President Nancy Pelosi? Don’t underestimate what she might do in office

About one month ago, during a speech to the 2020 Council for National Policy, President Trump raised the possibility of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) succeeding him as the next president of the United States.

Said Trump: “I really don’t think that you are going to know anything on the evening — anything meaningful or anything real — on the evening of Nov. 3rd. You are not going to know what happened. I don’t think you’ll know two weeks later. I don’t think you’ll know four weeks later. And I don’t know what is going to happen. You know, there is a theory that if you don’t have it by the end of the year, crazy Nancy Pelosi would become president. You know that, right?”

It should be noted that Pelosi predicts her party will be celebrating Joe Biden’s win in eight weeks’ time. 

To be sure, Trump likely was having a bit of fun while trying to fire up conservative attendees at the event. That said, he also raised the “theory” because of the perfect storm brewing for a delay in voting results and potential voter fraud. The two main reasons are that some people may not feel comfortable voting in person because of concern about COVID-19 and the more than 51 million mail-in ballots being sent out in nine states and Washington, D.C.

Of course, in the middle of the pandemic, we can stand in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, the post office, the supermarket, restaurants, big-box stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot, and other retailers and locations, but some Americans apparently believe the virus might be more contagious in the line leading to voting booths. Maybe those who believe this don’t know we had in-person voting during other crises, including flu pandemics and the years encompassing World War I  and World War II.

Those realities aside, should problematic voting scenarios take hold in any large measure, it could be days or even weeks indeed before we know who won this presidential election. And if those weeks were to stretch to noon on Jan. 20, 2021, without the Electoral College declaring a winner, some constitutional scholars believe the presidency would default to the Speaker of the House. Assuming the Democrats retain control of the House, that new president most likely would be Pelosi.

Were that to come to pass, most Democrats and liberals would scream with joy at the opportunity given to them, while Republicans and conservatives would be shocked into depression and dread. 

But academic exercise or not, Republicans, conservatives and the Trump White House underestimate Pelosi at their own risk. She has proved to be an effective and popular leader for her Democratic colleagues. More than that, she knows every rule and trick in the book.        

That means President Pelosi would know that she’d need to act fast to get anything done in the White House. Prior to ascending to the presidency, Pelosi would have kept a close eye on the confusion and delayed vote certification. The more confusion and delay, the better her chances to be named president. She would have convened her senior leadership and most trusted advisers to come up with a one-day plan, a one-week plan and a one-month plan for her “presidency.”

Job one could be the U.S. Supreme Court if it appeared that Pelosi might have some time in the White House. President Trump has listed 20 potential justices he would potentially name. And if Pelosi had enough time to get Senate confirmation, might Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87 and in poor health, and Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, both appointed by President Bill Clinton, resign to give her the chance to name progressive Democratic replacements to the court? Then, Pelosi could cast her eyes toward judicial vacancies at the federal level across the country.

Any president can do a great deal of good, or initiate a great deal of partisan mischief, in a short time — especially if a game plan is mapped out weeks before the inauguration.

In the increasingly surreal year that has been 2020, will the theory of a President Pelosi translate into a history-making first? Prior to the economic devastation from extended pandemic-related lockdowns and the anarchy, violence and looting happening in many cities, there may have been a slight chance for the House Speaker to take over in the Oval Office because of a close vote and difficult count.

Yes, the vote total likely will be close, and the burden of counting mail-in ballots will be a factor, but because of those life-altering and emotional circumstances — a troubled economy and civil unrest — I believe many Americans won’t want to take the risk of casting their vote for the Democratic ticket and that the winner will be declared on election night. 

Douglas MacKinnon was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and former special assistant for policy and communication at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration. He is the author of “The Dawn of a Nazi Moon: Book One.”

Tags 2020 presidential election Bill Clinton Donald Trump House Speaker Joe Biden mail-in voting Nancy Pelosi Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stephen Breyer Vote counting

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