What does "that" refer back to? Does it refer to "the Electoral College"? Or does it refer to "losing our country forever"? Or does it refer to "mutually assured destruction for every future election"? I am not sure.

“I fear we’d lose our country forever,” Mr. Chatfield said. “This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College. And I can’t stand for that. I won’t.”

Source: NYTimes

1 Answer 1


There are two possibilities:

  1. that has strict syntactic reference back to something mentioned in the previous sentence

  2. that has a general reference to the state(s) of affairs described up to that point (in this case, all that would have the same meaning)

If we assume option 1), there are two suboptions for what that refers to, as far as I can see:

1a) the bringing of MAD for every future election...

1b) MAD [for every future election...]

These suboptions have basically the same meaning in context. But some linguists (syntacticians) might be interested in determining exactly what is referred back to, which is why I mention the issue.

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