segments of American society — including numerous states — may refuse to accept him as president, and the subsequent four years would be marked by conflict, which would be made worse if the current vice president succeeds Mr. Biden at any point and for any duration.
For different reasons and in different ways, the United States may become ungovernable.
This bears notice because Mr. Biden and his crew have made it clear that their reelection campaign will consist of two elements: the preservation of abortion access in the states and the defense of democracy itself — ostensibly from Mr. Trump and his crew.
Here’s the problem with that. Once you have made “democracy” congruent with “the outcome I want,” any result other than that becomes contrary to “democracy” and hence a threat that justifies violence.
Indeed, as recently as last week, the president of the United States said in a speech about those who oppose him:
“There is something dangerous happening in America. There is an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs of our democracy. The MAGA movement.”
In other words, those who oppose me oppose democracy.
As for Mr. Trump, he is not blameless for the whirlwind that is about to be reaped. His insistence and the repetition of his followers that the 2020 election was “stolen” has served to delegitimize election outcomes that are inconsistent with the preferences of the right.
Either way, we are heading toward the most dangerous post-election moment in the republic since 1860.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies.