Must-Read from NYT’s Alex Burns: “Trump Stress-Tested the Election System, and the Cracks Showed”

I was going to write a piece like this until I read Alex’s:

As President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election have steadily disintegrated, the country appears to have escaped a doomsday scenario in the campaign’s epilogue: Since Nov. 3, there have been no tanks in the streets or widespread civil unrest, no brazen intervention by the judiciary or a partisan state legislature. Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s obvious victory has withstood Mr. Trump’s peddling of conspiracy theories and his campaign of groundless lawsuits.

In the end — and the postelection standoff instigated by Mr. Trump and his party is truly nearing its end — the president’s attack on the election wheezed to an anticlimax. It was marked not by dangerous new political convulsions but by a letter from an obscure Trump-appointed bureaucrat, Emily W. Murphy of the General Services Administration, authorizing the process of formally handing over the government to Mr. Biden.

For now, the country appears to have avoided a ruinous breakdown of its electoral system.

Next time, Americans might not be so lucky.

While Mr. Trump’s mission to subvert the election has so far failed at every turn, it has nevertheless exposed deep cracks in the edifice of American democracy and opened the way for future disruption and perhaps disaster. With the most amateurish of efforts, Mr. Trump managed to freeze the passage of power for most of a month, commanding submissive indulgence from Republicans and stirring fear and frustration among Democrats as he explored a range of wild options for thwarting Mr. Biden.

He never came close to achieving his goal: Key state officials resisted his entreaties to disenfranchise huge numbers of voters, and judges all but laughed his legal team out of court.

Ben Ginsberg, the most prominent Republican election lawyer of his generation, said he doubted any future candidates would attempt to replicate Mr. Trump’s precise approach, because it has been so unsuccessful. Few candidates and election lawyers, Mr. Ginsberg suggested, would regard Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell — the public faces of Mr. Trump’s litigation — as the authors of an ingenious new playbook.

“If in a few months, we look back and see that this Trump strategy was just an utter failure, then it’s not likely to be copied,” said Mr. Ginsberg, who represented former President George W. Bush in the 2000 election standoff. “But the system was stress-tested as never before.”

That test, he said, revealed enough vague provisions and holes in American election law to make a crisis all too plausible. He pointed in particular to the lack of uniform standards for the timely certification of elections by state authorities, and the uncertainty about whether state legislatures had the power to appoint their own electors in defiance of the popular vote. The 2020 election, he said, “should be a call for some consideration of those issues.”

Yet even without precipitating a full-blown constitutional crisis, Mr. Trump has already shattered the longstanding norm that a defeated candidate should concede quickly and gracefully and avoid contesting the results for no good reason. He and his allies also rejected the longstanding convention that the news media should declare a winner, and instead exploited the fragmentation of the media and the rise of platforms like Twitter and Facebook to encourage an alternative-reality experience for his supporters.

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