In predicting the possibility of widespread civil unrest surrounding the Presidential election, I recognized that it was not a sure thing. In fact, I expressed the hope that my concerns would turn out to be mistaken. I wanted to be wrong.
So far, so good. While there are sporadic accounts of armed militias showing up at polling places, there has been no real effort at voter intimidation. And it has been almost eerily calm as the slow counting of votes has proceeded.
It may be that having to drag the count out over days and weeks has contributed to a tamping-down of what could have been explosive emotions among the partisans of either side. The pent-up excitement leading into Election Day kind of fizzled in the numbing, drawn-out process.
This gives me hope that we may be able to move forward without rioting, supply chain disruption, or whatever form an angry outburst might have taken.
In a Shrodinger’s cat scenario, prior to Election Day, it could have swung either way. I was certain that the count would be close, and it was. I was not certain which way it would go. Either Trump or Biden could have eked out a win. And the partisans of either side might have refused to accept the results.
Now we see that Biden has enough of a lead, both in the popular vote and in the Electoral College, to succeed to the Presidency. That settles the possibility that the leftward side of the populace would erupt.
There is one possibility that would still be volcanic. There is a slim chance that “faithless electors” would not vote in accordance with the people’s mandate in their individual states and swing the Electoral College vote in Trump’s favor. This is what mathematicians call a “less-than-zero” possibility.
It’s like the outside chance that any one of us might be hit by lightning today. No one can say that it absolutely couldn’t happen, but the probability is so vanishingly small that we just don’t factor it into our daily plans. The flip side of this is that someone, somewhere on the planet today, will in fact be struck by lightning. For that person, the consequences are so abhorrent that it is no comfort to know that it was unlikely to happen.
So in the unlikely event that enough electors switch their vote – an event which gets more unlikely with each additional elector won by Biden – a massive protest with unpredictable consequences would be a near certainty.
On the other side, there is still some concern that the far right will act erratically and trigger some sort of tumult. Trump is doing a lot to advance the notion that his loss must be due to some kind of fraud or rigging. Millions of people buy into that view. It would only take a small percentage of them hitting the streets and causing violence to have far-reaching, negative consequences.
The more time goes by, the less likely this seems. People may be getting used to the idea that their side lost. Still, there are those who firmly believe that a Biden presidency will lead to a “socialist dystopia” or something of that sort. People can do the strangest things when they believe that all is lost.
So, while I see the likelihood of this getting less every day, I believe it is too soon to discount the chance that there may be serious trouble ahead. I still hope I’m wrong.