Republicans ready for a Trump loss

This time, Trump has the GOP bought in earlier on his Big Lie

By Heather Digby Parton


Published May 13, 2024 9:27AM (EDT)

Former President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters at the Fort Dodge Senior High School on November 18, 2023 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters at the Fort Dodge Senior High School on November 18, 2023 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)

What happens if he loses? 

The mainstream press has finally turned its focus to what a second Donald Trump administration will look like should he win the White House in 2024. Salon has been covering this since Trump first flew off to Mar-a-Lago in 2021 and it was obvious that unless something happened to his health, Trump would be the 2024 nominee and the rest of the GOP would be developing a multi-faceted program to grant themselves unlimited power. None of this was anything but predictable once we saw what they were capable of during the post-election period of 2020 and the events of January 6, 2021. 

Trump won't go quietly into this good night if he loses, nor will his followers.

The mainstream media has caught up and over the past few months has produced in-depth features and front page articles on the new MAGAfied Heritage Foundation's Project 2025Schedule FAgenda 47 and the details within all of those and other plans which reveal an authoritarian, anti-democratic crackdown on Americans' rights and a full rollback of safety regulations and vital programs. The proposals for foreign policy and national security are even more horrifying. Trump is as narcissistic as ever and his motives remain purely personal but he's got a full crew of authoritarian lackeys ready to take the wheel who are prepared to serve him well as they transform the United States into a full-blown autocracy for their own purposes. 

So kudos to the media for doing what they need to do. Informing the public of Trump's plans should he win is job one. But we should probably also prepare ourselves for what they will do if he loses.

I think we all know that he will not gracefully concede and quietly retire to play golf and cash in his political chits. In fact, he recently told Time magazine, "If we don't win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election" and elaborated in a later interview, “If everything’s honest, I’ll gladly accept the results…If it’s not, you have to fight for the right of the country.” Does anyone doubt that he believes there is no such thing as a fair election that he loses? 

It's important to remember that he won't be the incumbent president as he was in 2020 and will not have the same tools at his disposal. He cannot try to deploy the Justice Department to illegally interfere in the process on his behalf and while his henchmen could theoretically plan another fake elector scheme, as long as Vice President Kamala Harris performs the constitutional duty of counting the electoral college votes they wouldn't get anywhere with it. He also won't be able to draw up plans to seize voting machines or declare martial law and his bully pulpit will be limited to sore loser press conferences carried live on Fox News and Newsmax. 

However, Trump also has some advantages he didn't have the last time, the first being that virtually the entire Republican establishment has bought into the lie that the 2020 election was stolen and is clearly ready to back Trump's claims that it will have been stolen in 2024:

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance told CNN that he'll accept the results if they're "fair and free" and previously said that if he were Trump's vice president he'd tell states to send in alternate electors, apparently so that he could personally pick and choose which ones to accept as legitimate. 

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South Carolina senator and top contender for Trump's running mate Tim Scott famously evaded the question on "Meet the Press," saying that he wouldn't answer hypothetical questions. 

The Republican National Committee, now run by Trump's family and personal henchmen,  will not hire anyone who doesn't avow that Trump actually won the 2020 election. I think it's indisputable that if Trump loses, they will all rise up to declare once again that it was stolen. You can't have a democracy if one party is unwilling to accept that they lost. 

The Washington Post reports that the Trump campaign is planning a "leaner" and "more efficient" operation this time out because Trump has "told them to not worry about getting out the vote since he could do it himself. He told them to 'focus on the cheating.'" 

To that end, it appears that Trump and the party are preparing to turn the election itself into a chaotic mess. Starting last December, Trump began employing a phrase used by his disgraced former National Security Adviser and QAnon adherent Michael Flynn: "Guard the vote." He told his supporters to “go into” cities including Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta to “watch those votes when they come in.” This tactic was tried in the 2022 election when armed citizens staked out lock boxes, intimidating voters as they attempted to drop off their ballots. We can expect more of that driven by outside groups and Trump's exhortations at his rallies.

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The new chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), Lara Trump, announced that the party is building a massive "election integrity" unit with a program to send 100,000 poll watchers all over the country who will be able to “protect the vote and ensure a big win.” She said, “We now have the ability at the RNC not just to have poll watchers, people standing in polling locations, but people who can physically handle the ballots." (Actually, they cannot.) In other words, the party is doubling and tripling down on voter suppression to win. Unfortunately, that's unlikely to have the effect that it used to have back in the old days when the GOP had to be put under a consent decree after it was successfully sued for intimidating racial minorities at the polls. Today we have early voting and vote by mail (and Trump has trained his flock to mistrust those methods.) That's why they have also concentrated on intimidating election workers and plan to do more of it during the counting process. 

If all that doesn't work to ensure him a win, he will obviously challenge the vote count. They plan to have lawyers stationed in every swing state to prepare the charges of voter fraud in the event he does come up short. He won't be relying on the likes of Rudy Giuliani or Sidney Powell this time. Now that the whole GOP establishment has been completely absorbed into the MAGA universe, they'll have higher-quality legal minds working on overturning the results. It's a good career move. 

And then if all else fails, they will have their violent mob ready to explode and that possibility will be hovering over every other tactic they deploy. Trump said recently, "If I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole — that’s gonna be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country" and "If this election isn’t won, I’m not sure that you’ll ever have another election in this country.” These are very thinly veiled threats in a climate where his followers are being brainwashed by his lies into believing that he has a massive, unbeatable lead in the polls which is entirely untrue. And according to WIRED, the militia movement is on the rise again. One recent Facebook post shows where their thoughts are leading:

“When the government tries to steal the election again and they think we’ll just sit and take it … It won’t be like the last time … Just remember, they started it … We just wanted to be left alone … We prefer ballots over bullets … But …” 

The sad reality is that the worst of all possible worlds is that Trump wins the election in November. But Trump won't go quietly into this good night if he loses and neither will his followers. Either way, the election itself is just the beginning.


By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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