The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

"President Trump Remains the Most Powerful Man in the World,

but powerless to achieve what he most wants: to avoid leaving office as a loser."


So says the subtitle to a New York Times story—and of course that's what democracy is all about, right? He might leave graciously; he might leave ungraciously; he might leave with litigation; he might leave without litigation; but he's going to leave, whether he's Ford or Carter or Bush Sr. or Trump.

The rest of the article includes some of the usual what-ifs and maybe-he-coulds, which would have seemed considerably more frightening (given President Trump's indubitably unusual and troublesome character traits) if they hadn't been brought out so many times before. But the subtitle captures the bottom line well: In the sweep of world history, peaceful but unhappy transfers of power have been very difficult to arrange, but somehow the British and we and then most of the rest of the West have gotten the hang of them.

That's bigger than one man, whatever his personality might be. And indeed, that the system works with the sore losers is ultimately a greater testament to it than its working with the gracious ones. True, it's not Jan. 20 yet. But my prediction is that (setting aside the surface matters related to the epidemic) it will be a Jan. 20 of an inauguration year much like any other.