The People: What is happening?

The Answer: We’re having an election.

P: A presidential election?

A: A presidential election.

P: Oh, good. When?

A: Soon! So soon! Ah, it’s glorious — the moment where hundreds of millions of Americans get to express their opinion through the polls, and then, either way, the president stays in office.

P: Wait, what?

A: If the president wins, he stays in office because the election was fair. And if he loses, he stays in office because the election was not fair.

P: That doesn’t sound right. That’s how it works?

A: That’s how it works now. Or might work. We don’t know! It’ll be a surprise.

P: A surprise?

A: Think of the suspense! Usually a president leaves office if they lose and there’s no civil war. But this year might be different. Could go either way. Maybe have a new president, a civil war. We’ll see.

P: That can’t be our strategy. “We’ll see”?

A: We could have a legitimate new president in Biden, or Trump could have a legitimate second term. Or Trump could lose, refuse to leave, and we could have open rebellion — militias against the army, the police against the citizens, and then, of course, the roving death squads in unmarked cars. Did you buy your gun?

P: No, I didn’t buy a gun!

A: A lot of people are buying guns.

P: I don’t want to buy a gun.

A: Is your bunker stocked?

P: I don’t have a bunker.

A: There are actually some good last-minute deals on bunker-shares. But you should hurry. I can connect you with my bunker-share guy.

P: I don’t want a bunker-share.

A: Ticket to New Zealand?

P: I don’t have a ticket to New Zealand.

A: You have time. But when you go, just remember the roads and airports will be crowded on November 4, so get there early. I’d say at least four hours before any international flight. Actually, no countries will accept Americans, so it’s a moot point. Maybe you should just stay and enjoy the election. Did you vote yet?

P: I’m about to.

A: Good. Now just hope your vote goes into one of the bins that get counted.

P: Don’t all the votes get counted?

A: Well, the counting goes on for a day, maybe a day and a half. Then judges tell the counters to stop counting and whoever’s ahead gets to be president.

P: That can’t be how it works.

A: It’s how it works now. Remember 2000? They counted for days in Florida, and then it got super boring so they stopped. Everyone realized the presidential election was too important to keep counting until all the votes were counted. So Bush became president for eight years and started two wars that killed a million people, even though it turned out Gore won the national popular vote, and won Florida by 11,000 votes, and actually should have been president if this were a democracy.

P: It isn’t a democracy?

A: It’s definitely democracy-esque. But if we just gave the presidency to whoever got the most votes, Republicans would never win again, and that doesn’t seem fair. So the electoral college makes it more fair by counting some votes more than others.

P: Wait. That doesn’t sound right.

A: Maybe I’m not explaining it well. You know baseball? You know how in baseball, the winner is the team who gets the most runs?

P: Okay.

A: And you know how in baseball, if a player is from Iowa, his run counts for two runs? And if he’s from South Dakota, his run counts for four?

P: No. That’s not—

A: Or golf! In golf, the golfer with the lowest score wins. But if a golfer’s from Kansas or New Hampshire, he gets to skip some holes and sometimes gets to put the ball in the hole with his hand. Oh! And sometimes a judge tears up all the scorecards and just picks a winner.

P: That really doesn’t sound—

A: Or basketball! You know how in the NBA Finals, each team tries to score more points than the other team?

P: Okay…

A: And then, at the end of the game, you’ll have a score, like for instance the Lakers 122, the Heat 118?

P: Right.

A: But then sometimes it ends up that the Heat won?

P: No. That doesn’t happen.

A: Sure it does! Otherwise it wouldn’t be fair to the Heat! They can’t lose the game just because they scored fewer points than the Lakers! We have to help them here and there by letting them win a game everyone watched them lose. Especially if it’s close.

P: But—

A: It’s like that with Republican presidential candidates. They can’t win the popular vote, because there are millions more registered Democrats than Republicans. So we just give them any election that’s close.

P: But then how can a Democrat win?

A: In a landslide! Otherwise they lose. Which makes it fair.

P: But—

A: And if it looks like the Democrats are going to win in a landslide, the president can always declare the election invalid before it begins.

P: Doesn’t that sow mistrust in the entire electoral process?

A: Absolutely it does! It shatters all trust in the vote, period, and puts us on the precipice of autocracy. A president openly saying an election is rigged before it happens — that’s naked treason.

P: So how is he getting away with it? Isn’t this a nation of laws?

A: It sure is! Every citizen is subject to our laws, including those pertaining to treason, voter suppression, tax evasion, sexual assault, corruption, and racketeering.

P: Good.

A: But the president’s different and special. He must be held to the highest standard of all, so no laws apply to him. The safest place for a serial criminal is the White House. But if he gets voted out, then he’ll be in trouble.

P: But he’s said he won’t leave.

A: Right. If he leaves, he goes to jail. So leaving, for him, is bad. That’s why he will certainly declare the election invalid unless he wins.

P: But this is madness! We’re watching a constitutional crisis come at us like a slow-moving hurricane, and we’re just hoping it turns out okay? Why doesn’t Congress and the states do something?

A: What do you mean? Haven’t you seen the tweets? There have been some very stern tweets.

P: What about censure? Resolutions? Impeachment?

A: Impeachment? That seems pretty serious. All the guy did was say that he won’t leave office and that the country’s no longer a democracy.

P: What in God’s name is a high crime or misdemeanor if it’s not invalidating the vote before it begins?

A: Listen. We’re only 34 days away from the election. We should let the people decide if he stays in office.

P: But he’s already said he won’t leave!

A: Why are you yelling? You sure you don’t want to talk to my bunker-share guy?

P: Oh god. Oh god.

A: Listen, don’t be so glum. Maybe he’ll surprise us. Don’t you like surprises? Wouldn’t that be cool, if Trump lost the election and actually left office? That would be a big surprise.

P: I’m so tired.

A: I just had an idea. Just blue sky here — what if we skip it?

P: Skip what?

A: The election! Seems like a lot of trouble, actually. If we skip it, then there’s no hassle over who won. We eliminate the uncertainty. Wouldn’t that be nice?

P: I don’t know.

A: Don’t the Russians seem happy? They don’t have to worry about voting, and counting ballots or not counting ballots, and seeing whether or not the president does or doesn’t leave office when he loses. They just have… what’s the word? Continuity.

P: Continuity.

A: Actually, why don’t you follow me down here? I’ll grab the torch. There you go. Just a little farther. Isn’t this nice? You can lie down, take a nap, sleep through all this. When you wake up, it’ll be November 4 and it’ll be all over. And you’ll never have to worry about any of this again.