Among the American president’s most important duties are the ones he fulfills as commander-in-chief of the US military.
The president can’t declare war without the approval of Congress, but he still wields a tremendous amount of power over the largest and most powerful armed forces in the history of the world.
During his single term in the White House, Donald Trump delighted in giving speeches aboard aircraft carriers, and he openly fantasized about a "missile parade" that would flaunt America’s military might and serve as an implicit threat to the rest of the world.
Now, however, Trump’s relationship with the American military is soon to change dramatically.
On January 20, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president, and all of those considerable powers over the US armed forces will immediately transfer to him.
It’s also at that moment that reality is likely to come crashing down on some of the more delusional members of MAGA Nation, many of whom are still holding out hope that Trump will figure out some way to retain power.
For some, Trump’s looming loss of military might, and the finality that will come with Biden’s swearing-in ceremony are not unrelated.
These extremists are holding out hope that Trump will employ the Insurrection Act and turn the military against his opponents in a desperate last-ditch effort to remain in the White House.
The act offers an exemption to the prohibition against military power to enforce domestic laws.
However, it’s intended to allow the president to suppress violent uprisings, not reverse election results.
Thus far, the widespread bloodshed that many predicted ahead of the election has not taken place, thus, the president has no justification for invoking the Insurrection Act.
And if the need arose and the president were forced to use military might against American citizens, the action would still not invalidate the results of the 2020 election.
As Politico points out, the Insurrection Act has only once been used in the wake of an election — and that was 1872, when a former Confederate officer lost the Louisiana governorship, and a militia attempted to seize power on his behalf.
Other than that, presidents have turned the US military against citizens only in the most extreme situations, such as the Civil War or violence perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan.
Trump would presumably be using the act in response to a baseless controversy over ballot counting that’s already resulted in several unsuccessful court challenges.
These are slightly less dire circumstances than the Civil War.
The most extreme Trump supporters contend that while there’s no violence in the streets, Trump is being undermined by a shadowy cabal that they refer to collectively as "the Deep State."
“The central theme here is that there supposedly exists a network of nefarious actors trying to undermine Trump and destroy the United States, and that this is a tool that Trump could use to save the day,” Jared Holt, an expert on far-Right extremism tells Politico.
It seems that Trump extremists — and members of the conspiracy theorist group QAnon — began obsessing over the Insurrection Act over the summer, amid the riots that followed the police murder of George Floyd.
Now, they’re hoping Trump will use it to … well, it’s not exactly clear how they imagine the scene would play out, but it definitely involves military violence against American citizens.
To be clear, this scenario will almost certainly not happen, but it serves as a reminder that things will not immediately return to "normal" once Biden takes office and the Covid vaccine is widely administered.
Here’s hoping that Trump will peacefully step down and fill his followers’ heads with a bunch of nonsense about running again in 2024, or something.
Whatever the case, it’s a testament to the insanity of this year that a peaceful transfer of presidential power seems like a lot to wish for.