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the election

I’ve been fighting to save our democracy from Donald Trump since the Mueller report came out. I’ve been concerned about Trump's continual refusal to comply with the law and legal norms, including refusing to honor congressional subpoenas and failing to comply with court orders to return children taken from their parents. He encouraged police brutality, stoked racial and political divisions, spread disinformation about Covid-19 and mail-in voting, cozied up to dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, and disseminated Russian propaganda about Hunter Biden. 

To protect democracy we must defend the Constitution. If we allow a criminal to get away with violating the law, he will do it again. After Trump encouraged Russia to conduct espionage against Hillary Clinton, he did it again when he tried to get the President of Ukraine to announce a sham investigation against Joe Biden’s son. If he wins, he will launch investigations against his political opponents and, in effect, begin a purge of anyone who speaks out against him. You can see why he is a threat to our democracy.

Trump has refused to commit to honoring the results of the election. Like anti-democratic foreign propagandists, Trump has attempted to undermine public confidence in our democratic process. During the debate, he has refused to condemn White Supremacists and instead called on them to “Stand back and Stand by,” implying that he may need them if protests break out when he tries to steer the election to the Supreme Court in the expectation that conservatives on the court will side with him and overturn the will of the American people. The Republican party and the Courts have enabled Trump’s refusal to respect the rule of law and will do so again if the opportunity arises.

I want to prepare people for what may be coming, just like I’ve been sounding the alarm that President Trump’s unlawful conduct and corrupt practices are a threat to our nation. I want to prepare the people in the event that the election is close and Trump tries to steer the election to the Supreme Court by claiming that mail-in ballots are fraudulent, the most likely scenario should the election be close.

So I found this article in Politico entitled “A Day-By-Day Guide to What Could Happen if this Election Goes Bad” by Garrett M. Graff. I will go over the possible scenarios should things turn ugly and what we can and are doing about it.

Politico surveyed constitutional and national security experts about potential problems with the election and what people are doing about it. Thankfully, there are many aware people on the Left and in the Democratic Party who recognize the threat. Congressional Democrats have publicly called upon the military to respect a peaceful transition of power.

Eighty percent of Americans fear the election will not be “free and fair.” Many are concerned about violence, especially by militias and white supremacists. So groups are practicing de-escalation and preparing lawyers, poll monitors, poll watchers, and even poll chaplains to ensure that everyone who wants to vote can safely and comfortably vote and that every vote be counted.

The good news, according to the article, is that the U.S. election system is “relatively resilient and guided by strict legal procedures.” The fact that our system is decentralized, being conducted by the States rather than centrally by the federal government, makes it nearly impossible to rig a national election. This should give those seeking to eliminate the electoral college pause.

Sure a majority of people voted for Clinton and for Al Gore for that matter yet both lost, but we will never know how the election would have turned out had the candidates been forced to conduct nationwide campaigns. Furthermore, there are plenty of other reasons why Clinton and Gore lost, not only the electoral college. Not the least of these is the Supreme Court who handed the election to George W. Bush by a party-line vote.

They did it before. They can do it again. Clinton lost because “Keystone Cop” James Comey, presented with a box full of duplicates, officially reopened an investigation against Clinton on the eve of the election. Finally, changing the electoral college would require that we amend the Constitution, a process that takes years and even decades. We should instead be thinking about what we can do today and not be obsessed with something that will take forever and may not even be the root cause of the problem.

The “nightmare scenario,” as Stanford Law Professor Nathaniel Persily points out, “begins with the early states not being decisive” making the absentee vote in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin outcome determinative. We will know within four hours of the polls closing whether we are in the danger zone. 

Within hours of the polls closing, or even before the polls close, William Barr’s Justice Department might seize on real or imagined voting irregularities to launch investigations to support Trump’s false narrative that the election is illegitimate. We know that Trump has been pressuring Attorney General Barr to investigate his political opponents.

There are reports that Trump is threatening to fire Attorney General William Barr and FBI director Christopher Wray for failing to conduct politically motivated investigations.

More than a thousand Justice Department alumni, from both Republican and Democratic administrations, have signed an open letter saying they fear the Attorney General “intends to use the DOJ’s vast law enforcement powers to undermine our most fundamental democratic value: free and fair elections.” “Given Attorney General Barr’s demonstrated willingness to use the Department to help President Trump politically, the media and the public should view any election-related activity by the DOJ. . . with appropriate skepticism,” they wrote.

Many Democrats and liberal groups are training people to de-escalate situations, document irregularities, and protect voters. Leftist activists are ready to act should Trump claim victory prematurely, try to shut down vote counting, or claim fraud to steer the election to the Supreme Court. We already have rallies planned for November 4th, the day after the election just in case Trump attempts to have the results of the election overturned or discarded. Go to Protecttheresults.com to find an event near you.

Armed right-wing militia, brainwashed by deep-state conspiracy theories and Right-wing propaganda, may interfere in the election. We already know they plan to show up at the polls to intimidate voters. This threat of violence is particularly acute in Michigan and Arizona who have ongoing histories with these groups. North Carolina and Pennsylvania are less at risk, but poll watchers must be prepared in every State to protect voters from intimidation and violence.

Once street protests begin, they will not stop until Trump or the Department of Justice ceases its interference in the election. Trump may use the protests to justify a heavy-handed federal crackdown using his hand-picked federal police or call on his right-wing militias to rain down violence on the protestors, stoke fear among the population and create confusion about the election.

Thankfully, the article says, “state and local officials have strong legal foundations to confront and shut down such groups and gatherings should they choose to do so.” Mary McCord, a former top national security official at the Justice Department, examined the nation’s anti-militia laws and how officials can confront armed groups.

She said her main concern is that Trump, who has already shown a willingness to stoke violence and division, might actually encourage the violence or respond with violence. She says. “I hope people wake up and agree we don’t want to be a failed democracy. Everyone else—athletes, religious leaders, business leaders, state and local leaders—they’ve got to speak up and show that the vast majority of people don’t want armed conflict.”

By 7 p.m. on the East Coast on Election Day, we will have a good idea of how the election is playing out. Did Election Day itself unfold smoothly? Were there disruptions? If there were, were they in battleground states? Every voter standing in line at the poll closing time has the right to cast a ballot. If there are long lines, voting may go on late into the evening.

Voter suppression is a serious problem, particularly for people of color. No one should have to stand in line for hours to vote. There should be more than one ballot drop box in large counties in Texas. While we should expect some glitches, we must make sure that minor irregularities aren’t hyped into longer ones in order to justify interference by the Justice Department and appeal to the Supreme Court.

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Once polls begin to close, the questions will begin to focus on when we’ll see a result, and whether President Trump will accept the results.

Democrats are worried about what political scientists call the “blue shift” or the “red mirage.” Early returns may appear to show Trump ahead. Trump could try to declare victory before all the votes are counted and then cry foul if the final count doesn’t favor him. Trump could also put pressure on states to shorten their counts. He might try to provoke an antagonistic or violent reaction in an attempt to precipitate a law and order crisis so he can respond with the use of force or declare martial law. The worst-case scenario is Trump sending his shock troops into the street beating and killing protesters while the military stands by not knowing what to do. We have no guarantee that either the military or the Court will step in to stop a violent crackdown.

News and media sites are taking steps to suppress any premature claims of victory. Many news outlets have committed to being careful and slow in making predictions. Facebook will prohibit post-election “victory” ads on election night that is “not supported by independent assessments.” Twitter is preparing to label tweets that “claim an election win before it is authoritatively called.” Still, some activists worry that social media continues to be “ripe to be weaponized by bad-faith claims of electoral victory.”

I want to be clear that I don’t believe the above scenario will play out. I believe the election will be a landslide and Trump will be unable to spread confusion or steer the election to the Supreme Court. At the same time, there is still a path to overthrow our democracy through the Supreme Court. This is Trump’s and the Republican Party’s preferred way to overturn the results. So we must be vigilant. I estimate a thirty percent chance of either of the above scenarios coming to pass because there’s at least a thirty percent chance that the election will be close enough for Trump to take advantage of the uncertainty. That is still a high degree of risk given that the stakes are our democracy or civil war.

Unfortunately, Trump plans to appeal to the Supreme court if he can. After all, the Court handed George W. Bush the presidency on a party-line vote. If there are major legal fights and post-election challenges about vote counts, it’s almost certain such disputes will end up before the Supreme Court. Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation means that the Republicans have a decisive 6-3 majority on the court, three of whom are Trump appointees. Trump has already made clear what he wants. “I’m counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely,” Trump said.

Our only hope at that point is Chief Justice John Roberts. He has worked in recent years to preserve the appearance of neutrality, even siding with the more liberal justices on controversial issues. He would be under immense pressure from both sides in any post-election court case.

Armed right-wing militia, brainwashed by deep-state conspiracy theories and Right-wing propaganda, may interfere in the election.

My hope is that we know early whether Trump has any chance of winning the election. North Carolina and Florida are key. Both will likely report results relatively quickly on election night itself. While a tight race in Florida could delay the results, an early victory for Biden in either of these states would indicate that Biden will win. While a Trump win in these states wouldn’t foreclose a Biden victory, it would likely mean we are in for a long period of uncertainty. The longer the uncertainty, the greater the risk that Trump will steer the election to the Supreme Court.

Election officials could be hit with multiple problems this year. From cyberattacks to the possibility that complex state rules about absentee ballots might invalidate tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of ballots. In South Carolina, there’s already likely to be confusion and ballot challenges around the state’s law that absentee ballots be witnessed. The policy had been suspended, but the Supreme court reinstated it. Of course, absentee ballots were still sent out with incorrect instructions.

In Pennsylvania, media and election officials are racing to educate voters to put their ballots inside a “secrecy envelope” or they will be discarded. Election officials had tried to suspend the rule but lost a court fight against the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. Officials in Pennsylvania, a state Trump won in 2016 by just 44,292 votes, fear that this could lead to 100,000 discarded ballots. That’s likely to affect not just the presidential race, but in tight congressional, Senate, gubernatorial, and legislative races as well.

States like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania will likely be slow to report results due to laws that prohibit the processing of absentee ballots before election day. Nevada will likely be slow to count their mail-in ballots, too. If it’s unclear on election night who won, the nation may have to wait for the ballots to be counted in these battleground states. During that time there will be court battles and an appeal to the Supreme Court becomes likely. It would be a major tragedy for this nation should the Supreme Court discount the results and hand the reins of power over to dictator Donald Trump.

Trump has attempted to throw a wrench into the gears of American democracy. He has refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power, has implied that he will refuse to concede the election, and has hinted that if he wins he plans to run for a third term in violation of the Constitution. He has already falsely claimed that millions of illegal votes were cast four years ago. He is committed to contesting every ballot he can as a way to undermine democracy and steer the election to the Supreme Court.

At the same time, many Americans have been primed to think that the election will be illegitimate. Their minds have been “slowly and insidiously poisoned over the past four years by the spread of QAnon, a quasi-religious Republican cult of falsehoods, elaborate and improbable conspiracy theories, and outright absurdity that has so captured the GOP’s base that as many as five Republican congressional candidates have espoused support for it,” writes Graff.

The article points to other forms of interference in our election, too. Officials have issued warnings about possible cyberattacks. Iran and Russia have already carried out some attacks. While foreign hackers will probably not be able to hack into voting machines, they could create uncertainty by disseminating propaganda that says they did. Hackers might instead target news organizations or state election websites to make it appear that a losing candidate actually won. Russia attempted this in Ukraine by placing fake results on Ukraine’s Central Election Commission website. They could spread disinformation online making it appear that voting machines had been hacked. The goal is to undermine people’s confidence in the legitimacy of the outcome. Trump could amplify false claims about the election and use such disinformation to cast doubt on the election, launch investigations and court challenges, or even refuse to certify election results. The ultimate goal of foreign actors, and of the Trump administration coincidentally, is to undermine American’s faith in democracy.

Barton Gellman, writing for The Atlantic,  reported that Republicans and the Trump campaign are “discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly.” These “loyal electors” would then vote for Trump over Biden regardless of the vote count.

This plan, the article points out, is unlikely, but the fact that the Republican Party and the Trump campaign are considering it is a damning indictment of Donald Trump and the Republican Party. It’s a boldfaced fact that Republicans as well and the Trump administration is anti-democratic.

Democracy is America’s legacy. To be undemocratic is to be unAmerican. Our most cherished values, the very heart of our nation, the Constitution, and the American way of life are all threatened by an anti-democratic and authoritarian regime and Party. We must defend the Constitution and fight for democracy if we want to live in a free country.

The 12th Amendment also outlines what happens in case of a tie or if the winner dies prior to Congress certifying the vote. In these cases, Congress chooses a President. This is known as a “contingent election,” and it hasn’t been used for the presidency since 1825. All the same, Nancy Pelosi is preparing for such a fight, but it is unlikely to ever come to this. If the election is close, Trump will have already steered the election to the Supreme Court and the Democrats will lose.

This is why it’s vital that we moderates, liberals, and Leftists vote and vote for Joe Biden. We must win early and in a landslide to prevent Trump from undermining the outcome of the election. We must refuse to accept an illegitimate outcome and resist the overthrow of our democracy. To this end, we must reach out to the middle, make people aware of what’s happening, and participate in actions to protect the results. We must refuse to cooperate with an illegitimate regime, and we must be prepared for a national strike should Trump, the Republican Party, and the Supreme Court attempt to overturn the results of the election and install Trump as President against the will of the American people.

If Trump is allowed to overturn the results, he will solidify his hold on power, purge Congress and Statehouses of those disloyal to him, and establish absolute control over every federal government agency. He’s already installed his cronies in high places. I don’t really have to tell people of color and women what’s at stake for them if the misogynistic and white supremacist in Chief wins another term. What I need to do is make people see that Trump’s flaunting of the law and legal norms, disrespect for our social and democratic institutions, and his racist propaganda and authoritarian aspirations are a real threat to democracy.

Our freedoms, civil and human rights, the welfare of our nation, our national security, the environment, health care, racial reconciliation, and life on earth are all at stake in this election. We cannot place a man of low moral character in high office or we will be ripped off, exploited, and abused. There is no perfect candidate, but there are evil ones and evil parties who no longer serve the will of the people but only severe their own pocketbooks and the interests and industries that pay them.

the election

Is this the end of democracy in the United States? Is this going to be a huge setback for democracy around the world? It’s an unfortunate reality that thirty to forty percent of people are so ignorant or morally corrupt that they will vote for dictatorship. It's up to the rest of us to make sure that doesn’t happen. Make sure to vote and then come out into the streets afterward to demand that every vote be counted.

Rich Procida