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Littwin: Trump may lose the election, but don’t expect the end of Trumpism any time soon

In Colorado, which Biden is expected to carry, Cory Gardner’s seat is in real jeopardy. If he loses, how much of it would be his fault and how much would it be Trump’s?

Should Joe Biden win the presidential election — as all the polls and most pundits predict — on Tuesday, or more likely Wednesday or Thursday, and possibly not for weeks and maybe months, here’s my prediction, which you may not like and I know I don’t like: Our long national nightmare will not be over.

Too much has been lost over the past four years, and it will take at least as many years, and maybe longer, to recover. On Election Day in 2016, someone asked me if I thought Donald Trump could win. I remember answering that it was definitely possible and yet, at the same time, inconceivable.

I was right on both counts. I’m not patting myself on the back here. I still thought and wrote that Hillary Clinton would win easily. Not because of the polls, which were drawing closer, but because of a certain understanding I thought I had of human nature and also of an idea forged over decades as to what degree of vulgarity might be acceptable in America. I thought a clown like Trump was, to use his favorite term, a loser. Cynic that I might be, I had surprising faith, which has been, yes, shattered.

Mike Littwin

There has been so much to learn during the Trump presidency and much to relearn if/when it ends. We are a country constantly on edge, and that was before the deadly coronavirus took hold. There is no normalcy, and that, too, preceded the virus. It was also before we learned, via Bob Woodward’s taped interview with Jared Kushner, that the plan to dump the COVID response on governors was not so much about incompetence — although there’s a lot there — but as a means to an electoral end. The Trump game plan: Put the blame on the governors — particularly the “Democrat” governors — and do whatever it takes to keep the economy and the stock market moving. The stock market has held, mostly, not that most people benefit. The economy has not. And, of course, the pandemic has come at us again with a Trumpian-like vengeance.

It’s all of a piece, We have a president who tweets out a crisis point daily and sometimes hourly. We have a president who calls for his opponents to be prosecuted and, yes, locked up. We have a president who holds rallies during a pandemic, rallies that endanger all who attend. We have a president who couldn’t protect the country during a pandemic and failed to even protect himself and his family. We have a president who traffics in racism, in sexism, in xenophobia, in daily humiliations.

It’s the same president who says Article 2 of the Constitution, which I guarantee he’s never read, lets him do whatever he wants to do. And so he has. Occasionally the courts try to stop him, and nearly as often, he ignores the courts. House Democrats impeached him because at some point, it was impossible to oppose all that Trump has done to America and not impeach him. 

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It was hardly surprising that the Republican-held Senate stuck with its leader and did not vote to convict. No president has ever been convicted. But it was another thing to vote — as Cory Gardner did — not to hear witnesses, not to have the case laid out before the American people so they could judge. It was a suppression of a kind, which is in line with the GOP strategy of voter suppression in this election and with Trump’s insistence that he can lose only with a rigged vote. By the way, who predicted that Trump would attempt to subvert the post office as a campaign strategy?

Could there be violence on Nov. 3 and after? There could be. Will there be ballots challenged and thrown out across the country? You bet. Could Trump use the courts to steal an election? Some of that is already happening. It’s definitely possible there could be more, but still unlikely unless, as in 2000, it comes down to one state or two and, say, Pennsylvania becomes the new Florida, although with no hanging chads and no beaches.

Still, poll analysts like Nate Silver give Trump only a 10% chance of winning. In 2016, he gave Trump a 29% chance, which is a significant difference. According to the polls, Biden has been growing more popular while Clinton, at the same point of the race in 2016, was growing ever less popular. 

Trump fatigue lies over the land like a fog that just won’t break. We don’t pay attention to most of Trump’s tweets any more. And Fox is the only network that carries his rallies, and even they don’t carry them all the time. But election fatigue is something different altogether. It looks as if people may vote in record numbers. No one can safely predict what the early voting means, but in Texas, a state that seems suddenly in play, the early voting has already overtaken the total vote from 2016.

Which brings us to Colorado, where we know all about mail-in voting and where many of us still have faith the vote will be counted fairly, and where it seems that the strong early voting, in this case, favors Democrats. 

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Colorado has moved to a blue state from a purple state, which isn’t to say that Republicans can’t win races. Two of the bluest states in the country — Massachusetts and Maryland — have Republican governors. But you can place the 2018 Democratic landslide in the state, up and down the ballot, directly at Trump’s feet. Things are bad for Republicans in Colorado, but not that bad.

In 2016, Trump lost Colorado by five points. The polls say the number will be greater this time, but the thing to watch is how Cory Gardner’s numbers compare to Trump’s. I’ve been told that the Democratic internals suggest Hick could run a point or two ahead of Biden, which would mean, should Gardner lose, that it would have been more than Trump to bring Gardner down. It has been conventional wisdom among Republicans that Gardner would run five points ahead of Trump in the state, which seemed reasonable to me. In any case, if Gardner loses, state Republicans will have no one in a major statewide elective office. And, of course, a Gardner loss would be one of at least four GOP losses the Democrats need to regain control of the U.S. Senate. 

In the 3rd Congressional District, the only competitive House seat in the state, Lauren Boebert is a gun-toting, QAnon-flirting Trump acolyte and her Democratic opponent, Diane Mitsch Bush, lost by eight points to Scott Tipton in 2018. But this time, it’s very much about Trump, who carried the district by 12 points against Clinton in 2016. Some say that if Boebert wins, she’ll become the face of Colorado Republicans. If that were true — which I doubt — a lot of Colorado Republicans I know would be wearing paper bags over their heads.

Meanwhile, those who watch the state legislative races carefully believe Dems will hold on to both houses and may, in fact, increase their leads. It’s definitely a crisis point for Colorado Republicans.

The basket full of referendums has some critical ones, including Amendment B, which would end the Gallagher Amendment. A large majority of rural state legislators support Amendment B, but we’ll have to see if that correlates to their voters. There’s Prop 116, a proposed tax cut during a huge pandemic-related state revenue shortfall. You can expect it to pass easily. There’s Prop 115, the anti-abortion amendment that could take on new meaning with the new 6-3 Supreme Court and the threat to Roe v. Wade. There’s Prop 118, family and medical leave insurance.

But most eyes in Colorado and everywhere else will be on the Trump-Biden race. Every presidential election is routinely called the most consequential in the nation’s history. But this one clearly deserves a rating as among the most consequential. That Trump’s victory followed Barack Obama’s victory is no accident. If Trump were to lose to Biden, Obama’s vice-president and a many time loser in presidential runs, you couldn’t escape that meaning either.

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And yet, if Trump loses in a landslide, he’d still get, say, 45-46 percent of the vote, meaning that after four years, nearly half the nation still supports Trump, many of them supporting him to, well, extremes. It isn’t just because of the likelihood that Trump will contest the election that I believe our national nightmare is bound to stick around. If Trump loses, he won’t lose his voice, and he won’t lose much of his base and he won’t lose Fox News. Or Republicans could try to pretend that Trump never happened. No one has any idea what will become of a post-Trump Republican Party or even if there will be a post-Trump Republican Party. I mean, Don Jr. could run in 2024. Try to wrap your head around that.

It would be great to remove Trump from the Oval Office and to begin the process of reversing the damage he has done to American democracy and to America’s standing. But whatever happens next, Trump will still own a hold on the American psyche. Whatever happens next, Trump’s enablers will never erase that stain. Whatever happens next … well, I guess that’s the point. After 2016, it’s foolish to believe we can say with any certainty what happens next.

Updated Nov. 1, 2020, to correct that Trump has claimed that Article 2 of the Constitution gives him powers to do whatever he wants.


Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


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