[Link] "Will He Go?" book review (Scott Aaronson)

by ioannes_shade1 min read12th Jun 20203 comments

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https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=4845 (a)

From the beginning:

Will He Go?, by legal scholar Lawrence Douglas, is, at 120 pages, a slim volume focused on a single question: what happens if the 2020 US election delivers a narrow or disputed result favoring Biden, and Trump refuses to concede? This question will, of course, either be answered or rendered irrelevant in half a year. And yet, in my estimation, there’s at least a 15% probability that Will He Go? will enter the ranks of the most important and prescient books ever written. You should read it right now (or at least read this Vox interview), if you want to think through the contours of a civilizational Singularity that seems at least as plausible to me as the AI Singularity, but whose fixed date of November 3, 2020 we’re now hurtling toward.
In one of the defining memes of the past few years, a sign in a bookstore reads “Dear customers: post-apocalyptic fiction has been moved to the Current Affairs section.” I was reminded of that as Douglas dryly lays out his horror scenario: imagine, hypothetically, that a President of the United States gets elected on a platform of racism and lies, with welcomed assistance from a foreign adversary. Suppose that his every outrage only endears him further to his millions of followers. Suppose that, as this president’s deepest (and perhaps only) principle, he never backs down, never apologizes, never acknowledges any inconvenient fact, and never accepts the legitimacy of any contest that he loses—and this is perfectly rational for him, as he’s been richly rewarded for this strategy his entire life. Suppose that, during the final presidential debate, he pointedly refuses to promise to respect the election outcome if he loses—a first in American history. And suppose that, after eking out a narrow win in the Electoral College, he then turns around and disputes the election anyway (!)—claiming, ludicrously, that he would’ve won the popular vote too, if not for millions of fraudulent voters. Suppose that, for their own sordid reasons, Republican majorities in the Senate and Supreme Court enable this president’s chaotic rule, block his impeachment, and acquiesce to his daily cruelties and lies.
Then what happens in the next election?

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So, if you spend most of your time imagining various scenarios how the world would end if Trump wins, this is an important information for you: Publish a book, and transform your fantasies into a source of income.

(Heck, even if you are a Trump supporter, you could still collect the stories from the web, and publish them.)

Don't procrastinate, the time is limited, and the opportunity can also disappear if other people publish too many books before you enter the market. If you can make the book in a week, the quality doesn't matter much, you can ride the wave.

Disclaimer: This comment is not supposed to be pro-Trump or anti-Trump, but "how can I profit from this situation", similarly to how people discussed how one could have profited from the COVID-19 situation.

Apart from Trump making the obvious and true point that mail-in ballots are ripe for fraud, all the evidence for people not accepting presidential election results seems to be from the Democrat side. For example:

This anxiety about whether Trump would concede seems to include a significant element of projection.

inb4 "So you're saying Trump is a good man, a good president, an honest man".

No I am not saying that.

I think you may be conflating two very different meanings of "not accepting". On the one hand, there's "X shouldn't have won"; on the other, "X didn't really win". The things you quote seem like they're much more about the first, and the book here is speculating about a claim of the second.

  • "Not my president" generally means "I don't think X is in any way on my side and I strongly disapprove of him", not "I think X didn't really win the election and the nation's institutions should refuse to obey his executive orders etc.". So, e.g., here is a NYT opinion piece entitled "Not my president, not now, not ever", whose key claim is: "Mr. Trump has no intention of representing me, my family, the people I care about, or the majority of Americans, from the imperiled to the comfortable. It is a stretch to call him anyone’s president but his own." There were "Not my Presidents Day" rallies on 2017-02-20; according to the Wikipedia article about them) "Organizers of the protest stated that although Trump was the president, they wanted to show that he did not represent their values."
    • It's maybe worth adding that in the run-up to the election, Mr Trump repeatedly refused to say that he'd accept the results of the election; he was playing the "not really president" card in advance, just in case he lost. And even when he did win, he repeatedly claimed that he'd really won the popular vote and appearances to the contrary were because of (nonexistent) millions of fraudulent Clinton votes.
  • I'm not sure what "disbelief that Trump could possibly have won" actually refers to, so can't comment on it. For sure, some people were very surprised that he won, but being very surprised that someone won an election is not remotely the same as denying that they actually did win it.
  • "Denial that Trump even had a chance" seems like it's the same thing as "disbelief that Trump could possibly have won", so I'm not sure why this needs a separate bullet point. In any case, the article you link to (1) was before the election, and hence can't possibly be evidence of anyone refusing to accept that Trump won the election after it happened, and (2) says "almost certain". The earliest thing I could quickly find by the same author after the election is this, from 2016-11-11, which so far as I can tell doesn't have the least hint of a suggestion that Trump's election was illegitimate. (It also claims that "[i]n some ways, [Clinton's] defeat was pre-ordained", which is pretty rich given that a few weeks before the author had been saying Clinton's victory was almost inevitable, but I'm not claiming that Abramson is impressive or intelligent, only that she wasn't denying that Trump really won.)
  • There was no '"Russian collusion" hoax'. There were credible claims of Russian collusion, they were investigated (which is exactly what should have been done), and the conclusion of the investigators was not, at all, that there was nothing to the claims. They found (1) that Russia had "interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion", (2) that what they did "favoured ... Trump and disparaged ... Clinton" ("disparaged" is a weird choice of word, but no matter), (3) that the Trump campaign "expected" that the Russian interference would benefit them and "welcomed" that help, (4) that "the social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government", but (5) that they were unable to find sufficient concrete evidence to accuse the Trump campaign of criminal collusion. (Not least because, as the report documented, Mr Trump and his associates repeatedly refused to cooperate with the investigation.) You may form your own opinion as to whether (a) there was no collusion or (b) there was collusion but Mr Trump and his associates were able to put up enough smoke to prevent anything being concluded beyond reasonable doubt; but there's plenty here to make it clear that this was no hoax.
    • It's not at all clear to me what would have happened if Muller had found clear evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. That certainly wouldn't have been enough to invalidate the election and make Trump no longer president. Perhaps it would have led to an impeachment, but the results of that would likely have been the same as the results of the impeachment that actually happened.

So, of your four things: the first, in the actual instances I've found, is "I wish he hadn't been elected and don't think he represents me" rather than "he is not really president"; I don't know what the second means, unless it's the same as the third; the third, so far as I can tell from the specific instance you selected, says no more than "Clinton will probably win" which has nothing at all to do with your claim; the fourth might or might not imply "not legitimately elected" but was not the partisan thing you want to represent it as.