In a nation wracked with fear and uncertainty about the future, the biggest terror looming in the minds of the majority of Americans is the prospect of Trump stealing the 2020 election. The chaos of the pandemic, the Trump team’s deliberate sabotage of the Postal Service that will ferry millions of votes, voter intimidation at the polls — all these factors could combine to muddy the results, drag out the process and give the president and his scheming cronies the opportunity to pull a fast one on the American people, rubber-stamped by a Trump-packed Supreme Court and judiciary.
It is a possible outcome that we need to be prepared for, according to Republican sources speaking to the Atlantic’s Barton Gellman.
“Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.”
These postelection maneuvers will likely begin on Election Day itself now that the consent decree has expired, allowing the Republican National Committee to engage in voter intimidation and voter roll-purging. Republicans are recruiting 50,000 volunteers to “monitor voting places” and “challenge voters they deem suspicious-looking” — and we all know what that means.
Then there will be the efforts to tamper with the “overtime” election — the mail-in ballots and absentee ballots that won’t even begin to be counted until after Election Day is already over. The president has already expended a great deal of effort working to discredit the legitimacy of mail-in voting, openly bragging about starving the USPS of resources, and encouraging his voters to risk their health and vote in person on Election Day, thus increasing the momentum of his inevitable preliminary lead and enabling the shenanigans to come.
Then comes the battles in both the courtroom and the street as covens of blood-sucking lawyers and mobs of red-hatted, heavily armed thugs rush out in defense of Trump.
“Legal teams on both sides are planning for simultaneous litigation, on the scale of Florida during the 2000 election, in multiple battleground states,” reports Gellman. “The electoral combat will not confine itself to the courtroom. Local election adjudicators can expect to be named and doxed and pilloried as agents of George Soros or antifa. Aggressive crowds of self-proclaimed ballot guardians will be spoiling to reenact the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the Bush v. Gore Florida recount, when demonstrators paid by the Bush campaign staged a violent protest that physically prevented canvassers from completing a recount in Miami-Dade County.”
While these are theoretical concerns, none of them are things that we haven’t already seen this year in response to the COVID-19 public safety measures. But the most disturbing possibility is the idea that Trump and his cronies may literally steal the election if the result isn’t clear — according to Trump’s own people.
“According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is 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 popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly. The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbor deadline expires. The Trump-campaign legal adviser I spoke with told me the push to appoint electors would be framed in terms of protecting the people’s will. Once committed to the position that the overtime count has been rigged, the adviser said, state lawmakers will want to judge for themselves what the voters intended.
While this is all theoretical as of now, it is all too possible in a world where are the old rules have been tossed aside by a ham-fisted authoritarian — but it can all be avoided if we work to mobilize even a small portion of the hundred million Americans or so who stayed home in 2016 and dedicate every ounce of our efforts to making sure Joe Biden wins by such a decisive margin that not even Trump will be able to wiggle his way out of it.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.