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Scenario Straddling: Worst Case

November 22nd, 2020 by dk

To get into the winter holiday spirit, let’s play a game. It requires nothing but imagination. It’s called “Scenario Straddling.” Imagine a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario. What happens will almost certainly fall somewhere between.

I will fill this space twice — once half full, once half empty. I will leave it to the editors to choose which appears in print, requesting that they post the other online. Here’s a very quick summary of my scenarios for the presidential race outcome.

BEST: Biden’s habits and gifts of magnanimity makes him the most effective legislating president since LBJ. WORST: Trump creates the American carnage he envisioned and frightened Americans give him four more years to fix it.

WORST: Donald Trump’s 2017 “American Carnage” inauguration speech turned out to have been more a promise than a warning. Experts believed that an exploding pandemic would kill his political fortunes, In the end, it’s what saved him, along with a little delayed assistance from the Russians.

Lawsuits over vote-counting were never serious legal challenges. Their only goal was to plant a seed of doubt in enough Americans to create an opening for what came next. The lesson learned in 2000 was repeated. Knowing the outcome of the vote was the obstacle. Making the results seem unknowable was the goal.

Faithless electors were prepared, requiring only that an insufficient number of state-certified vote tallies reach Congress by December 8’s required “safe harbor” deadline. Along with doubt and fear, a few states would suffice. Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia, each controlled by Republican state legislatures, would be enough.

Americans didn’t pay much attention to a few government bureaucrats missing a mandated deadline. What else is new? Besides, most people were busy defending themselves against COVID-19 and the havoc it wreaked. The chaos of Corona was more feature than bug for this not-yet-outgoing administration.

The fuse was long, but striking the match was quick. President Trump bombed Iran, showing world leaders that sabers are not just for rattling. Iran promised retaliation. Then it came.

America’s power grid came down and Internet connectivity was severely damaged. Everyone blamed Iran for this, but we learned much later that the Russians were responsible. We should have worried when Russians didn’t seriously meddle with this election. We should have noticed the dog that didn’t bark.

So-called “sanctuary cities” were hit particularly hard, but also hospitals and banks. Americans reacted swiftly and strongly to the pain of confusion. People panicked. They assumed the worst.

The worst didn’t need much assuming. Economic assistance programs from the spring came to a screeching halt on Dec. 31 — unemployment benefits, payroll assistance, eviction forbearance, student loan suspension. People took to the streets, but only landlords boarded their windows because tenants had left or were leaving.

Trump strode back onto the national stage. His promise from 2017 echoed: “I alone can fix it.” Obama’s “hope and change” mantra had finally been replaced with fear and dread. America needed a strongman. Trump accepted his calling. Democrats stepped aside, for the good of the nation.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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