2024 Is America’s Kobayashi Maru
There are no good outcomes. And we were put to this test not by prosecutors, but by the cowardice of the Republican party.
1. No Win
For the uninitiated, the Kobayashi Maru is a test given at Starfleet Academy in Star Trek. In the test, cadets participate in a simulation where everything goes wrong; no matter what they choose, the simulation ends with their deaths. The point of the Kobayashi Maru is to impress on students that some games cannot be won, no matter what you do. In some situations every decision—either wise or foolish—leads to a bad outcome.
Which is where we are with the 2024 election. A couple weeks ago I sketched out a number of scenarios for 2024:
(1) A jury finds Trump guilty in the months before the general election. Trump’s support falls dramatically. Biden wins a safe re-election.
(1a) A jury finds Trump not guilty, Biden wins safely.
(2) A jury finds Trump guilty before the general election and even so, Trump wins a clean victory over Biden.
(2a) Trump is found not guilty and wins a clean election.
(3) Trump is found guilty, but the election results are contested as they were in 2020.
(3b) Trump is found not guilty, with contested results.
Of these six scenarios, all but one—Trump guilty/Biden safe win—lead to crisis.1
And even that one outcome would be fraught. You saw how Republican voters and elites behaved in the aftermath of 2020. Do you think that if Trump is convicted and then loses the election these same people will say,
Well, daggum it. I guess the jury has spoken and people didn’t like us running a convict. We’ll have to try something else.
Because I do not. Instead, these people will think,
Thank God Jack Smith and Biden took care of Trump for us. Now we can complain about how unfair and corrupt they were without losing any of the MAGA mouthbreathers while we pivot to Youngkinism.
And that’s the best outcome for the best-case scenario.
The scenarios in which we do not have a verdict by Election Day all lead to crisis, because there is not a voting outcome Trump’s supporters will accept as legitimate while the legal process is ongoing.
This is why prosecuting a man running for president is so dangerous. Trump’s prosecutions:
Invite future “retaliation” from Republicans.
Delegitimize an electoral system already under active assault.
Undermine respect for the rule of law in a large minority of the population.
So here are the two points I want to hammer home for you today: