No, Trump is NOT Going to Establish a Military Dictatorship. No, the Election is NOT Going to be Cancelled.

The star-spangled banner yet waves.


We could glimpse the finish line. Bernie had lost, Biden was the nominee, and all we had to do was make it to November, just 240 some-odd days away, and then a few lame-duck months until January, and we would have emerged from four years of the worst presidency of all time relatively unscathed.

Don’t get me wrong—Donald John Trump has done enormous damage to the country, damage that will take years to repair. But for 36 full months, the full term of a car lease, he’d somehow managed to not fuck up something so badly that his gross incompetence precipitated a global crisis.

And then came COVID-19.

I mean, we all knew it could get dark, but I did not expect Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse dark. There is so much uncertainty that it’s impossible to predict what might happen between now and Easter, let alone Election Day. The coronavirus bollixes all the simulations.

Consider all that has changed in just a few weeks: Offline political campaigning has ground to a halt. The Democratic and Republican National Conventions will be held virtually. The Supreme Court will wait even longer before hearing the Mazars/Deutsche Bank cases, which will expose Trump as a money launderer for the Russian mafiya. The NBA season is done, there likely won’t be baseball, and for all the fun Tom Brady news, the NFL doesn’t look too promising, either. Many, many Americans are going to die from the virus—hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. Some of that number will inevitably include public figures. The most important politicians in the country right now are on the far side of 70, a cohort that has a scary-high COVID mortality rate, and Rand Paul, who has a fucking medical degree, may have infected half the Senate. Oh, and this is going to crater the economy, at least for the rest of the year, in ways most of us have never seen. The stock market is plummeting like it’s 1929.

So, yes, the possibilities are terrifying.

I won’t belabor Trump’s fuck-ups here. They are self-evident to anyone not in the MAGA cult. He is, among a galaxy of other faults, a profoundly stupid man, incapable of long-term planning, with zero capacity to imagine anything beyond what’s right in front of his ugly orange face. He ignored warnings about the pandemic not out of malice, but because, like the baby laughing at peekaboo, he simply lacked the creative ability to visualize them. His abject imbecility has doomed us.

Trump saw the Dow start to fall in January, freaked out, did what he could to revive it. The chances that he and his odious family members shorted stock, dumped shares while spinning rosy stories of economic health, and actively sought to profit from the needed tests, medical equipment, and so on, are very high. Mobsters gonna mobster. Trump is a piece of shit human, he always has been, and this reality is coming into stark relief. “Alternative facts” don’t work in the face of a global pandemic. Fauci and Birx are not spin doctors.

As we shelter in place, toggling between getting our affairs in order and binge-watching Bojack Horseman, two conspiracy theories are making the rounds. Both are false narratives. First is the idea that COVID-19 is some sort of germ warfare, unleashed in China by the United States—or, in other variations, Putin’s Russia—to give Trump an excuse to impose martial law and establish a military dictatorship. The first component of that narrative, that the CIA started this, is straight-up PRC deza (or whatever the Chinese word for “disinformation” is). Of course China will blame its bungled response on the US, just as Trump will blame his bungled response on “Jina.” The reality is that both fucked up bigly. As for the second component, it’s simply not going to happen.

It may be that state governors call in the national guard, as Andrew Cuomo has done here in New York, to enforce the quarantine. It is possible that the federal government might use similar tactics to shut down the entire country, for a month or so. This would be done for public safety, to “flatten the curve,” and that sort of emergency measure would be for a set, and relatively short, interval of time.

Think about what would happen if Trump, in his addled mental state, tried to extend a shutdown for months and months after the threat had passed, over the protests of Congress, the medical community, the media, everyone. He would lose his base, whose one commonality is a contempt for government—his disciples don’t like “elites” telling them what to do. The “don’t tread on me” crowd, the AR-15 stockpilers, the swamp-drainers…they are going to sit back and accept being ruled by a dictator, even one they personally dig? Embracing serfdom to own the libs? I don’t think so. Nor would the military comply with such an order. Nor would the billionaires and millionaires, who for better or worse are enormously powerful these days, tolerate such a measure. Nor would you and me. Martial law sounds scary, I realize, but there’s no reality in which a military dictatorship would happen. It’s unthinkable.

On the contrary, Americans being Americans, we are more likely as a people to defy a simple shutdown, let alone full-scale martial law for some indeterminate period of time. The lockdowns in New York, California, Illinois, and elsewhere will only work if citizens decide that it’s in our interest to comply. Absent popular buy-in, such measures are essentially unenforceable. There’s a little Brady Sluder in all of us.

As for the cancellation of the election, that’s crazy talk. For one thing, the timing is wrong. From what projections I’ve seen, the virus is going to peak sometime in April, May, or June. By November, a significant number of Americans will already have been exposed, making a trip to the polls much less of a health risk than it was last week. And even if it was risky, so what? I don’t care if there are actual zombies in my path, spewing liquid ebola at my eyeballs and blasting Creed’s “Arms Wide Open” on mini-fridge-sized boomboxes—I’m going to the fucking polls on 3 November. And so will you, and so will everyone. As I wrote two years ago, if the republic falls, it won’t be because of that fucking guy.

Even if Trump tried to, for example, push back the election to stay in office longer, he will fail: the law makes clear that his term ends at high noon on 20 January 2021. If he moves to stay even a minute longer—if he “refuses to leave,” as some have speculated—he’d no longer be a resident of the White House but a squatter, and no longer a president but an usurper. When these United States were still 13 British colonies, the Founders made their views on tyranny well known. A despotic coup will not be tolerated on these shores, and certainly not by an one such as Trump. That is when we take to the streets, social distancing be damned.

Our National Anthem ends, curiously, with a question: “[d]oes that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” The answer in January 2021 will be the same as it was when Francis Scott Key wrote those lines in 1814: You bet your ass it does.

We shall prevail!