Lawrence Douglas teaches law at Amherst College. If what he says in this short book is right, America is in for a very rocky ride in the next few months. His basic argument is that the peaceful transition of power in the US that happens when one President is elected to replace another is not guaranteed by law and not by the Constitution. Rather, it is certain norms of behaviour that have ensured over 230 years of American democracy.
He presents several scenarios in which a close election results in Trump refusing to accept defeat. The obvious options — such as going to the Supreme Court to sort things out — are easily dismissed. Douglas has a good grasp of American history and finds many examples of problems with the transition from one President to another — but in November 2020, we may face a perfect storm resulting in what he calls ‘meltdown’.
One of the many things I learned — and I learned a lot from this book — is that even if the House of Representatives, with its Democratic majority, is called upon to elect a President (and this is a real possibility in the event of a deadlock), each state delegation gets to cast just one vote. In other words, sparsely populated Wyoming will have as much say as the nearly 40 million people who live in California. The Republicans, though a minority in the House, would dominate such an election.
Douglas’ only solution to this is to leave things in the hands of voters: a massive swing to the Democrats, and a landslide victory for Biden are the country’s only real hope.