Trump has always shown a willingness to maintain dangerous lies in the service of a narrative that suits him. This has been a theme of his presidency, and has reached a new low since he lost the election. Assuming none of his legal challenges pan out (likely), and no recounts overturn any results (extremely likely), he will be faced with the prospect of actually admitting his loss and/or giving up power. There are exactly 4 possibilities here:
- Trump concedes and gives up power
- Trump does not concede, but gives up power
- Trump concedes but does not give up power
- Trump does not concede and does not give up power
I don't see #1 happening. He will have to admit that he lost fair & square, which would take the wind out of all his supporters' sails, effectively slashing his TV ratings for the foreseeable future. Admitting loss is way off the Trump brand, and would in this case require some kind of respect for democracy and the country and other things that aren't him.
I think #2 is much more likely than #1. If he can find a way to maintain the narrative that the election was stolen from him while tacitly agreeing to be dragged kicking and screaming from the White House, he'll at least maintain (not to mention inflame) his base, keeping his ratings intact. And as long as he can capitalize on the fire he's got going, why would he want the trouble of
running ruining the country for another term anyway?
#3 is more Putin than Trump. And I'm not sure how it would work anyway.
#4 is obviously the scary one. If we rule out #1 and #3 and assume no concession is coming, Trump still has at his fingertips the resources of his office--a stronger position than Biden's--all the way up to January 20. If he continues to stonewall Biden's transition team the whole thing could turn into a sick game of political chicken, which of course can only avoid violence if someone swerves.
If push comes to shove and Trump actually does refuse to relinquish power, it will have to be taken from him. And I'm worried that this is the reason we're hearing about him shoring up the military brass with loyalists. All these articles talk about these personnel changes in terms of their medium-term foreign policy implications, and some mention the immediate national security implications, but more in a someone-will-get-us-while-we're-playing-musical-chairs kind of way than in a how-much-military-support-do-you-need-for-a-coup kind of way. Meanwhile one article puts that "These are dictator moves" quote right there in the headline, as if they're trying to shout without saying.
I'm being paranoid and everything's gonna be fine, right?