What is likely vs. what is possible, and why that distinction is imperative right now.

The other day, I posted a question on Facebook. I asked only people with professional or academic experience in law, political science, and government to answer. My question was, paraphrased: If Russia did indeed coordinate with the Trump campaign to swing the election against Clinton, and we recognize that Trump’s presidency is illegitimate, what would be a creative legal approach not disallowed by the Constitution to remove him from power?

I had to delete the post because, surprise surprise, people without the requested expertise used the thread to vent their anger instead of answer my question. But expert or no, the answers fell into two categories: those who saw what was possible versus those who could only see what was likely. Those who answered didn’t frame it that way, of course, but the very fact that a few experts did propose possibilities—that possibilities existed at all—exposed the fault line. One friend cited a 1994 case in Pennsylvania where a judge declared an entire Senate vote fraudulent, and ordered the losing Republican candidate to take the seat. Another wrote (and I’ve posted with her permission):

possible4

And later:

possible6-2

The fact that these are thin threads of hope are beside the point. The point is that they exist at all, and Abby—aka Abigail R. Moncrieff, JD, University of Chicago Law School, expert on healthcare and constitutional law—pointed to them. And that she didn’t answer “sorry, girly, not gonna happen” or any of the thousand variations on it that I’ve kept hearing ever since Election Day.

I felt the same profound frustration in the run-up to the Electoral College vote. Here was a legal Constitutional way to stop this presidency. Not only that, it was literally designed to stop a presidency like thisBut at the levels where it would have mattered—politicians, celebrities, lobbyists, influencers—the will to convince those electors was completely absent. I still don’t understand why. Was everyone just still in shock? Or resigned to what was “likely”? (The fact that the “those in power” demographic and the “white cis men without much to lose under any presidency” demographic largely overlap is no coincidence.)

If you give a shit—and first, be honest with yourself about whether you actually do, because if I’ve learned anything since the election, it’s that there’s so much more blissful resignation in the face of encroaching fascism than I ever could have imagined—if you really do give a shit about this country and the welfare of its people, you must start thinking in terms of what’s possible. Start thinking creatively. See ways forward that others don’t. See harder. Try harder. I have no doubt that the ways out of this dark valley exist, if only we have the will to find them.

I wish I were a legal scholar. I wish I had more power. But for now, I’m a science fiction writer with a humble following, so I’ll do as much as I can where I am.

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4 Comments on “What is likely vs. what is possible, and why that distinction is imperative right now.”

  1. jamjarhead says:

    Doing as much as you can where you are is leagues beyond lying belly up in front of a slow moving train. Thank you for your insight and encouragement, Monica.

  2. The founders of the country were very wary of potential despots and took pains to provide plenty of tools to deal with anyone who fits that description. I agree it’s important to catalog exactly what mechanisms exist. The most critical factor, though, is Republicans and Democrats will have to make a conscious decision to put the country ahead of short-term political gain. For any solution to come together, it’s going to require everyone concerned to make some sacrifices.

    Democrats will need to overcome anger at the decades-long GOP strategy to weaponize working class white resentment over lost privilege that ultimately led to Trump, and accept the possibility that removing Trump might not bring any relief on the policy front. Republicans will need to overcome their glee at winning a seemingly hopeless Presidential election, and accept the possibility that any change, even cleanly swapping out Trump for another GOP POTUS, could bring short-term political disadvantages for them.

    I think that sort of cooperation with the political opposition – so hard to envision in our current environment – is what we need to do everything possible to encourage. Given what we know from the history of authoritarian regimes, we probably don’t have a lot of time. Bipartisan cooperation for the sake of the country is likely our only hope.


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