We spend a lot of time talking about the structural barriers that Democrats face, most notably the malapportionment of the Senate and, relatedly, the Electoral College. Democrats must also contend with extreme gerrymandering, which may be about to get a lot worse, and post-Shelby County voter suppression, So our elections are hardly the “free and fair” gold standard. In North Carolina and Wisconsin, elections for the state legislature look more like what we’d expect to see in competitive authoritarian regimes than in democratic ones.
The 2020 election, then, was bound to take place under less than fully democratic conditions. But even if we put all of that aside, the election has hardly been free and fair: the Trump administration unethically, and often illegally, used the office of the presidency to try to swing the election. We don’t know the extent of its perfidy, but we do know, to take a few examples, that cabinet officers used taxpayer resources to illegally serve as surrogates and fundraisers; that the administration selective and misleadingly declassified documents in an effort to damage the president’s main opponent; and that Trump extorted praise from governors in return for emergency assistance. Let us not forget the effort to sabotage the US Postal Service, even if it turns out that most ballots were ultimately delivered.
On their own, these activities would be sufficient to compromise the integrity of the 2020 election. But now, as Scott discussed earlier, Trump has declared victory – even though he is very likely to lose the election – and is deploying thugs, lawyers, and thuggish lawyers to sabotage and stop the tabulation of votes. The whole operation depends on first creating a delay in ballot tabulation and then, when necessary, further orchestrating chaos on the ground.
If Trump succeeds – and we wind up with judicial nullification of the results or legislatures in states Biden won naming their own, pro-Trump slate of electors – then the United States will truly be in hybrid-regime territory. We won’t have to wait for Trump transforms the executive branch into a full-blown tool of kleptocratic autocracy.
Addendum: I see no reason to believe that, whether Bush v. Gore 2: Little Florida’s Everywhere succeeds or fails, Trump will stop abusing his office to cling to power or at least grab what we can while the grabbing is good.
ETA: edited for style.