Like the Liberty Bell, the nation must be cast and recast, at risk of splitting along its visible cracks. With our world about to change–again–on Tuesday, the future rings with possibilities. Here are some ways to think about the days and months ahead, especially given that Trump has said he will declare victory if he thinks he is ahead–even if all the votes are not yet counted.
Re: Voting–the ACLU posted this: If someone is attempting to interfere with your or anyone’s right to vote, it may be voter intimidation and a violation of state and federal law. You should contact your local elections official to report the issue. You should also save the number for the Election Protection hotline and call or text if you witness voter intimidation: 866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683). The hotline is also available in other languages: Spanish 888-VE-Y-VOTA and Asian languages 888-API-VOTE..
If you still need to know where and how to vote in your state, the Washington Post can advise.
Choose Democracy.us, the people who brought you Ten Things you Need to Know to Stop a Coup, has a list of actions to stave one off. Their main message is: be prepared. Don’t expect results on election night. Don’t believe outrageous claims. Be ready to act.
You might check Protect the Results for their take on appropriate action if the election is undermined. The Atlantic recommends three strategies: Keeping protest action non-violent, reaching out to the center, and slowing things down–through rolling strikes, for example.
We see five possible outcomes of Tuesday’s election–which are not mutually exclusive.
1. BIDEN WINS–THE RIGHT WING EXPLODES AND LEGAL STRUGGLES ENSUE:
The Washington Post points out that gun sales are skyrocketing, right-wing groups are muttering on the internet about civil war, and Trump is openly praising a MAGA caravan in Texas that tried to run a Biden bus off the road, CNN reports. A white supremacist group, the Patriot Front, is preparing for civil war, according to the UK’s Independent. On the upside, the LawFare Blog argues that right-wing extremist groups are splintering.
Insiders in the Trump administration are also worried, as several of them told the New York Times on condition of anonymity. An FBI official the Times writer spoke to said “We’ve been talking to our state and local counterparts and gearing up for the expectation that it’s going to be a significant law-enforcement challenge for probably weeks or months. It feels pretty terrifying.”
Trump is planning to argue that mail-in ballots not counted by the end of the evening on election day are not legitimate and should not be counted, Axios reports, quoting Trump’s comments to reporters that “We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers.” In a decision about a proposed six-day extension for the receipt of mailed ballots in Wisconsin, Justice Kavanaugh signalled support for Trump’s position. As SF Gate wrote, “Kavanaugh suggested sympathy for Trump’s unsubstantiated contentions that votes received after Election Day would be tainted by fraud, warning that ‘charges of a rigged election could explode’ if late-arriving ballots change the perceived outcome.”
As Slate notes, “This is the entire Republican strategy in 2020: not to win the election but to make the winner unknowable, so that Trump can claim victory.”
However, there are significant legal barriers to Kavanaugh and Trump colluding to prevent ballots arriving after November 3 from being counted: States have the right to establish their own electoral procedures, according to lawyer (and biographer of RBG) Teri Kanefield. Check out her “Things to do” tab.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, various corporations–among them Blackstone and Charles Schwab–have funded the many almost-identical lawsuits brought by the Republican National Committee against mail ballots, despite the fact that according to an investigation by the Brennan Center for Justice, voter fraud is very rare, amounting to 0.0009% of votes.
2. BIDEN WINS–BUT TRUMP WREAKS HAVOC BEFORE THE INAUGURATION:
The interregnum–the period between regimes–is especially dangerous this election cycle.
Politico points out that when Trump has nothing left to lose, “nearly everyone expects an unprecedented flurry of presidential pardons in his last 77 days — a way both to reward friends, protect his family, tweak his opponents and curry favor with those who may help him when he is back in private life.” These could include pre-emptive pardons for his family and friends.
He could also, Politico suggests, continue his assault on the so-called “deep state,” with executive orders like those he already has issued, depriving civil servants of basic job protections. Mass firings, destruction of documents, and covert military actions are also possible.
The chances of a COVID-relief bill, stalled just before the election, will drop precipitously once Trump sees no political advantage in it. The costs–to people who are ill from the virus, unemployed and at risk of losing their housing due to the virus and the economic downtown, desperately in debt due to the virus–are immeasurable.
Meanwhile, a report from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and MilitiaWatch warns that right-wing violence is likely in several states following the election: “Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Oregon are at highest risk of increased militia activity in the election and post-election period, while North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, California, and New Mexico are at moderate risk,” they say.
3. BIDEN WINS–BUT DEMOCRATS FAIL TO WIN THE SENATE:
If Biden wins but Republicans take the Senate, paralysis ensues. Bloomberg thinks this is not a bad thing, grumbling about “partisan overreach.” Certainly there would be no more seats on the Supreme Court. Legislation would be entirely stalled (compare Obama’s first two years to his last six). Trump has certainly fouled the nest, with a pandemic raging, the economy struggling, and the basic safety of BIPOC, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, women and children at risk. Would there be COVID relief? What would happen to the 400+ bills the House has passed but refused to consider? Without the stranglehold Trump and McConnell have on the Senate, would some bipartisan legislation pass? The Atlantic thinks not, musing that Biden has ideas about collegiality that simply won’t hold up.
4. BIDEN WINS, DEMOCRATS WIN THE SENATE–AND THE PIECES HAVE TO BE PUT BACK TOGETHER:
Hint: Biden can’t do it alone. We can’t relax during a Biden administration.
Biden has said that one of his first actions as president would be to establish a task force to reunite the 545 children with their parents who have been deported, according to CNN. He would also need to establish a pathway to citizenship for those children’s parents, establish speedy immigration hearings for those now in detention and those trapped in the refugee camps in Matamoros, Mexico, stop deporting unaccompanied children, re-establish humane asylum policies for people who have been terrorized in their home countries, make provision for the Dreamers, and rapidly process applications from those who were excluded by the Muslim ban.
The comment at the end of the piece by Lawyers Defending American Democracy is worth reading. They recommend that we look closely at the bill Amy Klobuchar sponsored, the Protect Our Democracy Act, pending in both houses. They also suggest we think about the 12 recommendations in the massive “Report on the Department of Justice and the Rule of Law” from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL).
Trump has reversed 72 rules pertaining to the climate crisis, toxic substances, and environmental protection; he is in the process of reversing 27 more, according to the New York Times. This will be a list for Biden (and the rest of us) to work from.
5. TRUMP WINS. NOW WHAT?
Discovered having contributed white supremacist talking points to Brietbart, Steven Miller, architect of Trump’s cruel immigration policy, has made it clear that there will be more of the same–and worse–to come, according to an interview with NBC News. “Limiting asylum grants, punishing and outlawing ‘sanctuary cities,’ expanding the so-called travel ban with tougher screening for visa applicants and slapping new limits on work visas,” are on the agenda. Refugee admissions would be eliminated entirely. Add that to what is already going on–children who are not from Mexico deported to Mexico without a hearing; planes full of asylum-seekers forced to agree to their own deportation, sometimes to death; women given hysterectomies without consent.
The cost to Black Americans if Trump wins would be high. As Politico points out, Black people are more likely to work at the front-line or essential jobs that put them at risk for COVID-19. They are also less likely to have access to health care and may encounter racism when they do access it. Black employment rates are recovering from the pandemic much more slowly than white employment rates, while regulations to prevent discrimination in housing are being scrapped. Most critically, when anti-Black violence appears to have support at the highest levels, violence against Black people increases.
Foreign Affairs suggests that a second Trump term would eliminate America’s position as a world leader–if the first term has not done so already. His America First policies and his decimation of anyone in the administration with foreign policy expertise, Foreign Affairs points out, means that foreign policy will be chaotic at best.
Closer to home, the criminalization of dissent that has already prevailed will likely intensify. Reveal News (from the Center for Investigative Reporting) vividly describes the ways in which Black Lives Matter protesters (especially those of color) are targeted by the justice system, given federal charges for small infractions–or no infractions at all. The Intercept provides the history of how the Trump administration has imposed harsh charges on protestors–but not on his right-wing supporters. About BLM protesters, Trump told the Governors in a conference call in June that “These are terrorists. They’re looking to do bad things to our country.”
Already Trump is punishing his perceived enemies, threatening to withhold funds for COVID and HIV, even screenings for newborns, in so-called “anarchist cities,” Politico reports. New York, Portland, Ore., Washington, D.C., and Seattle are likely targets. We can expect more of this.
Lawyers Defending American Democracy has a comprehensive list of the damage Trump has done, from the (mis)use of acting appointments, the violation of the separation of powers, the use of the Justice Department as his personal agents, retaliation against government officials who disagree with him, nepotism, supporting right-wing terrorist organizations–and much more.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has recorded Trump’s 3,400 conflicts of interest. Expect more of the same.
The New Yorker suggests that the 25th Amendment might need to be invoked, if Congress agrees he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Of course, the vice-president would succeed him. House Speaker Pelosi introduced a bill to establish a Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of the Office, which Trump claims was written in case Biden was incapable of serving.
STILL, SOME GOOD NEWS:
The Texas Supreme Court has ruled against the Republican Party’s suit to block 127,000 drive-thru votes in Harris County, according to the Texas Tribune. Republicans, however, are banking on a similar suit they have filed in federal court.
The U.S. Supreme Court has–at least for now–allowed a ruling to stand permitting Pennsylvania to count ballots arriving up to three days after election day, even if the postmark is not legible, according to CNN. On Wednesday, the Justices also permitted North Carolina to count ballots arriving nine days after election day, as long as they were postmarked by November 3, another CNN story noted. You can read the orders on CNN’s website. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in either set of deliberations.
Children of same-sex couples were refused passports by the State Department, even though their parents were American citizens. State Department lawyers argued that the children had to have a biological connection to their citizen parents in order to have citizenship from birth. Federal judges found these policies to be illegal and the State Department withdrew its appeal, according to Lambda Legal.
The Texas regulatory board that oversees social workers has reversed its ruling allowing social workers to refuse services to LGBTQ+ clients, according to Pink News. For more information, note our story #4 on October 25, 2020.
A federal judge said that the Department of Justice could not defend Trump against a lawsuit by E. Jean Carroll accusing him of rape, the Hill reports. The judge wrote that because the alleged assault occurred over twenty years ago, “neither the media reports nor the underlying allegations have any relationship to his official duties.”