Preparing For A November Surprise

| Strategize!

Above photo: Police laugh as President Trump speaks to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, July 28, 2017. Jonathan Ernst for Reuters.

Note: Democrats have to rely on fear in order to defeat Republicans. Their candidates raise money from the billionaires, big business and wealthy people and therefore their candidates put forward issues supported by the rich. They oppose issues that the people want, e.g. improved Medicare for all, free education from preschool through undergraduate education, taxing the wealthy to reduce inequality, a basic income and a job guarantee. The Democratic Party voting base is not excited about Joe Biden so they need to generate fear of Trump to try to win the election.

Donald Trump aids the Democrats by his actions. One fear-based issue is that Trump will not leave office if he loses and will unleash his right-wing militias to keep him in office. We heard similar stories when George W. Bush was president; now Joe Biden is giving Bush awards. Since this is an issue of concern we published the article below but we do not believe Trump can or will stop the election.

For those who are concerned, here is a useful Twitter thread on the matter:

When Donald Trump tried to call in the military to control protesters, the military pushed back at all levels from generals to GI’s. Even the National Guard troops called to fight protesters complained and were embarrassed by their actions. Now, there are reports that Trump’s troops are pulling out of Portland as the protesters stood up to them. There are many signs that we have less to fear from Trump than the Democrats want us to believe.

Our hope in publishing this material is that people will organize. This will make them less fearful and strengthen the movement as the tools we develop to combat Trump will be needed if Biden becomes president.

No matter who is president in 2021, the people need to organize and mobilize so we rule from below. Neither Trump nor Biden will represent the interests of the people. The people must represent our own interests.   – KZ

Nationwide protests against police brutality following George Floyd’s murder are the broadest and most persistent in US history. They have laid bare the racism that pervades American society—and demonstrated the willingness of Americans to take to the streets and resist oppression, even in the midst of a pandemic. Americans must continue demanding an end to white supremacy and follow the lead of Black organizers to galvanize a similar flexing of civic muscle to help ensure democratic continuity come November. With elections four months away and the rule of law under steady attack, people power could prove decisive in ensuring a constitutional transfer of power without violence.

Analysts have developed a number of doomsday scenarios for November. The election could be postponed or canceled. A state of emergency could be declared and polling stations shut down. Hostile foreign powers could ramp up their interference in the election—through the targeted spread of misinformation, cyberattacks on voting machines or databases, or political harassment of candidates—in ways that affect the outcome. Even if the elections go forward fairly smoothly, the results will likely take longer to process because of the anticipated higher volume of mail-in and absentee ballots. Disputes over mail-in ballots are only one of several triggers that could cause the outcome to be challenged or rejected altogether.

Well-armed paramilitaries could come out to the streets no matter which candidate is declared the victor. Lone wolf actors could set off a chain reaction of escalating violence. Indeed, experts on mass atrocities have cited risk factors—including widening social and economic inequality, persistent violence against racial minorities, a surge of inflammatory political rhetoric, the rise of paramilitary groups, and the polarization of political parties along mainly racial or religious lines—as being particularly worrisome in the leadup to the election.

While it is difficult to quantify the risks associated with various elections-related scenarios, the stakes could not be higher. In the event that there is evidence of widespread voter suppression in the lead-up to the election or on November 3, disgruntled or disenfranchised citizens who take to the streets in mass protests could be met with police or paramilitary violence, or both, resulting in mass casualties. Already, far-right militant groups and vigilantes have increased their public visibility and shown a willingness to go to battle with ideological opponents. If mass violence erupts—a distinct possibility in a country awash in guns and where a surprisingly high number of Republicans and Democrats have said that violence may be justified if the other party wins the election—the outcome could be civil war. If the results of the election are disputed or ignored, or the military is called on to suppress constitutionally protected protests and public gatherings, if martial law or emergency decrees are declared, and the constitutional transfer of power is not respected, mass violence or civil war could similarly result.

Lawyers are preparing for these contingencies. But in countries where institutional checks and balances and democratic norms are rapidly eroding, legal challenges and other institutional channels are usually insufficient to meet worse case scenarios. Extra-institutional pressure—through mass nonviolent civil resistance—may be required to protect and defend the vote while warding off the specter of mass violence. It would be foolhardy to assume that this country is immune from democratic backsliding. Scholars of authoritarianism have been warning of an erosion of democratic norms and practices in the US. The bipartisan Freedom House organization has charted a steady decline in the US “global freedom” score—its most recent ranking places 51 countries ahead of the United States.

Therefore, in addition to learning from our own civil rights history, Americans could also learn from experiences in semi-authoritarian contexts like Serbia (2000), Ukraine (2005), and the Gambia (2017), where sustained protests and other forms of non-cooperation, including boycotts and general strikes involving large segments of the population, challenged leaders who illegally kept themselves in power. In Serbia, in addition to building pressure through mass demonstrations, activists prepared for the election by setting up local election monitoring and verification networks, reporting local-level vote counts to an independent office in Belgrade. This allowed pro-democracy advocates to contest the false election results announced by the incumbent Slobodan Milosevic, preventing him from stealing the election. A modified application of parallel vote tabulation, now a standard tool of democracy promotion, could be useful for the US elections.

Scholars have documented other cases where populations have used mass civil resistance to prevent coups d’etat and to defend against illegal usurpations of executive power. In each of these cases, the protestors referred to their own constitutions, and the need to protect the constitutional order, to justify their turn to mass civil resistance and civil disobedience. In most cases, organizers and activists worked in advance to build relationships with various influential constituencies—such as members of opposition and majority political parties, civil servants, mayors and city council members, business leaders, religious authorities, and even police and military officials—to build broad-based, cross-cutting support for the use of civil resistance to protect the vote.

Of course, the use of mass civil resistance to challenge or reverse the outcome of a free and fair November election would be both unjustified and deeply problematic. But it is better to prepare for any contingency than to be caught off guard by a worst-case scenario. What is needed to prepare the country to defend the vote and avoid violence in the event that the elections go sideways?

First, Americans need to support a “movement of movements” that brings together key groups that have been organizing to protect and expand voting rights, resist racism and police brutality, protect undocumented immigrants, fight sexual harassment and violence, defend the environment, address economic inequality, and demand government accountability. These groups are demanding that the country lives up to its core ideals of liberty and justice for all. Movements like Black Lives Matter and the Movement for Black Lives, the Poor People’s Campaign, the DREAMers, the Sunrise movement, Indivisible, and the Women’s March have spent years organizing at the community and national levels. And the recent nationwide George Floyd protests have uncovered a vast new array of movement pressure points.

Bringing these movements together under a single banner of mobilizing voters, training people in nonviolent direct action, countering fraud and disinformation, and preparing to defend the vote—including through civil resistance and community-led violence prevention measures—could help ensure the election is free and fair. These movements, which include or are allied with unions, lawyers, foundations, and inter-faith groups, could join forces with the think tanks, academic institutions, and professional associations that have begun planning various election-related scenarios.

Second, these groups could jointly analyze potential key pillars of support for anti-democratic actions and plan out how to keep them on the democratic path. All governments ultimately depend on the consent and cooperation of ordinary people to stay in power. They need civil servants to run the bureaucracy, workers and professionals to keep the infrastructure intact, religious institutions to provide them with moral legitimacy, businesses to keep the economy afloat, and security forces to obey orders.

Loyalties within these pillars are fluid and can shift. We have already seen high-ranking military officers signal their adherence to the rule of law and their unwillingness to obey executive orders to use troops to quell protestor dissent. The threat of a general strike by the Association of Flight Attendants helped end the government shutdown in 2018-19. Local city councils have adopted policies to resist the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Identifying these leverage points and designing actions to pressure and persuade members of these pillars to join the pro-democracy fight is key to building mass participation, a key ingredient of successful nonviolent campaigns. Studying cases and techniques that populations around the world have used to nonviolently defend against coups and other attempts to illegally subvert the democratic order would also help prepare for worst case scenarios.

Third, messaging and information sharing will also be critical components for any movement. If 2016 taught us anything, it is that there is a strong feedback loop between foreign disinformation, locally driven misinformation, and the amplification of political grievances. Movement leaders and activists may have to work twice as hard this time around to figure out where there are gaps in data about which parts of the country may be more vulnerable to an escalation of violence. It will be important to continually take stock of the risks, track abuses of power and instances of violence in real-time, and develop a strategy for sharing that information widely not only within the movement but with the media and general public.

Fourth, strengthening solidarity and preparing for a sustained struggle would help movements maintain resilience in the event of a November shock. If labor boycotts and general strikes are necessary to defend the vote and prevent large-scale violence people will need safety and financial security. Practically, this means reinforcing the community support and mutual aid networks that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities should be prepared to address paramilitaries in the streets and agent provocateurs itching for a race war. This means engaging strong community organizers and organizations, such as those that protected communities from police violence and opportunist attacks in Minneapolis.

Fifth, preparing for what follows the election, and addressing the dangerous polarization and intolerance that is afflicting both ends of the political spectrum, is critical for the longer term. Years of Black-led organizing and movement-building paved the way to a dramatic shift in public opinion about police brutality and Blacks Lives Matter, with widespread protests happening in small towns across America. Building from this example and investing in spaces for dialogue and organizing around issues that could engage the broader middle segment of Americans should be a focus beyond November.

As the country prepares for a momentous election, now is a good time for movement leaders, scholars, lawyers, and analysts to come together and start planning for any November challenges—including extra-constitutional ones—and prepare for the long, hard work of healing the country in the election’s aftermath.

Maria J. Stephan is the co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict and co-editor of Is Authoritarianism Staging a Comeback? Erica Chenoweth is the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School and a Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Candace Rondeaux is a Professor of Practice in the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University and a Senior Fellow with the Center on the Future of War, a joint initiative of ASU and New America. Follow them on Twitter: @MariaJStephan, @CandaceRondeaux, @EricaChenoweth.

  • jim james

    Anybody citing Freedom House for anything other than what it is–a hack establishment propaganda outlet–isn’t worth my time, or yours.

  • Richard

    We will never solve anything by putting crooks in office, just the last 50 years is proof of that, and it also proves that it does not matter which party the crooks belong to as both are corrupt to the core. If we could get 50% of the citizens in this country to “raise hell” like the way they are for Mr Floyd and direct it toward our government (where the blame actually lie’s) & start putting people in there who represent us (all Americans, if you live here your an American I don’t care what color your skin is) not GREED, we could actually change a lot of the things wrong with this county. If that many people can come together for one man then I believe that we can all come together for our loved ones, friends, kids & their future, neighbors, and fellow Americans for the betterment of all concerned.

    November’s coming up and still no real honest to GOD president in sight, just the “lesser of two evils” or “the next worst president in history” take your pick because you are getting nothing either way except another “kick in the teeth.” 2 years down the road you will get the same foul choices again. Is no one else sick of this BS? There should be at least 166,773,000 people in washington ready to kick the doors in and physically throw these tyrants out of our house. If that many Americans showed up in front of the white house and demanded change no one would have to lift a finger to get the process started. Quit letting them divide us, we have more in common than you think. Our government is a great example because the trail of all our woes leads to the same place, Government. Let me know when your ready because I sure as hell want to be there. Oh, please don’t wait to long because I am not getting any younger and would really like to see this happen before I have to go to the happy hunting grounds. Priceless.

  • zak1

    I think we’re looking at a new model in how the presidency is presented to us – the message from the Establishment to the public is: “The presidency is ours, not yours”

    Of all people, why would the DNC bring in Joe Biden as their nominee? Why not bring in Andrew Cuomo, or even Al Gore? It’s not hard for them to find a Corporatist who could easily beat Trump. Why does the Establishment insist on a dementia patient whose record is the closest to Trump’s policies?

    The same reason Hillary would not take Sanders as her VP.

    I think this is a domination move. They see the growing discontent – how their narrative is falling apart as more people see through it, as people grow more desperate. They think of the public as a dangerous, disobedient animal that’s growling at them, and their response now is to stare us down.

    Giving in to a demand like Medicare is showing weakness, making the animal even bolder. Bringing in anyone who looks competent looks like they’re trying to appease us – even giving us a candidate who can speak with facts in full sentences gives us something concrete to argue with – giving us anything we want that’s solid makes them look weak

    They’re training us, like animals, to settle for less and less. If we don’t like their dementia patient, then we can have Trump again. The strategy is to terrify us with Trump, and then give us an alternative as close as possible to Trump – to teach us to shut up about it

  • rgaura

    Yeah, I skimmed it and laughed a few times. The coup is complete. We have a completely insecure voting system that has been rigged since those machines were put in place, now moving to vote by mail with no chain of custody at all! The nitwits presented by the DARPA oligarchs to us are a slap in the face. The house is burning, and all they can do is loot and kill. Parts of this article read like the Israeli `exercise´, or simulation on how the November elections will be disrupted and subverted. Don’t let them control the financial crash. Do not cooperate.

  • Bill Rood

    follow the lead of Black organizers

    Why should we follow the lead of “Black organizers” who are 1) heavily funded by white individuals and corporations, 2) trained by university professors who have distorted Marx’s teachings of class solidarity into an ideology based on identity groups that divide the working class against itself, and 3) leading a mob of predominantly white rioters who eagerly destroy black communities while murdering an 8 year old black girl in her parents’ car and a 4 year old black boy sleeping in his crib? All black lives and livelihoods matter.

    There have been many videos of blacks objecting to and trying to stop these mainly white rioters, or weeping over the destruction of their neighborhoods.

  • Bill Rood

    The only electoral answer is to vote 3rd party. Even if the vote is divided among several candidates and a Republicrat wins with 35% of the vote, they will start listening.

  • Bill Rood

    My UU church had a pity party when Hillary lost. I attended, but I was grieving something else, that the American voters were too brainwashed with Republicrat propaganda about “the two party system,” “don’t waste your vote” and BS voter shaming to vote in large numbers for either Jill Stein nor Gary Johnson.

  • Bill Rood

    I’ve seen numerous videos of blacks objecting to and trying to stop these mainly white
    rioters, like Philip Anderson in Portlad, or weeping over the destruction of their neighborhoods. It’s criminal what Democrat mayors and governors are allowing and even encouraging. Yes, Trump has many times crossed the line into evil, but the Democrats take it to a new level entirely. Vote 3rd party for any office where the choice is available.

  • SupernaturalCat

    “Of all people, why would the DNC bring in Joe Biden as their nominee?”

    This aspect alone speaks volumes as to the point you accurately make.

  • zak1

    “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to
    “Cry if I want to
    “Cry if I want to –

    “You would cry too if it hap-pened to yo-oo!”

  • zak1

    This is exactly what Green candidates Hawkins and Walker are advocating – they’ve spoken a lot about it in their idea of community control of police and their budget, and of their notion of Medicare for All as part of nationalized, community-controlled healthcare

    Hawkins since the 90s has been promoting this notion to strengthen and democratize the Green Party internally – expanding the role of local chapters as a community hub and a way for their larger membership to participate more directly in policymaking and the direction of the party – he contrasts this with the top-down structure of the duopoly parties

    I agree with this model and using it for political parties – but I also think there needs to be an underlying community structure along these lines that goes beyond any particular party – that comprises the community infrastructure itself – and this distinction needs to be clear – any party should work to democratize itself, and also in parallel push to democratize the non-partisan social apparatus that represents everyone