The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
William Butler Yeats
I do not believe Trump will succeed in his attempts to overthrow democracy. Everything everyone did to protect the integrity of this election, from poll watchers to de-escalation training to getting out the vote, was critical to winning and to make the results stand up. We have put ourselves in a very good position and are likely to prevail this time.
At the same time, we must remain vigilant. We don’t know what Trump will do, but I’m afraid we have an idea of how far he is willing to go. Right after it became clear that he had lost the election, he put loyalists in charge of the Defense Department. Then on Friday, he removed 11 of the 13 members of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. Think about this for a moment. He’s already prepared to use the military to put down protests. He’s preparing just in case one of his schemes to overturn the results proves successful.
He’s still trying to overthrow our democracy. Though he’s losing in Court, he’s still trying to kick the case to his Supreme Court where he will have a chance of winning. He’s trying to get electors to overturn the results, and I don’t believe it when he says he will leave if the electors choose Biden.
On Friday, he said Joe Biden can’t enter the Whitehouse unless he proves that his votes were not fraudulent, and today he said he wouldn’t accept the results of the election for six months. I think he’s buying time by telling us to look the other way, nothing happening here, while he plots behind our backs. He may have no choice but to leave if he can’t put together a military force to put down the resistance, something he will probably be unable to do.
Seventy percent of Republicans now believe that the election was fraudulent. That creates problems for our ability to govern and sets the stage for a coup.
Indi Samarajiva, a writer from Sri Lanka, wrote an article about his experience of living through an attempted coup in 2018. He defined a coup literally as “a blow, a strike. Someone hitting your normal processes of government, trying to knock them over.” He wrote, “The blow doesn’t have to succeed. It still wounds. In [his] case it was occupying Parliament without a majority. In [ours] it’s denying the President-Elect after an election. Whether it fails or not, deep structural damage is done. At the time, however, it just feels dumb.”
Chauncey DeVega, in a recent article in Salon, wrote
“American democracy is very sick. The jubilance and celebration at Trump's apparent defeat on Election Day were highly premature. Biden's victory was a drug that temporarily masked the pain of a democracy in critical condition. The patient can live "normally" until the high of the drug wears off. The crash will be extreme and horrible, almost beyond imagination, because the underlying disease has not been addressed.”
Indi Samarajiva describes it like this:
“Your Republicans have set forces into play they cannot possibly understand and certainly cannot control. And they don't even want to. To them, chaos is a ladder. … You've opened up a Pandora's box of instability. All kinds of demons come out. . .
I have lived through a coup. It felt like what you're feeling now. Like watching something stupid and just waiting for it to go away. But it doesn't go away. . .
There's a ticking bomb at the heart of your democracy now. Your government, the very idea of governance is fatally wounded. Chaos has been planted at its heart. I don't know what this chaos will grow into, but I can promise you this. It won't be good.”
Odilon Camara, an economist at USC Marshall School of Business who studies voting, elections, and polarization, writes:
“The truth of what Trump and his neofascist movement have revealed about America's failures and vulnerabilities must be confronted if that civic disease is to be purged from the country's body politic. The reckoning must also include an assessment of the character and behavior of the tens of millions of Americans who voted for Trump and continue to support him.”
Camara describes polarization as “a remarkably effective political strategy.”
“Trump's lasting popularity makes it clear that our current level of polarization is not an accidental byproduct of politics - it's an intentional strategy on the part of politicians. If I'm a politician and the odds are in my favor, I want to reduce the probability that voters will cross the aisle by removing any lingering uncertainty and solidifying my support. One of the best ways to do this is by taking more extreme positions that differentiate me from my opponent. Rather than simply pledging to curb immigration, rile up crowds by promising to build a wall. At the same time, I paint my opponent as equally extreme: a socialist seeking to tear down the American way of life or a capitalist in the pockets of greedy billionaires. Drawing a stark line between myself and my opponent on divisive issues pushes voters in the middle to pick a side, while at the same time mobilizing my base.”
She also points out that Technology and media create “echo chambers where more extreme positions resonate and platforms where candidates can deliver divisive messages directly to voters. Campaigns have better data about voter preferences and more sophisticated marketing strategies that they can use to identify and leverage divides in the electorate.” This had to play some role in the 73 million votes Trump got.
There are no easy solutions. “Educating voters to critically evaluate information and focusing on areas of consensus could take the air out of politicians' attempts to fixate on the most polarizing, hot-button issues. So could an expansion of ballot initiatives and other forms of direct democracy that focus on issues rather than politicians,” Camara writes.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a leading historian of fascism, said:
“We are going to need a lot of grassroots education to help people understand what nefarious influence they were under with Trump. One of the saddest truths is that these men despise the people who love them. They disdain them for giving them their power. Many of us have been amazed that with the pandemic it's been very obvious he doesn't care if they die. He truly doesn't care if you live or die. Helping people to see that will be important to get them back to the cause of good government, a government that cares about public welfare. That's very different than building bridges to forgive people and saying, "OK, well we'll just put your racism behind us." That's not at all what I advocate.”
I believe we need to deprogram the nation. It's like when people are in a cult and believe all sorts of strange things. We must do something about the massive media propaganda machine that Trump was able to wield so effectively. He could convince people of practically anything.
One thing that cults demonstrate is that very intelligent people can be deceived. They may be vulnerable, naive, gullible, or have flaws in their character or judgment, but they are not unintelligent. They are under the influence of the cult’s propaganda. We should remember this when dealing with the 73 million Trump supporters who voted for him. Also, we should remember that we too can be manipulated.
We need to educate Americans about propaganda from a nonpartisan perspective. This means recognizing that we are all under the influence of propaganda because propaganda includes things like messaging, advertising, and partisan news programming. According to French Philosopher, Jacque Ellul, propaganda helps us make sense of the chaotic world. It is inevitably used by all sides.
We will also need to reach out to the center of the country. I have a number of ideas we can talk about, but I want to make clear, I don’t have a problem with Protect the Results canceling the actions they had called for the day after the election. I was, however, concerned about how they seemed to stop everything, including programs to counter Trump’s propaganda. It was always after the election when it became clear that Trump had lost, that the problem would begin.
I was worried that their messaging that “it was all over” would put people to sleep. I feared that we still might need to call for a national strike and that requires reaching out to the center of the nation, something we never do. I questioned their insistence that we not use the word “coup” or say that Trump is trying to “steal the election.” Those things didn’t poll well, they said. I was dismayed when, in response to Trump's disinformation about the election, the Democratic party decided to disseminate disinformation of its own, saying that Trump was only doing these things to raise money. He’s spending tons of money trying to overturn the election. He’s doing these things in order to hold onto power. I was amazed at how quickly everyone wanted to get back to “politics as usual” as if nothing was happening.
Seventy percent of Republicans now believe that the election was fraudulent. That creates problems for our ability to govern and sets the stage for a coup. Trump needs his supporters to back his coup. We need to counter Trump’s propaganda and resist his attempts to overthrow our democracy.
I’ve been working under the assumption that Trump is allied with Putin. I don’t think Putin would give up power? I don’t see fascist dictators willingly relinquishing power. I see them running for their lives at times, but I don’t see them peacefully transferring power. Trump, by refusing to concede and declaring the election fraudulent, is holding onto power.
I saw Indi Samarajiva speak and he pointed out that democracy is collapsing around the world and we are actually late in the cycle. The failure of the Arab Spring to bring democracy to the Middle East, the rise of strongmen around the world like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and the shooting of protesters in Nigeria and the suppression of democracy in Yemen, in the United States and throughout the Middle East, demonstrates that democracy is under attack around the world.
We must find a way to support democracy here at home and around the globe. We don’t want regime change, but we must fight for democracy here and keep our nation from overthrowing democracies and supporting dictators around the world. Samarajiva pointed out that our democracy is really little more than sixty years old because Black people didn’t get the vote until 60 or so years ago. Democracy is very young and it’s under pressure.
What we are experiencing is the global rise of authoritarianism and the collapse of democracy. We are in the throes of that collapse right now. We don’t know what Trump will do, so we must be prepared.
Even if we prevail this time, we need to hold officials accountable for their crimes and abuses of power and we must address the weaknesses in our democracy quickly because they will be back and next time they will be competent.