In an appearance for MSNBC’s Morning Joe, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised the specter that President Trump might lose in November, but then refuse to vacate the White House premises until forced out by noxious chemicals:

Of course, Pelosi does not remain leader of the ever-transmogrifying Democratic party by expressing original thoughts. She stays in the Speaker’s chair by dutifully amplifying the phobias and obsessions of the DNC rank and file. And this is no exception. By this point, the thought of President Trump refusing to leave power is a genuine mania of the left.

The prompt this time was President Trump’s weekend interview with Mike Wallace’s son at Fox News. Asked whether he would accept November’s election result, the President characteristically responded ‘I have to see.’ If that sounds familiar, it’s because the same interviewer asked the same question four years ago, and received the same answer. The press reacted with predictable horror — the New York Times called the answer ‘a remarkable statement that seemed to cast doubt on American democracy’.

Just three weeks later, though, it wasn’t Donald Trump who spurned the election results. It was the Democratic party and the press, with the Gray Lady herself landing a Pulitzer for reporting that you might fairly say ‘cast doubt on American democracy’.

Now, in 2020, the same people who still haven’t accepted the last election result keep warning that their enemies won’t accept the next. Just a month ago, Peter Nicholas of the august Atlantic fretted for 1,600 words on the topic of ‘What if Trump Doesn’t Leave the White House?’ In a Daily Show interview, Joe Biden said that, if faced with a recalcitrant Trump, he would send US troops to ‘escort him from the White House with great dispatch’. Countless other examples abound. Vivid imagery triumphs over actual plausibility: commentators daydream of the moment Trump is dragged out, like Saddam Hussein from his spider hole, and then whisked off to prison to inaugurate the Democratic millennium.

In reality, Donald Trump has shown remarkably little willpower in executing his own completely legal campaign promises. Where will he muster the willpower to overturn a 230-year-old electoral system?

This is merely a more intense manifestation of a fantasy that has flared up on the left for decades. In 2004, the Nation’s Tom Nichols fretted that the Bush administration might use a terrorist attack, or the mere threat of one, as an excuse to delay or cancel the November vote. ‘This administration and its minions,’ he said, ‘believe democracy is a tidier enterprise when the voters are excluded.’ Two years later, NYU law professor Stephen Gillers suggested it was the 2008 election Bush planned to circumvent. All the way back in 1972, the Village Voice intoned ominously about Richard Nixon’s potential plan to cancel an election he later won by 503 electoral votes.

What is really going on here? Above all, a case of projection. For four years, all the most energetic efforts to reject election results have come from the left. In 2016, Harvard professors Laurence Tribe and Lawrence Lessig tried getting the electoral college to ignore the actual election result. The faithless electors they sought were dubbed ‘Hamilton electors’, trying to gloss over an electoral coup d’êtat with a reference to a Broadway musical 99 percent of Americans had never seen. In 2019, fact-checkers idled their keyboards while Stacey Abrams paraded about, styling herself the true governor of Georgia, an election she in fact lost by 55,000 votes. And with the 2020 election not even over yet, liberal commentators are already laying plans to amnesty illegal immigrants, re-enfranchise felons, and add one, two, or even 127 new states to the union. The goal is explicitly to make sure nothing like the last four years can ever happen again. So, who exactly is planning to occupy the White House, and then never leave?