Trump says he will not commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. He says he wants to “get rid of the ballots.” A very scary and detailed article in The Atlantic describes Trump campaign plans to subvert or derail the electoral college process.
The common thread of all of Trump’s threats and plans is distraction. Trump’s most outrageous statements take attention away from real issues: like hundreds of thousands of people dying from COVID-19, like the racism that he inflames and amplifies, like his ongoing effort to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, like the profits that billionaires are raking in during the pandemic, like his refusal to respond to climate change.
Trump’s most outrageous threats are no more than sound and fury. They are meant to distract from the issues, from his sagging polling figures, and from his failures as president. They are meant to inspire fear and despair.
Remember the booming voice and overwhelming power projected by the “great and powerful” Wizard of Oz? Remember when Toto pulled back the curtain to reveal a little man pulling levers and speaking into a megaphone? That’s Trump.
A day after Trump’s most egregious threat to the election (so far), even leading Republican allies pushed back, with Mitch McConnell saying there will be an orderly transition, Lindsey Graham saying it will be peaceful, and Mitt Romney saying “any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”
Not even his own party will support a coup.
Apart from Trump’s bluster and bullshit, real threats to the election exist. Today’s news brought a story from North Carolina, where four percent of Black absentee ballots are being disqualified, twice the rate of white ballots. Even there, disqualified ballots do not mean the end of the story: those voters will be notified and will have a chance for a do-over. (Also of note: about 55 percent of the nearly 200,000 ballots received so far in North Carolina come from Democrats, and only 16 percent from Republicans.)
Most of the North Carolina ballots that have been disqualified come from voters who are voting by mail for the first time. That underlines the importance of both early voting and careful attention to detail.
In every city, town, and township in the United States, the important work of safeguarding the election and democracy goes forward. Every mail carrier delivering ballots, every election official safeguarding the process, every election judge risking their own health on election day, every voter making sure they are counted, by mail or in person is doing that work. Every journalist naming the president’s raving about ballot fraud as a lie is doing that work. Every voter reading the directions three times before voting, signing, and sealing the envelopes is doing that work.
The biggest threat to the election and the country comes from the actions of Trump and others to undermine faith in the electoral process and in democracy itself. While Russian interference is widespread and ongoing, according to the CIA, FBI, NSA, and every other intelligence agency, the biggest threat comes from within. As Vox reports, Russia only needs to amplify the lies the conspiracy theories, lies, and even the legitimate fear that the president and his allies are spreading.
Russian actors amplify the president’s repeated lies about ballot fraud. They amplify the crazy QAnon conspiracy theories about Democrats drinking the blood of children. They amplify the fear created by the administration’s attempt to sabotage the postal service, and by the president’s threat to throw out ballots. But we can fight back.
African-American philosopher Danielle Allen wrote in the October issue of The Atlantic about the Constitution that “formally converted the worth of my great-great-grandfather Sidiphus into three-fifths’ that of a free person.” Fully recognizing and decrying the flaws in both country and constitution, she nevertheless insists that she loves both:
“The Constitution is a work of practical genius. It is morally flawed. The story of the expansion of human freedom is one of shining moral ideals besmirched by the ordure of ongoing domination. I muck the stalls. I find a diamond. I clean it off and keep it. I do not abandon it because of where I found it. Instead, I own it. Because of its mutability and the changes made from generation to generation, none but the living can own the Constitution. Those who wrote the version ratified centuries ago do not own the version we live by today. We do. It’s ours, an adaptable instrument used to define self-government among free and equal citizens—and to secure our ongoing moral education about that most important human endeavor. We are all responsible for our Constitution, and that fact is empowering.
“That hard-won empowerment is why I love the Constitution. And it shapes my native land, which I love also simply because it is my home. The second love is instinctual. The first comes with open eyes.”
We live the love of country and constitution by resisting tyranny, by fighting like hell to dump Trump in November. We fight back every time we resist fear and despair. We fight back every time we look away from the loudmouthed little man behind the curtain and look instead to the promises and plans of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and the future we plan to build together. We fight back by refocusing on the issues, working to get out the vote, working to reclaim our country. We can do it. We must do it.
As Benjamin Franklin walked out of the hall where the Constitutional Convention was held, a lady called to him, “Doctor, do we have a monarchy or a republic?” Franklin famously replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
We can keep it.