Yesterday’s news left no doubt: Trump will do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to retain power. So while current polling is comforting, these are unprecedented times and we are headed into very choppy and entirely unfamiliar territory.
Retake has long contended that we do not live in a true democracy. What we have is a semblance of democracy undermined by undemocratic plutocratic forces. But the unrelenting news of Trump’s plans to disrupt the election and, if necessary, simply dismiss its results has caused me to better appreciate the semblance of democracy we have and the immense importance of preserving it, as this semblance of democracy is the only chance we have of ever achieving the democracy to which we aspire. And, my friends, that democracy and our future are in very perilous hands.
Please Share This Post With Others. Many Others.
While the news from yesterday is frightening, as I briefly describe below, there are plans emerging to address the crisis. We can do this, but it is vital that we all understand the scope and scale of the threat. For months, I wavered between feeling Trump could do anything to retain power; now I am convinced he will. But after participating in a non-violent direct action training last night, we are greatly heartened that there are highly skilled people organizing to resist.
In a future post, we will outline possible strategies in which we can take part, but we want to complete our training and absorb what is transpiring, while I think that while massive and peaceful civil disobedience will be part of that strategy, engaging Republican state legislators across the nation to reject Trump’s efforts will be central to repelling what is almost certainly coming. A landslide on Nov. 3 wouldn’t hurt either. If you want to get a head start reviewing the thinking of the coalition that has assembled the training, click here. There is a wealth of thinking developing. Read on.
Any lingering doubts about the scope, scale, and deadly seriousness of Trump’s planned coup evaporated yesterday when The Atlantic published a 38-page piece from three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Barton Gellman. Gellman outlines the GOP’s detailed plans for suppressing the vote, including:
- Sending 50,000 trained “poll watchers” to intimidate voters of color in 15 swing states;
- Plans to work with state legislatures controlled by Republicans to stop vote counts after Nov. 3 and declare the tally fraudulent, with those state legislatures overturning the vote and selecting GOP electoral college delegates (this is actually legal);
- Asking the courts to force states to stop counting ballots after Nov. 3,to determine the outcome only by votes counted on Nov. 3, and to validate the reversed votes perpetrated by GOP controlled legislatures.
Gellman projects the very real possibility that two men could show up on January 20 prepared to take the oath of office. It is chilling. The Atlantic had scheduled the article to be published as part of its November issue but thought the story so urgent that they published it yesterday, an unprecedented action. As shocking and frightening as this story is, the real horror is in Trump’s response (reported by Heath Cox Richardson) when asked his reaction to The Atlantic story:
“”Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.” He went on to say: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”Letters from an American: Heather Cox Richardson.
And if that isn’t frightening enough, there has been absolutely no GOP reaction, except for Senator Mitt Romney saying that the statement and the reality portrayed in The Atlantic was “unthinkable.” Across the land, one GOP leader after another remains silent.
Below are links to both The Atlantic piece and today’s report from Heather Cox Richardson. The Atlantic piece is 38 pages, while HCR examines the highlights of the article in 3-4 pages, a quick but very disturbing report.
News In Brief
- From The Atlantic: “The Election That Could Break America: If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?”
- From Letters from an American: “Heather Cox Richardson, Sept 23″
The above outlines why, for so many, all the alarms are ringing, why so many fear for our future, and why the Transition Integrity Project (TIP) has organized a series of trainings to prepare us to resist. So today, we have given the stage to the Transition Integrity Project who over the past year has been preparing for where we are now. They assembled over 100 historians, constitutional experts, lawyers, and activists to examine how attempted coups unfold and the differences between forms of resistance that successfully repel the coup and those that don’t. They are training people across the country in a series of online sessions focused on developing a strategy for resisting a Trump coup. They have assembled a cohesive grassroots plan and a tremendous training for organizers and individuals to prepare for and to resist what could come.
There were over 500 registrants on the TIP Zoom training last night from all over the country. They did an excellent job of making the process participatory. It is critically important that others take the training, and TIP plans to offer it again on Oct. 1 and Oct. 6, two evening sessions of two hours each. I suspect they will continue offering it especially after yesterday’s news. We strongly encourage you to join this training in their next session Oct. 1 and Oct. 6. Click here to register. The sessions Roxanne and I are enrolled in are sold out so this does sell out.
I just want to say that the threat to our future becomes greater every day. Retake will not try to paint a glowing picture to a dark reality, but will try to offer tools and strategies to address these challenges. We can’t be prepared if we don’t see clearly what is coming…..and a very real challenge is not just looming, it is here.
Before we share information about the Transition Integrity Project strategies, we offer a couple of announcements and one very important News In Brief that perfectly sets the stage for today’s guest blog.
What follows is the Executive Summary from the TIP’s plan.
The Nation is On a Precipice and
the Transition Integrity Project Has a Plan
In June 2020 the Transition Integrity Project (TIP) convened a bipartisan group of over 100 current and former senior government and campaign leaders and other experts in a series of 2020 election crisis scenario planning exercises. The results of all four table-top exercises were alarming. We assess with a high degree of likelihood that November’s elections will be marked by a chaotic legal and political landscape. We also assess that President Trump is likely to contest the result by both legal and extra-legal means, in an attempt to hold onto power. Recent events, including the President’s own unwillingness to commit to abiding by the results of the election, the Attorney General’s embrace of the President’s groundless electoral fraud claims, and the unprecedented deployment of federal agents to put down leftwing protests, underscore the extreme lengths to which President Trump may be willing to go in order to stay in office.
In this report, TIP explains the basis for our assessment. Our findings are bolstered by the historical experience of Bush v. Gore (2000) and other U.S. electoral dysfunctions. The closest analogy may be the election of 1876, a time of extreme partisanship and rampant disenfranchisement, where multiple states proffered competing slates of electors, and the election was only resolved through a grand political bargain days before Inauguration—one that traded an end to Reconstruction for electoral peace and resulted in a century of Jim Crow, leaving deep wounds that are far from healed today Among the findings we highlight in the report:
The concept of “election night,” is no longer accurate and indeed is dangerous. We face a period of contestation stretching from the first day a ballot is cast in mid-September until January 20. The winner may not, and we assess likely will not, be known on “election night” as officials count mail-in ballots. This period of uncertainty provides opportunities for an unscrupulous candidate to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the process and to set up an unprecedented assault on the outcome. Campaigns, parties, the press, and the public must be educated to adjust expectations starting immediately.
A determined campaign has opportunity to contest the election into January 2021. We anticipate lawsuits, divergent media narratives, attempts to stop the counting of ballots, and protests drawing people from both sides. President Trump, the incumbent, will very likely use the executive branch to aid his campaign strategy, including through the Department of Justice. We assess that there is a chance the president will attempt to convince legislatures and/or governors to take actions – including illegal actions – to defy the popular vote. Federal laws provide little guidance for how Congress should resolve irregularities when they convene in a Joint Session on January 6, 2021. Of particular concern is how the military would respond in the context of uncertain election results. Here recent evidence offers some reassurance, but it is inconclusive.
The administrative transition process itself may be highly disrupted. Participants in our exercises of all backgrounds and ideologies believed that Trump would prioritize personal gain and self-protection over ensuring an orderly administrative handoff to his successor. Trump may use pardons to thwart future criminal prosecution, arrange business deals with foreign governments that benefit him financially, attempt to bribe and silence associates, declassify sensitive documents, and attempt to divert federal funds to his own businesses.
These risks can be mitigated; the worst outcomes of the exercises are far from a certainty. The purpose of this report is not to frighten, but to spur all stakeholders to action. Our legal rules and political norms don’t work unless people are prepared to defend them and to speak out when others violate them. It is incumbent upon elected officials, civil society leaders, and the press to challenge authoritarian actions in the courts, in the media, and in the streets through peaceful protest. Specific recommendations include:
- Plan for a contested election. If there is a crisis, events will unfold quickly, and sleep-deprived leaders will be asked to make consequential decisions quickly. Thinking through options now will help to ensure better decisions. Approach this as a political battle, not just a legal battle. In the event of electoral contestation, sustained political mobilization will likely be crucial for ensuring transition integrity. Dedicated staff and resources need to be in place at least through the end of January.
- Focus on readiness in the states, providing political support for a complete and accurate count. Governors, Secretaries of State, Attorneys General and Legislatures can communicate and reinforce laws and norms and be ready to confront irregularities. Election officials will need political and public support to see the process through to completion.
- Address the two biggest threats head on: lies about “voter fraud” and escalating violence. Voting fraud is virtually non-existent, but Trump lies about it to create a narrative designed to politically mobilize his base and to create the basis for contesting the results should he lose. The potential for violent conflict is high, particularly since Trump encourages his supporters to take up arms.
- Anticipate a rocky administrative transition. Transition teams will likely need to do two things simultaneously: defend against Trump’s reckless actions on his way out of office; and find creative solutions to ensure landing teams are able to access the information and resources they need to begin to prepare for governing.
The Transition Integrity Project (TIP) was launched in late 2019 out of concern that the Trump Administration may seek to manipulate, ignore, undermine or disrupt the 2020 presidential election and transition process. TIP takes no position on how Americans should cast their votes, or on the likely winner of the upcoming election; either major party candidate could prevail at the polls in November without resorting to “dirty tricks.” However, the administration of President Donald Trump has steadily undermined core norms of democracy and the rule of law and embraced numerous corrupt and authoritarian practices. This presents a profound challenge for those – from either party – who are committed to ensuring free and fair elections, peaceful transitions of power, and stable administrative continuity in the United States.
The American people have the right to choose their next president without intimidation or interference in the normal electoral process. Believers in democracy and the rule of law should therefore be prepared to take action to ensure that the results of the 2020 presidential election reflect the will of the American people. Like many authoritarian leaders, President Trump has begun to lay the groundwork for potentially ignoring or disrupting the voting process, by claiming, for instance, that any mail-in ballots will be fraudulent and that his opponents will seek to have non citizens vote through fraud. Similarly, he has frequently expressed the view that he is entitled to additional time in office and that his opponents are seeking to steal the election. If President Trump’s future actions violate long-standing legal and ethical norms relating to presidential elections, there is also a risk that they will push other actors, including, potentially, some in the Democratic Party, to similarly engage in practices that depart from traditional rule of law norms, out of perceived self-defense.
The goal of TIP is to highlight these various electoral and transition-related risks and make recommendations to all actors, individual and institutional, who share a commitment to democracy and the rule of law. The recommendations shared here reflect input from both Republicans and Democrats committed to these values. However, because the primary threat to the integrity of the election and transition appears to come from the Trump Administration, most of the recommendations in this memo focus on how actors committed to the rule of law can restrain or counter anti-democratic actions the Trump Administration and its supporters may take in connection with the 2020 election. Download the full report here:
And again, we strongly encourage you to join the Transition Integrity Project training in their next sessions Oct. 1 and Oct. 6. Click here to register.
We must be mindful of the perils ahead. And we must join together to find ways that here in NM we can join the resistance. We have time to form those plans but some of the thinking shared in the chat in last night’s training included a national strike, a credit strike (refusing to pay taxes and credit cards), and a range of other strong responses. Please offer your thoughts by commenting below.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne
P.S. We can do this, because we must. In 2021 we begin the great transformation, but now we must fight for the right to that transformation. I am greatly heartened that people from throughout the country are preparing to resist.
Categories: Election, Political Reform & National Politics