Hanging chads and an election decided by the United States Supreme Court (2000). The election of the first black president (2008). Sarah Palin (2008). The 2010 midterm tsunami (Republicans gain 63 House seats). The nomination of the first woman for president by a major party (2016). The election of Donald Trump (2016). Russian bots interfering in the election (2016). The realignment of white men without a college degree (2016). The realignment of white, college-educated women (2018). Lose the popular vote, win the Electoral College — twice (2000, 2016).
The political world has been turned on its head more than once over the last two decades. The uncommon becomes ordinary. The bizarre, commonplace. Why should it stop now?
It’s time to think that the unthinkable is actually inevitable, so here is what I guarantee will happen during next year’s campaign and election. The Electoral College will deadlock, with both the Trump-Haley ticket and the Buttigieg-Biden ticket receiving 269 electoral votes.
Oh, wait, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.
How it happens
Running on a message of decency, change and tolerance for people with names difficult to pronounce, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg sweeps the first four Democratic contests — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and virtually wraps up the nomination on Super Tuesday (March 3, 2020).
Buttigieg initially decides on California Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate, but switches at the last minute to Joe Biden to add maturity and both foreign policy and vice-presidential experience to the ticket — but only after Biden promises to stop hugging people and smelling their hair.
Not wanting to be shown up by Buttigieg, President Donald Trump — whose re-election campaign slogan is “But what about Hillary’s e-mails?” — pulls his own last-minute surprise, replacing Vice President Mike Pence on the ticket with Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador.
Trump predicts that this move will help him win women, immigrants, people of color, Indian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Jewish voters.
With his head tilted and his eyes fixated on Trump during the president’s announcement, Pence praises the decision as “brilliant” and offers to become Trump’s personal butler for his second term.
Pence is openly disappointed when told that Jerry Falwell Jr. already has that job. But Trump isn’t done yet.
Fearful that selecting Haley will upset most of the old white men in Michigan and Pennsylvania, Trump promises to name Sebastian Gorka as secretary of State in his second term.
Upon hearing the news, CNN immediately pre-empts its “regular programing” of eight-person panels proclaiming Trump insane for special 12-person panels proclaiming the president insane.
After the convention, Trump announces that even though his re-election is certain, he is appointing Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Vladimir Putin as senior campaign advisers.
Over at Fox News, Sean Hannity calls the move “another example of Donald Trump’s brilliance and the mainstream media’s bias and stupidity.”
It gets better
But as it turns out, the Electoral College deadlock is just the first in a series of dramatic events following Election Day.
The 12th Amendment of the Constitution stipulates that the House of Representatives will pick the president if the Electoral College is unable to elect one. But the 2020 election produces a House in which each party controls 25 state delegations, thereby deadlocking the House until one state flips — or until Hell freezes over.
Over in the Senate, which picks the next vice-president if the Electoral College is deadlocked, Republicans are stunned to find out not only that Texas Sen. John Cornyn has lost his recount, but also that Beto O’Rourke’s victory has cost the GOP its majority.
The 50-50 deadlock in the chamber prevents the Senate from electing the next vice president, who would be the acting president. Given the deadlock, Trump announces that he is using his executive powers to declare a national emergency.
His first decision is to offer a special “fifth night free” for foreign diplomats staying at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
With the presidential election in limbo, the House and Senate unable to organize, and Stacey Abrams still insisting that she should be the governor of Georgia, the four House and Senate leaders publicly invite former British Prime Minister Theresa May to negotiate a deal to keep the United States in the United States.
From the 16th green at the Trump National Golf Club Mar-a-Lago, the president tells reporters that he opposes the step, though he notes that his father, Fred, was born in England.
On to 2024, America.
Thiis column appeared initially in the April 10, 2019 issue of Roll Call.