Failing State
September 23, 2020 4:47 PM   Subscribe

The Election That Could Break America: "There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars and lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path." Longread article from the coming issue of The Atlantic spins out the signs and scenarios, including the potential for state legislatures to end-run the Electoral College.

"...[b]efore Pence can move on from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island, which is next on the alphabetical list as Congress counts the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expels all senators from the floor of her chamber. Now Pence is prevented from completing the count 'in the presence of' the House, as the Constitution requires. Pelosi announces plans to stall indefinitely. If the count is still incomplete on Inauguration Day, the speaker herself will become acting president....[so] Pelosi prepares to be sworn in on January 20 unless Pence reverses his ruling and accepts that Biden won. Pence does not budge. He reconvenes the Senate in another venue, with House Republicans squeezing in, and purports to complete the count, making Trump the president-elect. Three people now have supportable claims to the Oval Office."

Reporting by Barton Gellman, author of Dark Mirror (NYT review).
posted by snuffleupagus (219 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
 
1/5 will instigate
1/5 will bandwagon
1/5 will both-sides
1/5 will keep their heads down
1/5 will fight for what's right
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 5:08 PM on September 23 [10 favorites]


A (moderately) less terrifying take from Zach Beauchamp at Vox, though this a supplement and not a replacement for the always excellent Gellman: “RBG, the 2020 election, and the rolling crisis of American democracy”

And, of course, some remarks from POTUS, fresh off the stump. @NateSilver538: Ok this real bad tho (I have seen some tweets describing the remarks as “vile”, but that seems to miss the mark. They are very terrifying and scary.)

Also, Jeet Heer at The Nation: “Trump Wants Another ‘Bush v. Gore’”

Now I am going to go listen to Japanese new age music and sit outside and stay away from this very explosive thread. Next phone banking shift is this Saturday, probably I should move that up.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:11 PM on September 23 [22 favorites]


I hope that the Canada's federal government is making serious and demonstrable plans to mitigate the threat of near-future mass migration of Americans.

I mean, I'm not hopeful, but I hope.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:13 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


I hate-listen to AM radio and they are definitely prepping their base for a drawn-out process of invalidating / questioning the election results...
posted by The Ted at 5:18 PM on September 23 [8 favorites]


i think he'd settle for the gore.
posted by 20 year lurk at 5:18 PM on September 23 [11 favorites]


Americans have to walk out. General strike to force 47 out of office before the election by shutting down the economy until the senators cave. That's the way to the least bloodshed. Anything else is going to lead to a hot war.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:20 PM on September 23 [23 favorites]


The peaceful transition of power is the single most critical aspect of any democracy.

Anyone who supports Donald Trump after today betrays the United States, the rule of law, and the principles of democracy, and is an accomplice to his attempts to install an autocracy.

Support for Donald Trump is Anti-Democracy. It is immoral. It is Un-American.
posted by tclark at 5:22 PM on September 23 [68 favorites]


I encourage you to read Teri Kanefield on Twitter (in particular this thread. She is pragmatic, grounded, good at seeing through the bullshit and posturing amongst the fascism.
posted by stevil at 5:25 PM on September 23 [52 favorites]


The interesting thing about this article is that yes, correctly, it identifies there's no independent arbiter like an umpire to declare a winner. But there are a very large number of other independent arbiters—every other country in the world—who will be under great pressure to identify their relationship with the United States in one or two of the winning candidates. It's absolutely what the US does in other countries' instances of post-election instability; candidates look to the US and the State Department for legitimacy. What happens when Boris Johnson rings up on behalf of the UK to congratulate Trump, and Angela Merkel rings up to congratulate Biden?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:26 PM on September 23 [12 favorites]


Kanefield's comments, condensed:

A few weeks ago, a theory that Trump could steal the election in this manner made the rounds. For this to happen, a string of very unlikely and highly improbable things would have to happen. The story died down. The press right now is very bad for Trump.

Next thing we know, a legal advisor to the Trump campaign tells a reporter that this extremely unlikely event WILL happen because the states will line up and do what Trump wants (overturn the will of the people). The Trump campaign wants this in the headlines.

Remember that each state has rules that govern the certifying of their elections.Yes, laws still matter. The Trump legal advisor wants you to think they don't. Why? Because when enough people lose confidence in democracy, democracy will fail...A goal of active measures is to get you to lose confidence in democratic processes. Trump is trying his best to get you to lose confidence in democratic processes. He is trying to make you think he can pull this off.

...

He's losing so he needs to present a situation that makes him look strong.

He wants you to think state legislatures will do whatever he tells them to do, including overturning the will of their own constituents because Trump ordered it.

...

For about a dozen reasons, the scenario is highly unlikely. If Biden's win across multiple swing states, getting hit by a meteor is more likely. But Trump wants the headline to be: Trump can steal the election! Being rather perverse, my response is, "Trump wants this headline, so let's not give it to him."

posted by snuffleupagus at 5:35 PM on September 23 [88 favorites]


This piece is good and joins a long list of pieces hypothesizing about all the ways the Republicans could stage a coup. But I keep coming back to this quote for it; partly because it seems so true, partly because it offers a little hope.
An election cannot be stolen unless the American people, at some level, acquiesce.
Here are three things you can do today to get involved in efforts to make sure we have a fair vote.
  1. Spread the word to anyone who will listen that voting by mail is legitimate and that the election isn't decided until all votes are counted.
  2. Consider becoming a poll worker.
  3. Get educated on current voting rights battles. I've been getting a lot of pleasure and information out of following Marc Elias on Twitter. He's a lawyer filing voting rights lawsuits in many jurisdictions. Consider donating to his organization Democracy Docket.
posted by Nelson at 5:38 PM on September 23 [22 favorites]


But there are a very large number of other independent arbiters—every other country in the world

It doesn’t matter who Angela Merkel or, I dunno, Boris Johnson calls up the day after the election to congratulate. They’ll change their tune as soon as the US military lines up behind Trump. All that matters is what who the cops and the generals stand behind. Whoever they choose — that’s the President.
posted by dis_integration at 5:40 PM on September 23 [9 favorites]


It's crazy to me to see that base being whipped up to doubt the election results, when their current president was illegitimately elected in a manipulated election and has had four years of basically impunity to do whatever openly corrupt thing he wants. Is it just simple projection? I have no doubts about the results of the upcoming election, I believe it is already well rigged for Trump regardless of what voters pick. I guess the same people who can't see this are the same people who get into Q yet manage to ignore Trumps sex crimes and direct, ongoing, involvement with human trafficking. At this point I've steeled myself that come end of November, the fight for democracy and our country will have to become much more of a fight than it's been past four years sitting back looking constantly shocked that every fucking thing is allowed to happen, over and over. Is it time for civil war, what did the people need to do in 1930s to stop the rise of fascism, what did they need to do in 1939, what do we do when we find ourselves in 1945 again?
posted by GoblinHoney at 5:44 PM on September 23 [6 favorites]


dis_integration: Thing is, the generals hate Trump.
posted by SansPoint at 5:44 PM on September 23 [22 favorites]


I have a much worse feeling about this election than I expected to even a few weeks ago. This article was tough to read even in summary form when I saw it this morning. We're at or very close to the point where Trumpist propaganda is becoming likely to incite violence from many points on the spectrum as their lies take on such grotesque proportions that they're equally offensive to those who believe them as they are to those who don't. They're playing a far more dangerous game than they probably realize: if there is any real question about the outcome, we're all in existential trouble.

All this said, it also doesn't seem impossible that Trump bombs the debates so badly that the whole thing is suddenly a non-event. You can't be aware of any of his recent speeches and think he doesn't have the capacity to completely fall to pieces on stage while Joe Biden laughs at him. Is Trump mentally tougher than Paul Ryan? What a question but I can't really put Trump into Ryan's position in their debate without imagining him storming out.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:54 PM on September 23 [6 favorites]


Thing is, the generals hate Trump.

But the cops LOVE him. How many generals you got in your town, and how many cops?
posted by tclark at 6:02 PM on September 23 [43 favorites]


The actual constitutional election is on Dec 14th. How many bullying GOP governors do you think are on board with a coup? Is it 270 worth? That's the goal if he wants to steal it.
posted by Harry Caul at 6:09 PM on September 23 [2 favorites]


stevil: Thanks very much for the link to that Twitter thread. It's immensely reassuring. I found this particularly significant:

In PA, the GOP controlled legislature can’t appoint its own electors without amending the PA electoral code, which Dem Gov Wolf would veto, & the GOP lacks sufficient votes to overcome his veto. Same in MI & WI.

Facts matter.

posted by Artifice_Eternity at 6:16 PM on September 23 [21 favorites]


But the cops LOVE him. How many generals you got in your town, and how many cops?

The LAPD and OCSD sure have a lot less F-35s and Abrams tanks tho....
posted by sideshow at 6:18 PM on September 23 [9 favorites]


Reminder that just today Trump wouldn't commit to a peaceful transfer of power and said "get rid of the ballots and there'll be a peaceful ... it won't be a transfer frankly it will be a continuation."

So yeah.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:21 PM on September 23 [5 favorites]


All this said, it also doesn't seem impossible that Trump bombs the debates so badly that the whole thing is suddenly a non-event. You can't be aware of any of his recent speeches and think he doesn't have the capacity to completely fall to pieces on stage while Joe Biden laughs at him. Is Trump mentally tougher than Paul Ryan? What a question but I can't really put Trump into Ryan's position in their debate without imagining him storming out.

Except Chris Wallace's debate topics are basically GOP talking points.

I'm not saying it isn't possible for Trump to completely bomb but that first debate they're sure as fuck softballing Trump.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:23 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


General strike to force 47 out of office before the election by shutting down the economy until the senators cave.

this kind of thing requires extensive organizing and lots of resources--e.g. a strike fund--to work. i've seen mefi commenters suggest similar efforts in response to all kinds of things, but they don't seem to realize that.

labor unions, the vehicle for this kind of action, are pretty weak in the US right now. so, i think a general strike, or at least a protracted one backed up by clear political demands, is out of the picture, at this point
posted by davedave at 6:24 PM on September 23 [13 favorites]


Anyway, lots of people in this thread just assuming that literally thousands of people are going to go long with an action that, if they don't end up on top, will end in a result where decades in prison is the best case scenario.

It's one thing to assume Trump is stupid enough to try some legal shenanigans that fucks things up in court for weeks/months, it's another to just declare the commander of the 82nd Airborne (along with everyone under his command) is going assassinate North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper on their way to Sacramento to arrest/kill Governor Gavin Newsom and seize the state capitol, but not until attempting to defeat the now Unionist 101st Airborne and California Nation Guard in the Battle of Folsom Lake.

Because, that's what "the generals decide to back Trump, against the explicit will of the voters" means. I'm not saying that's impossible, but you better have your lists of local Republican loyalists to round up and your buddies with pickup trucks gassed and ready if you believe it because that would mean actual, for real, war in the streets.

Edit: yeah, forgot the part where if the 82nd Airborne doesn't in fact successfully seize the California State Capitol, everyone involved gets sentenced to death in a modern version of the Nuremberg Trails, so perhaps they aren't going to just rush out and do it because Trump sends out some tweets next February.
posted by sideshow at 6:37 PM on September 23 [11 favorites]


this kind of thing requires extensive organizing and lots of resources--e.g. a strike fund--to work

In normal times I'd give this even money on working. With a pandemic and no real stimulus....yeah no one is doing a General Strike.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:37 PM on September 23 [2 favorites]


You can't be aware of any of his recent speeches and think he doesn't have the capacity to completely fall to pieces on stage

He's been spouting barely-recognizable-as-a -sentence word salad since before the 2016 debates, I honestly don't know what he would have to do on stage to lose his supporters' faith in him in the 2020 ones.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:45 PM on September 23 [21 favorites]


I'm not terribly worried about the US Army versus America, but I am damn worried about militias versus protestors.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:46 PM on September 23 [72 favorites]


God willing, he'll turn out to be as big a coward as usual when he's faced with real opposition. Bullies are cowards at heart, and he's more bully than despot. He's a wannabe despot, all bluster, little follow-through. When shit gets real, bullies crumble. How many issues, decisions and proclamations has he crumbled on, or just "forgotten about," in the past four years?

Then the question is whether that applies to whoever's whispering in his ear and/or pulling his strings.
posted by gottabefunky at 6:53 PM on September 23 [10 favorites]


I'm an armchair catastrophist AND I've had 2 stiff G&T's tonight and this article made me feel like I was having a heart attack in real time .

Lord.

I dont think I'll be good at revolution unless there's dancing.
posted by thivaia at 7:00 PM on September 23 [19 favorites]


.?
posted by madcaptenor at 7:05 PM on September 23 [2 favorites]


Americans seem unreasonably affronted by the idea the military has a political stake in deciding who their commander is. In the nuclear age it can't be otherwise. Elaine Scarry wrote in 2014 about the democracy-deforming nature of nuclear weapons, that these objects are so powerful and the timeframes for their use so short, that they cannot by definition be controlled democratically, and in every nation that has them has had a surrendering of rights and power to an executive.

It's far less about whether the 82nd Airborne patrols Chicago, than the Joint Chiefs, in a contested 'interregnum', asking well who will hold the codes tomorrow, and who will we recognise as commander, if there are two claimants? The Bomb, just by existing, needs an orderly presidential transition in a way that democracy doesn't. Which 'authority' do we consult with, the people, the college delegates, Congress, the Supreme Court, the current President, with ourselves? What do we tell the other members of NATO and the other alliances?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:06 PM on September 23 [26 favorites]


"The good warrior must understand how ghostly it will be
When all this world of wealth stands wasted
As now in many places about this massive earth
Walls stand battered by the wind,
Covered by frost, the roofs collapsed.
The wine halls crumbled; the warriors lie dead,
Cut off from joy; the great troop all crumpled
Proud by the wall. One war took,
Led to his death. One a bird lifted
Over the high sea. One the hoary wolf
Broke with death. One, bloody-cheeked,
A warrior hid in a hole in the ground.
Likewise God destroyed this earthly dwelling
Until the strongholds of the giants stood empty,
Without the sounds of joy of the city-dwellers.”
posted by aramaic at 7:11 PM on September 23 [9 favorites]


Any debate that doesn't include climate change is... insane.
posted by PhineasGage at 7:12 PM on September 23 [15 favorites]


A rebuttal to the OP, in a similar vein to the Teri Kanefield thread stevil linked above: Trump Is Not King, And Media Needs To Stop Acting Like He Is

Here's the thing: Articles like this, fear mongering like this already suppresses the Biden vote. When you tell people that Trump and his games are more powerful than the people, you're telling them their vote doesn't matter. And if their vote doesn't matter, then why should they bother to vote at all? All the fear mongering about what Agent Orange and his gang of GOP thugs does is suppress the vote. It also creates an environment of fear, which is the soil upon which REPUBLICANS thrive.

There is absolutely no benefit in having the average person-on-the-street (or on-Metafilter) worrying about legalistic arcana or systemic loopholes by which Trump might contest the election. These are things that Biden's legal team should be worried about, sure, but for a regular voter? All it does is plant a seed of doubt in your mind about the value of voting. Maybe not enough, by itself, to stop you from voting - but when you get to the polling place, and there's an armed gang of self-appointed militiamen milling around outside? Or the polling machine breaks, or the line is four hours long, or any of the other likely avenues of "discouraging voters from voting" that Trump is likely to employ - that's when the little whisper in your mind will go "well, Trump's got the whole thing rigged anyways, why should I risk my own neck?" All those methods of discouraging you work together to break your spirit. And articles like this absolutely function in that same capacity.

Trump and all his cronies cannot stop a Biden landslide. There might be flashes of violence, there might be legalistic bickering, but if the result of the election is a Biden landslide, Biden will be the next president. The only thing we can do now is deliver that landslide. Vote, volunteer, donate, whatever you can do, but freaking out about these hypotheticals ain't it.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:15 PM on September 23 [113 favorites]


armchair-catastrophist is the new most wanted user name.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:16 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


that's what "the generals decide to back Trump, against the explicit will of the voters"

What if nobody can tell what the will of the voters is, because late ballot counting gets shut down? The idea isn't to visibly override the will of the voters, it's to make it so confusing that even the voters can't be sure who won. We went along with Bush v Gore. They're trying to manufacture another one.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:18 PM on September 23 [21 favorites]


Unless I missed it, I don't think this article mentions QAnon or right-wing extremist groups and their potential to get up to mischief independent(-ish) of any official GOP strategy, either on election day itself or in the aftermath. I can't help but feel that these groups might be a dangerous wildcard.
posted by mhum at 7:19 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


We've already got a President who engages in stochastic terrorism. It's entirely possible that next he's going to attempt a stochastic civil war.
posted by tclark at 7:23 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


At this point I'm interested in ways we can combat this, rather than more catastrophizing. Beyond volunteering and voting, of course. What to do if/when constitutional norms truly break down. The left managed to mobilize protests this spring and summer over police brutality. Could something similar be mobilized to counteract right wing attempts to steal the election?
posted by eagles123 at 7:30 PM on September 23 [8 favorites]


Trump and all his cronies cannot stop a Biden landslide. There might be flashes of violence, there might be legalistic bickering, but if the result of the election is a Biden landslide, Biden will be the next president. The only thing we can do now is deliver that landslide.

Right. Because of anti-democratic systems like the electoral college there is essentially no middle ground between "Biden landslide" and "close enough for post-election fuckery". What it says about a system where anything but a massive landslide lets a minority scrape, claw, and cheat its way into power is beyond the scope of this comment.
posted by Justinian at 7:35 PM on September 23 [35 favorites]


.
posted by nzero at 7:55 PM on September 23


I am very afraid of what Trump and the GOP will do to game this election, but at root, I’m confident it will end correctly, mostly due to what happened this summer following the death of George Floyd. A significant minority of Americans, all manner of Americans, not just Blacks, or residents of big cities, all kinds, took to the streets for days because of something that didn’t happen in their home town (unless it did), but could have. This election is happening in everyone’s home town, and I am convinced, today at least, that the American people aren’t going to let Donald Trump and his Republican lick-spittles get away with stealing it. Not without a (hopefully) non-violent fight.
posted by hwestiii at 7:57 PM on September 23 [35 favorites]


I find it difficult to take seriously an article that explains how this idiot is going to steal another election and treats him as some poilitical machiavelli without acknowledging that his brain is turning to mush from dementia. This guy, who cannot form a complete sentence with more than a single clause, is somehow wise to how he can up-end the system. The guy who has trouble walking and controlling his limbs. The guy who has to be drugged before appearing in public to the point where his pupils are like saucers. That's the guy with the plan.

There is no plan; just desperate people who sense the party might be over soon and that they might be held accountable for trashing the joint, so they're propping up this crumbling wreck of a man. Just a coterie of bush-league fascists throwing shit at the wall and hoping something sticks. Not the best, and certainly not the brightest. They're still a threat, but this article makes them seem scarier than they are. Don't be intimidated.
posted by um at 8:09 PM on September 23 [21 favorites]


Bill Barr is the ventriloquist and brains of the operation. He is the smart, terrifying fascist that is driving all this.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:17 PM on September 23 [16 favorites]


armchair-catastrophist is the new most wanted user name.

Would you accept ‘worst-case scenarist?’

This thread reminds me of a meme from shortly before the nomination conventions in 2016, to this effect:
No matter who wins the nominations and the general election, it will be historic:

HILLARY CLINTON: First Female President
BERNIE SANDERS: First Jewish President
MARCO RUBIO: First Hispanic President
TED CRUZ: First Canadian President
DONALD TRUMP: Last President
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:24 PM on September 23 [15 favorites]


Well, this is legitimately terrifying. And what are the odds that Trump's agitprop will inspire one or more crazies to attack a polling place, the way QAnon agitprop inspired the attack on a pizza restaurant?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:30 PM on September 23 [3 favorites]


That has basically already happened.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:39 PM on September 23 [3 favorites]


Pretty darn close to 100%.
posted by bink at 8:40 PM on September 23 [3 favorites]


The guy who has trouble walking and controlling his limbs.
I can't disagree with the fact that he doesn't form coherent sentences, but I, too, have trouble sometimes walking with utter confidence, or around furniture, or playing with my dog. Sometimes I just wake up like that. I don't have any medical conditions at all. My physician says I am in fine shape. But sometimes, like when I stand up for a while, or sit down for a while, or just wake up, I am not in the form that I was in when I was 25. And I'm not even twice that now. Who cares if he slowed down to walk down a ramp? I spill any kind of drink on myself all the time because I'm not paying attention. We've had presidents in wheelchairs and more. His physical "control" has very little to do with his mental abilities. When I stand in front of a class teaching I am all kinds of awkward, even if I've been in education for 16 years. So let's please stop it with physical things, eh?

In fact, this teacher, researcher, and scholar doesn't always perform perfectly on the fly, even though my job requires 3,000 immediate decisions every day. So let's also think about that. It is REALLY hard to speak to people whose job is to question what you are saying. I encourage my students to be critical of everything I say, and I get flustered. I'm supposed to be an expert on literature, literacy, and education and I can't find the right answer 100% of the time.

Now, we do have an idiot for a president. The lack of planning (which teaching has taught me a lot about) is a problem. I do plan for my classes, and set up what I think are important learning activities. This president hasn't planned for anything besides profit through chaos. As an educator I also believe in the idea of beg, borrow, and steal any idea or resource that can be beneficial to my students (some of this because of the defunding of education). I rely on experts in my field for answers and ideas to make my practice better. This president does the opposite and relies on criminals and enemies of the state to inform his policy decisions.

So, in terms of the failed state, as this thread is about, let's talk about the real failures here. Sensationalism regarding drinking water or misspeaking is one thing, but the lack of coherent strategies and logical thinking are far more salient. And I think there is a difference.
posted by Snowishberlin at 8:43 PM on September 23 [19 favorites]


It's not impossible that the physical things are markers of a degenerative condition. This is relevant when talking about a second term.
posted by bink at 8:50 PM on September 23 [11 favorites]


In addition to Teri Kanefield's thread I'd like to submit Asha Rangappa's thread. Some excerpts:

"It is important to take note and be prepared for the unprecedented actions Trump says he intends to take after the election. But it is also important not to allow his *wishful* reality to *become the reality. To do that, consider Trump's psychological POV right now: Every time Trump spouts this kind of garbage, he is revealing that he is TERRIFIED. Ab. So. Lute. Ly. Terrified. His **existential** fear is losing. And he knows that there is a very good chance he is going to lose. And he can't do a damn thing about it. He will be a LOSER."

Her Citizen's Guide to Election Interference is a must-read. This isn't a "this could never happen," this is a "here's what might happen and here is how to prepare yourself for it."
posted by rednikki at 9:10 PM on September 23 [29 favorites]


@NateSilver538: Ok this real bad tho

To put Nate Silver in context, his previous comment was to dismiss people's worries and call us sheeple about exactly what he says now is "real bad tho" so seriously fuck that guy sideways. We've been trying to warn him and others for ages and glad he's on board and all that, but getting dismissed is exhausting.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:11 PM on September 23 [15 favorites]


I'm frustrated that reporters don't ask questions that will bait him. Ask him: "Grover Cleveland lost his bid for a second term and then came back four years later and won. If you lose in November are you going to run in 2024?" He will answer that it is impossible for him to lose. Then ask him "if it's impossible for you to lose, why the election?" He may clam up but I believe he will express his full contempt for the election.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:30 PM on September 23 [10 favorites]


Here is a very clear-headed and actionable set of resources describing what folks can do to prepare for and prevent a coup, which is what we are euphemistically talking about here. I haven't finished reading through the entire toolkit yet, but there is a lot of constructive, nonviolent action we can take both before & after election day. Check it out.
posted by ourobouros at 9:30 PM on September 23 [14 favorites]




Trump's gotten this far in the backs of a thousand guys who have torched their reputations for him in hopes to be rewarded by the MAGAverse. He's not smart or good at anything, but he's surrounded by people who are pretty good at certain things, like that guy who optimized the Republican gerrymanders. He's held aloft by a human centipede of other people. They managed to get him elected one time already. The quotes in this article suggest they want to do it again.

Even if they don't actually succeed, the damage they'll cause on the way down could be significant.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:32 PM on September 23 [10 favorites]


> I am damn worried about militias versus protestors.

#Louisville "Police giving armed MAGA militia members directions on where to stand, what to expect, which streets to avoid." (via @LeavittAlone)
posted by kliuless at 9:49 PM on September 23 [14 favorites]


Not covered in this list of possibilities: the stress of a hotly contested Interregnum pops a vein in Trump's brain. Dude is in the opposite of great shape, he is 74 years old and is constantly working himself into a frenzy of rage. How hard is Pence gonna be able to fight without Trump? How much of the cult of personality around Trump will transfer to the GOP in general? How much of their support will dissolve into a haze of conspiracy theorists who are absolutely sure the Deep State made it happen? The GOP will continue doing the same stuff they would with Trump alive, I'm sure, they'd love to have the much-more-controllable Pence in the office. Can Trump's base be manipulated into thinking the GOP had the Men In Black wave an Apoplexy Wand at Trump so they could get his chaotic ass out of the way of pushing forth their usual agenda?

I dunno if this would have a good outcome or not but... it feels possible, and I hope that it came up in these planning sessions.
posted by egypturnash at 10:02 PM on September 23 [4 favorites]


Earlier today I was reading this assessment of what happened in Classical Greece. (Quoting a few segments here; there's a lot more if this isn't spooky enough ...)

"Pericles had established a pure democracy; he had invited the whole body of citizens to liberty and intellectual culture. But with his death liberty degenerated into license, and culture, spreading among a wider circle, soon became superficial. With the change from democracy to ochlocracy public life lost its dignity more and more, and the deterioration of morals struck still deeper into all the relations of family life....

"All feeling for true greatness and nobility was lost, and moral insensibility decked itself with their empty names. At Athens men's minds were filled with a restless desire and striving after novelty.... the more did men question the existing principles of public duty and morality, hitherto regarded as fundamental. A new age produced a new race, frivolous and artificial, without mental balance, doomed to intellectual blindness, and guided in its political aims by the most unreasoning selfishness.

"The more cultivated sort tried, by means of political trials, party strife, proscription of the rich, litigious wrangling and a truly democratic mistrust of all existing institutions, to stifle the inner unrest of their minds and to escape the dark influence of a period which was ever growing more gloomy. In this way they lost all capacity for simple pleasures...."
posted by Twang at 10:04 PM on September 23 [5 favorites]


> He's not smart or good at anything

Its a mistake to underestimate him because he is horrendous as a leader, at governance, at uniting people, at speaking intelligently, or countless other things that we would expect from a president of the US.

He is very good at manipulation and at playing on peoples' fears and anxiety to his own benefit and to expand his power. He hires people around him who are are lackeys who also often know how to do the same, but with actual expertise in our very compromised legal and political system.

I don't take the Atlantic article as fear mongering or hysterics, I take it as a sober view of worst-case scenarios that could happen. They may not be likely, but its clear that at this point that they are well within the realm of possibility. I'm not a lawyer and I won't be involved in legal cases around mail-in ballots come November 4th, but part of being an informed citizen is knowing when and how the machinery we have has failed us. Trump is a symptom, not a cause...a rotten, infected symptom that may cause organ failure and death...but he isn't the root cause.

Anyways, for me this doesn't make me lose hope - it makes me fucking angry and more driven to get out the vote, to donate, to help friends vote or to help friends on the fence understand why this election matters. We need to get this asshole out of office and start repairing things, and we have a lot of work to do.
posted by rsanheim at 10:09 PM on September 23 [11 favorites]


re: generals above - the Joint Chiefs have already weighed in with their position, which boils down to upholding the inevitable Supreme Court decision, period.
posted by Ryvar at 10:17 PM on September 23 [8 favorites]


The only way to get Trump out is by massive margins for Biden on election night, which is unlikely but not impossible.

If it's remotely close that night, then some of the Bush v Gore-on-steroids shit outlined in this article will deliver it to Trump, with or without the coming 6-3 court.

But I gotta call shenanigans on the idea of 'two men claiming the presidency in January,' or the sweaty fanfic of Pelosi staging a walkout and getting sworn in herself or whatever. It will never go that far. What personal or institutional past experience makes either of those scenarios remotely plausible? Biden will mumble some watered-down Goreisms about the good of the nation, Pelosi might do another gifable sarcastic clap, and the Dems will fold.
posted by Beardman at 10:30 PM on September 23 [18 favorites]


Reading that article this morning, and thinking back to all of the Republican disenfranchisement tactics, purging voter roles, DeSantis' crazed attempt to hand out felony convictions like candy to any protester, years of gerrymandering, closing precincts in minority neighborhoods, all of that, and I just kept thinking:

democracy is the rule of the people through popular vote

Republicans are banking their entire strategy for maintaining control by blocking as many people as possible from voting

That makes the GOP literally enemies of democracy. Enemies of the people's right to vote. You know, like Trump won't stop shouting about the media, the GOP is literally the enemy of the people.

I can't get that out of my head, and I don't think I should. In fact, I think I should leave that here, so it sticks in more people's heads, and maybe they start to spread it around, too.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:39 PM on September 23 [31 favorites]


I'm not quite sure what hopeless defeatism is supposed to accomplish here beardman . . .
posted by flamk at 10:41 PM on September 23 [9 favorites]


I'm imagining a scenario where, because of mail-in ballots, there is no clear winner on election night. Then both sides start going to the courts to assure ballots are either counted or not counted. That instability is very bad.

I feel like when historians will look back, it will all seem obvious-- institutions have been hollowed out for decades, the authoritarian side has not been subtle, and the US has been gliding by on past victories for years even as its elites have become fully internationalized. Meanwhile, two competing versions of reality have made the nation ungovernable when there's a crisis.
posted by chaz at 10:56 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


I'm really sorry but any "This is alarmist... Here is the [basic unwritten assumption/set of codified law] that ensures [fascist coup/civil war] won't happen" 'rebuttal' is childish nonsense. Those might have been good arguments when dealing with people who believe in respecting traditions and laws, but Trumpists/Republicans plainly do not and gleefully break laws all the time because no one can or will stop them. They have been openly stating their intent to steal the election and dismantle US democracy. All of our work has to begin from acknowledging that reality, not the reality we wish were happening.

Just stop. This is serious and it needs to be taken seriously.
posted by Lonnrot at 11:11 PM on September 23 [43 favorites]


The Kanefield thread is indeed helpful - thanks for that, may even share on social media, as some people I know seem to be freaking out pretty badly. But also, something just occurred to me.

Trump wants to get swing-state legislatures controlled by Republicans to invalidate the results of their states' elections, to as to be able to substitute an alternate set of electors who will vote for him instead of Joe Biden.

The thing is, if they throw out ballots, they won't just be getting rid of votes for president, but also for all the other races being decided - Senators (where applicable), Representatives, state & local offices, too, plus referendums, and so on.

So in throwing out the election results, wouldn't a certain number of those state legislators - i.e. any of them up for reelection this year - also simultaneously be invalidating their own claims to office? And what about other Republicans on the ballot? If I've just won a seat in Congress, or a statewide office like treasurer or secretary of state, I wouldn't be too eager to see the election results thrown out. Also, if you've thrown out the results for all those other races, wouldn't there then have to be some sort of do-over elections in the affected states?

This seems like it could be another significant impediment to the scenario under discussion. (And yes, I realize that there's a lame-duck period, during which all this presumably would be happening, but would those state legislators be willing to endanger their own ability to serve new terms starting in January? Seems like at least some would push back.)

Would appreciate hearing from any MeFi-ites with knowledge of the relevant laws & issues...
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 11:16 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


But the cops LOVE him. How many generals you got in your town, and how many cops?

This is going to be a problem regardless of election results.
posted by atoxyl at 11:48 PM on September 23 [9 favorites]


It's pretty likely the plan is that on Election Day Trump declares victory on the basis of early in-person voting results (he's urged Republicans to vote that way), and announces that Joe Biden is trying to mount a coup with truckloads of fake postal ballots.

Fox News and all conservative media will back him up.

I think the more people who know the plan in advance the better. If people are expecting a normal election with an early result, they're more easily fooled by this plan.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:00 AM on September 24 [14 favorites]


What happens when Boris Johnson rings up on behalf of the UK to congratulate Trump, and Angela Merkel rings up to congratulate Biden?

Nothing of consequence.
posted by atrazine at 1:36 AM on September 24 [4 favorites]


I think the more people who know the plan in advance the better. If people are expecting a normal election with an early result, they're more easily fooled by this plan.
They're not looking to create a narrative.
They just need an excuse.
posted by fullerine at 2:27 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


The fight is to get the polling stations working, deliver the postal ballots, count the ballots, win the legal challenges, certify the electoral college votes.

That fight doesn't take place in every state though. Solid Republican states could report fairly and still get Trump electors. States with Democrat governors and legislatures will report fairly. It's only in the divided or swing states that the fight matters.

Within those states, the more public scrutiny and public attention over the process the better. And they're not deep-Red states where everyone is permanently locked to Fox News and the Republican party line.

So I don't really see how keeping quiet helps. Surely the more eyeballs on the electoral process in divided/swing States the better.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:33 AM on September 24 [11 favorites]


The LAPD and OCSD sure have a lot less F-35s and Abrams tanks tho....

Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us that those don't really help with oppressing a population that you are not prepared to annihilate.
posted by srboisvert at 3:46 AM on September 24 [6 favorites]


Perhaps I’m whistling past the graveyard, but I’m firmly convinced this is bluster. Dangerous bluster, but bluster nonetheless. Trump and his family can make soooooo much goddamn money by leaving the White House and joining or starting a right wing news network. So much money. I just don’t see him staying unless we have a Florida 2000 situation going on.
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:06 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


47 doesn't care about money.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:51 AM on September 24


'Bill Barr is the ventriloquist and brains of the operation. He is the smart, terrifying fascist that is driving all this.'
Indeed. He's the closest american equivalent to Putin ca Yeltsin's second election. The fascist manipulator climbing behind the doddering fascist puppet show.
posted by Harry Caul at 5:08 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


47 doesn't care about money.

What? Surely he evidently is highly motivated by money. Do you mean that he cares about not being a "loser" more?
posted by thelonius at 5:08 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


So much money. I just don’t see him staying unless we have a Florida 2000 situation going on.

As others have noted, Bush v. Gore is the explicit model here - a stolen election that set the precedent and all but guaranteed others.

Trump knows that the end of his relative immunity will mean that he likely spends the rest of his life fighting charges from the New York AG and others. He is going to shove as hard as he can on the rotten edifice of US democracy to prevent that.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:12 AM on September 24 [10 favorites]


The epicenter of Republican election crimes is likely to be Georgia:

--Republican control of most of the levers of power in the state

--A history of election meddling in 2018 has given Georgia Republicans fresh experience

--Three razor-close races in the state that have national impact: the presidential race, the regular senatorial race, and the bizarre special senatorial election to complete Isakson's term

--Senatorial races will be subject to a runoff in January if no candidate gets more than 50%, so if control of the Senate is still in doubt, all the energy of the battle for Senate control could be focused on Georgia

Having a QAnon wacko slithering into power in the 14th district is just the cherry on the shit sundae.

Basically, Georgia is this year's Florida.

(Also, Florida will still be this year's Florida. Possibly also Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, or others will be Floridas this year...)
posted by gimonca at 5:30 AM on September 24 [11 favorites]


I hate-listen to AM radio and they are definitely prepping their base for a drawn-out process of invalidating / questioning the election results...

Which means they know they're going to lose.
posted by Gelatin at 5:34 AM on September 24 [11 favorites]


Pelosi might do another gifable sarcastic clap

Which she will then repudiate.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:23 AM on September 24 [2 favorites]


The article pretty clearly says that as long as Democrats keep the House and have the courage to fight*, they can reject whatever electoral college bullshit Trump throws up by refusing to validate the Electors. If the Democrats can also win the Senate this helps, because the Senate can't go off by itself and validate them. (This wouldn't be valid, but it might create enough illusion of validity). But in the end if Nancy Pelosi refuses to validate the electors... she gets to be President at noon on January 20th when Trump's first term expires and there is no new President to take office. She could then instruct the House to name Biden Speaker and resign herself, making Biden President.

Theoretically this works. But it also probably breaks the Republic and possibly ignites armed insurrection.

Honestly I've been thinking recently that the United States is on a similar trajectory to the Roman Republic. I just can't decide if we're at the Sulla, Caesar, or Octavian point now.


*Who am I kidding, Democrats have no backbone.
posted by Glibpaxman at 7:15 AM on September 24 [12 favorites]


The thing I haven't seen at all: are his words--the direct declaration of his intent to thwart the will of the American people--able to be taken as treason? Can he be impeached, RIGHT NOW, for treason, if the House has the spine for it?
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:22 AM on September 24 [4 favorites]


It should be obvious by now that an impeachment would accomplish nothing other than the further inflammation of his base.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:26 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]



The thing I haven't seen at all: are his words--the direct declaration of his intent to thwart the will of the American people--able to be taken as treason? Can he be impeached, RIGHT NOW, for treason, if the House has the spine for it?


Because treason is explicitly defined in the US constitution:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levy-ing War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giv-ing them Aid and Comfort.

...and while Trump's statements relating to the election are awful, they don't fit this definition.
posted by Urtylug at 7:31 AM on September 24 [8 favorites]


A 'high crime or misdemeanor' is anything that the House says it is. The House can impeach the President for anything, they had lots to impeach him for last month and the month before that.

(it's not treason)
posted by BungaDunga at 7:33 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]


A 'high crime or misdemeanor' is anything that the House says it is. The House can impeach the President for anything, they had lots to impeach him for last month and the month before that.

(it's not treason)


OK, good to know. I was thinking of impeachment as a strategy to tie up the legislative system, but I suppose there's nothing that says the Senate can't confirm a Supreme Court justice during an impeachment trial either.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:36 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


Honestly I'm most worried about the worst-case scenario -- that his deplorable base manages to re-elect him.

I live in the third largest metro area in PA. Swing district, swing state (so I'm inundated with phone calls, texts, and mail. Anyone who can help me stop this would be so appreciated).

There is a confederate flag up at a house not three miles from mine.

Anywhere slightly more rural is full-on Drumpster signs. Small towns are fully dressed out in those signs. Almost like a parade. There are roadside pop-up trailers selling the banners and flags and paraphernalia.

Even on my weeknight-ride route, so within 10 miles of my house, it's lined with those blue signs. Maybe one Biden/Harris sign, but by far majority the ugly ones.

I'm really worried, you guys.
posted by Dashy at 7:46 AM on September 24 [9 favorites]


What continues to confuse me is that when people like Elizabeth Warren say ' we will fight', I don't know what the plan is. I mean, if this scenario happens (Trump takes the presidency by force or by the SC), what is the Democratic plan? Protesting doesn't seem to be having any real impact (see for reference the Louisville protests). What is the plan?
posted by bluesky43 at 7:47 AM on September 24 [6 favorites]


The Democratic leadership is going to lie down - in the end, their class interests map far better to Trump's than to the of changes that will be required, given wealth disparity, shifting demographics, etc, to keep the US a republic. This is precisely why, I suspect, Pelosi et al have been so nominally weak up to this point.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:48 AM on September 24 [12 favorites]


We all assume the Republicans in congress are Trump or die.

But what if they, or enough of them, are really Trump short sellers? As soon as the Republicans achieve their goal of owning the Judicial branch for the next 30 years there is no need for Trump.

At that point it is better for them to turn on him. They can claim they have seen the light or that they were on our side the whole time. They probably need to sacrifice (legally of course) some of the true believers to make it look good but Mitch and Lindsey will all set.
posted by graham1881 at 8:22 AM on September 24 [2 favorites]


The thing that bothers me here is that the Republicans appear to be operating on the assumption that they will win, whether fairly or by cheating, no matter what. And worse that they seem to think they can get away with cheating and the nation will go along.

There's any number of scenarios in which the Republicans could cheat that would not only give Trump the win, but possibly also overturn Senate and House elections. With a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court it seems highly likely that the Court will endorse just about anything the Republicans do.

What bothers me here is that I'm not at all convinced that the Republican leadership's sublime confidence that they can cheat and get away with it is warranted.

I'm going to make a brief historic analogy that I think is relevant, I'll keep the history to a minimum.

Back in 1905 Japan was trying to take what today is called the Lüshunkou District of the city of Dalian China, and which back then was called Port Arthur, from the Russian Empire. They had the city under siege both by land and sea, and the Russian Empire decided to break the siege by sending the Russian Baltic Fleet to do the job.

Admiral Togo caught the Russians in a very bad position and won the single most one sided naval victory in all history at the Battle of Tsushima. It forced the Russians to negotiate, and forced the Western powers to recognize Japan as a player in the great game rather than a victim.

In 1941 Japan was in what appeared to be a strong position but was really fragile and they were afraid then neutral America would intervene and knock their war gains apart before they could consolidate. They were a little desperate. In part because they remembered the way Russia had been forced to negotiate by the defeat at Tsushima, Japanese leadership decided to attack Pearl Harbor in order to try and get history to repeat itself and force America to recognize Japanese claims in East Asia.

That didn't go so well.

In 2000 the Republicans, via what was for the time breathtakingly open and audacious cheating, stole the election from Gore in large part due to a nakedly partisan Supreme Court decision, the Democrats surrendered and legitimized Bush's claim on the Presidency, and life went on. America stayed together, there was no civil war, and Bush was allowed by the people to President largely without interference.

Now it's 2020, the Republicans are in a situation that is on the surface stable and powerful but is fragile and iffy the closer you look. They're a bit desperate.

I worry that the Republican leadership is making the same mistake the Japanese leadership did in 1941 and thinking they can repeat a historic victory that was much more of a lucky one time event than a repeatable sort of event.

The combination of desperation and the memory of a vaguely similar historic victory can make otherwise rational people take foolhardy risks and bring about disaster.

Every election there's always an element of panic and people on the losing side worrying it means the end of the nation. But I don't think that's what we're looking at here. We've never before had a President openly talking about ignoring election results before.

I'm deeply concerned that America may be facing a civil war. And, if Trump steals the election and Biden concedes I'm worried we'll see a Rwandan type genocide with emboldened Republican forces killing Democrats.

Because I don't see this ending in a successful theft by Trump without civil war. Not in 2020.

What's really concerning is that at this point there's no actual path to legitimate victory for Trump. Last year, sure, you could concede it was possible he'd win fair and square. Now? No. He's already cheated too much, already spread so much FUD, that no matter how he claims victory it will be seen as inherently illegitimate by about half the country.

And, thanks to his FUD, if by some miracle Biden does win the other half of the country will see that as illegitimate.

I think a blowout Biden victory is the only chance to avoid widespread violence. With that the military would probably side with Biden, there'd only be sporadic and largely random violence from "militias" and a few rogue police departments, and the military would help restore order.

Any other outcome and I hope I'm just being pessimistic, but I don't see it ending without widespread violence.
posted by sotonohito at 8:44 AM on September 24 [23 favorites]


But what if they, or enough of them, are really Trump short sellers? As soon as the Republicans achieve their goal of owning the Judicial branch for the next 30 years there is no need for Trump.

Spineless Lindsey will bend whichever way the wind blows, but people said the same thing about abandoning the president after the tax cuts/the ACA repeal attempt/probably other things that I'm forgetting. Would this really be any different?
posted by StarkRoads at 8:56 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


Honestly I'm most worried about the worst-case scenario -- that his deplorable base manages to re-elect him.

His deplorable base is not enough. It wasn't enough in 2016, and it wasn't enough by a long shot in 2018 when we got a Democratic House. That's why Trump keeps making nakedly partisan overtures to various states, such as suddenly banning offshore drilling. And yet the numbers remain remarkably consistent, and Trump keeps acting like he's panicking over the outcome (which, let's be clear, also puts him at serious risk of prosecution once he leaves office).
posted by Gelatin at 8:58 AM on September 24 [2 favorites]


Admittedly I have only skimmed this thread in hopes of positive notes. I found few.
But how about this? Maybe this administration knows this plan is a losing game, but are hoping to trade months of fuckery for pardons for all their crimes?
posted by Glinn at 9:17 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


47 doesn't care about money

Okay, I give up. What is the 47 a reference to?
posted by JenMarie at 9:25 AM on September 24 [18 favorites]


Maybe this administration knows this plan is a losing game, but are hoping to trade months of fuckery for pardons for all their crimes?

In which case, the victorious Democrats -- who will probably have also taken the Senate, and whose Justice Department is about to become busy indeed, should respond with Michael Corelone's speech from Godfather II.
My offer is this: nothing. Not even the $20,000 for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.
posted by Gelatin at 9:32 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]


If you are feeling confused and depressed by the negative possibilities, take heart: nobody has a clue what will happen. We are so completely through the looking glass that tomorrow, alien beings could land at the UN building, and most people would just be like, "Yeah, okay, that's totally possible".

Just do what you can do to get rid of Trump.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:35 AM on September 24 [17 favorites]


Honestly I'm most worried about the worst-case scenario -- that his deplorable base manages to re-elect him.

From what is being discussed here, at this point, Trump winning the election fair and square would be the second best outcome in November...
posted by Dotty at 9:37 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


but are hoping to trade months of fuckery for pardons for all their crimes?

That's what I'm betting on. The question is, will this be wide-reaching (incluing McConnell, Nunez, Giuliani, any of the other obviously-crooked players), or just for him-and-his? If the latter, there may be complicating features to getting a deal done.

Also, (and honestly, this is the thing that worries me the most) in the end, will it matter to all the 'activated': the 3%ers and militias, the klansmen, the buggaloo boys, the uber-alles cops, and on and on - all the asshats that have been pulled out of the woodwork like fuckin' filings to a magnet: It's finally their time to shine.
posted by pseudophile at 9:37 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


I'm not quite sure what hopeless defeatism is supposed to accomplish here beardman...

The name of the thread is "Failing State," so some pessimism is probably to be expected. That said, my comment began by saying it's not impossible for Biden to win. For me, that counts for hope these days!

In seriousness, what's counterproductive is spending too much time gaming out how various things (institutional rules, party heroes) might come to the rescue, if the election results are close enough to seriously contest. If that's the outcome on election night then the Democrats will lose, slowly but surely, like stale air leaking out of a Biden-Harris balloon.

That prediction doesn't require game theory, class analysis, or diagnosing anyone's political psychology. All you have to do is look at past experience.

The lesson of this isn't "we're fucked." The lesson is that it's November 3 or never.
posted by Beardman at 9:45 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


I'm worried we'll see a Rwandan type genocide with emboldened Republican forces killing Democrats.

It's worth considering that, in Rwanda, people already knew clearly who was who in most communities and neighborhoods.

I can definitely see there being attacks against the handful of clearly identifiable Democrats (or, of course, gay people, POCs, etc.) in small towns. I think things are going to get very confusing and dangerous quickly for, say, a militia from rural North Carolina rolling up to place like Washington or even Charlotte. Perversely, I'd love to see a group of those guys walk into the middle of what many neighborhoods in DC would be prepared to hand them. They would be eaten alive.

There are also obv. a TON of militia-type organizations out there, but they remain a small % of the overall population. I'm curious also to see what role the much broader base of indifferent, politically disengaged Americans is going to play in this country-fried civil war.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:49 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


What continues to confuse me is that when people like Elizabeth Warren say ' we will fight', I don't know what the plan is.

The plan is for you to donate to their reelection campaigns.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:55 AM on September 24 [7 favorites]


Here's another question reporters should ask Trump. Trump has encouraged his supporters to vote twice.
"Mr. Trump, you have encouraged your supporters to vote by mail and then in person to make certain at least one vote counts. What will you say to them if they are arrested for voting twice?"

Trump is desperate to say that he will pardon them.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:56 AM on September 24 [2 favorites]


Let's stop calling them militias, and call them what they are: gangs. They are gangs.
posted by suelac at 10:16 AM on September 24 [35 favorites]


It's worth considering that, in Rwanda, people already knew clearly who was who in most communities and neighborhoods.

I can definitely see there being attacks against the handful of clearly identifiable Democrats (or, of course, gay people, POCs, etc.) in small towns.


Note that doxxing is one of the tactics that the hard right / white supremacist types love to use. For example, last night's post-Breanna Taylor fallout included video of a U-Haul van unloading protest signs, plywood shields and other useful standing-near-angry-police kinds of gear. Within an hour, 4chan types had doxxed out the name of the person who had rented the van, gotten her to admit to having rented it over a false-pretenses phone call, posted her picture, name and employer and accused her of being one of George Soros's field operatives.

This is not someone who was shooting at cops or encouraging violence of any kind. But in a heartbeat, she became a public figure and, thus, a target for retaliation. I expect that to become the new norm; those who stand out in any way and do not have Secret Service protection will wear (metaphorically, and hopefully only that) bulls-eyes.
posted by delfin at 10:21 AM on September 24 [7 favorites]


Way up above...

Americans have to walk out.

I dearly hope (and do my responsible best to keep on believing, in resistance to Trump-spin) that worst case scenarios will not play out.

But if Trump/Republicans were to attempt to seize power, a nation-wide general strike - an enormous effing strike - would be a strong response.

No democracy = no economy. That resistance would be of a kind and size appropriate to the problem at hand.
posted by marlys at 10:24 AM on September 24 [4 favorites]


Let's stop calling them militias, and call them what they are: gangs. They are gangs.

I don't think that really fits, either. Gangs typically claim some kind of territory and engage in economic activity. Really these people are paramilitaries, although that term is pretty antiseptic.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:28 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]


Before this year I wouldn't have worried about any sort of retaliation against Democrats but having stayed in a smaller deep red rural California town during the pandemic, I have to admit the concern had crossed my mind long ago. This town in McClintock's district with a population under 3k managed consistent, vocal and harassing anti-mask campaigns for weeks at a time. They had a roadblock set up "protecting" their vehicles. Numerous dudes were milling around in tactical gear. The level of anger and vicious shit they'd yell was really hard to wrap your mind around. Seems like the only thing keeping that from turning into a "who did you vote for?" roadblock is them having a sense that they can get away with it.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:30 AM on September 24 [4 favorites]


And we haven't really talked much lately about the damn ballot machines. This news today gave me a pucker: "Tyler Technologies, whose products are used by U.S. states and counties to share election data, said on Wednesday that an unknown party had hacked its internal systems."
posted by PhineasGage at 10:35 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]


"aspiring death squads"?

related, in re love to see a group of those guys walk into the middle of what many neighborhoods in DC would be prepared to hand them

not sure precisely what that means, but i see a lot of guys in these groups armed to the teeth with high-powered firearms and an evident disregard for whom-may-be-perceived-as-not-on-their-team, and understand most DC neighborhoods to be filled with families among whom i would not like to see a pitched firefight unfold.
posted by 20 year lurk at 10:39 AM on September 24 [14 favorites]


They will vote to replace Justice Ginsburg. Dems are not taking to the streets because they think it's pointless. As long as we allow the GOP to behave this way, they'll continue. To appoint a justice during the election who could rule on his election is blatantly, wildly unethical. We know the GOPers are shameless and don't care about what's right, and we should be loudly calling out every Republican legislator who is silent. The very idea that the President would propose what amounts to a coup should be shocking, and there should be widespread repudiation fro GOPers.

They stole Bush-Gore, and Dems were silent; why is anyone surprised they believe they can steal another election? My state's legislation is Blue, and Mainers are really honest. Sen. Collins' silence on so many abuses of power is hurting her and she is favored to lose. But why wait and see? Time to write to state legislators. Time to protest, make good trouble. This is a very bad time to be silent.

The Dems keep tut-tutting; we need to drive them to act.
posted by theora55 at 10:44 AM on September 24 [10 favorites]


related, in re love to see a group of those guys walk into the middle of what many neighborhoods in DC would be prepared to hand them

not sure precisely what that means, but i see a lot of guys in these groups armed to the teeth with high-powered firearms and an evident disregard for whom-may-be-perceived-as-not-on-their-team, and understand most DC neighborhoods to be filled with families among whom i would not like to see a pitched firefight unfold.


Yes, all talk of that sort is LARPing of the highest order. I don't know exactly how such a scenario would play out, but I doubt very much it would be good for the neighborhoods involved.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:46 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


Really these people are paramilitaries, although that term is pretty antiseptic.

"Brownshirts" has a certain ring to it
posted by BungaDunga at 11:20 AM on September 24 [12 favorites]


I think gangs is appropriate for two reasons.

First, and least important, if we call armed groups of Black people gangs then that term should apply to armed groups of white people.

Second, and much more important, cities and states have anti gang laws that coulda and should be used against the white MAGA gangs.

Remember they were threatening to put Madalena McNeil into prison for life because she bought paint. How do you get a life sentence out of that? By declaring BLM to be a gang and applying anti gang elevated charges that's how.

We need to do the the same, and worse I'd possible, to the "militias". And a start by getting as many people a possible to call them gangs.
posted by sotonohito at 11:30 AM on September 24 [17 favorites]


Dan Drezner in The Washington Post, responding to yesterday’s flurry of news: “How scared should you be about American democracy?”:
Even if one doubles [538’s projection that the election will hinge on a recount] to 10 percent, the overwhelmingly likely outcome in November is that the winner will be recognized in short order and the margin will be great enough so that none of the loser’s fulminations will matter. Of course, that is due, in no small part, to reporters like Gellman reporting on worst-case contingencies.
Still, a 10 percent chance of an illegitimate second term for Trump? That probability is sufficiently high for me to be a restless sleeper for the rest of 2020.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:31 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


>a nation-wide general strike - an enormous effing strike - would be a strong response

in the 21st century, you can still go to work and strike, just stop buying [new] stuff; limit your consumption to necessities/food
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 11:31 AM on September 24 [4 favorites]


I shouldn't have read the article.

I had a nightmare last night about going to a college for an artist residency thing, the school getting shut down because of widespread election-related violence, and being threatened at gunpoint by a Patricia McCloskey clone with spouting QAnon stuff and accusing me of being an anarchist.
posted by Foosnark at 11:38 AM on September 24 [2 favorites]


>Tyler Technologies, whose products are used by U.S. states and counties to share election data, said on Wednesday that an unknown party had hacked its internal systems.

I think the likely strategy is that whatever Team Trump is hatching, the bluster and speech of Trump himself is not the plan, it's the cover for the plan--to set up a rationale that may be used as a way to steal the election, sure, but more importantly to whip up fears and anger on all sides now, so that--as always--we pay attention to the bluster up front and not the machinations behind the curtain.

Trump's truly incendiary and unprecedented comments about not voluntarily or peacefully leaving office if he loses the election are most likely cover for whatever is really happening for Republicans to steal the election. He'll bluster about mail-in ballots and throw out all this noise now, while the real work is actually going on elsewhere; i.e., hackers working for his campaign (or Russia, or...) tunneling into voting machines and systems to alter votes, or confirmation of a Trumpist judge to the Supreme Court, or something else altogether (or all of the above). But whatever strategy is in play, I'm certain that Trump himself has not, will not and can not be entrusted to carry out any important part of it. He does the bluster and pot-stirring.

So if one looks and listens past the (very distracting) noise from Trump, and all the responses to it, what else is going on that looks like the Republican party is preparing to actually, literally steal this election? Well, that article about Tyler Technologies is certainly worrisome, and I also would love to know if any state or county election officials in any possible battleground states have received any new financial (or other) windfalls, stuff like that. If there is a plan in motion to actually steal the election, Trump is the distraction and not the primary actor; if there is an intent to "steal" the election by grabbing it through quasi-legal means and manipulation (as with the 2000 election), there won't be any concrete actions to be found beyond Trump's bluster (and maybe some sycophants who are approval-seeking, but no patterns).
posted by LooseFilter at 11:43 AM on September 24 [7 favorites]


47 doesn't care about money

Okay, I give up. What is the 47 a reference to?


Trump? I figure they meant 45, as in Trump is the 45th President.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:48 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


Trump? I figure they meant 45, as in Trump is the 45th President.

That is kind of what I thought, but since no one corrected them I was wondering if there were some deeper meaning.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:05 PM on September 24 [4 favorites]


Trump? I figure they meant 45, as in Trump is the 45th President.

That is kind of what I thought, but since no one corrected them I was wondering if there were some deeper meaning.


Okay, that's where I was at. I've heard him referred to as 45 pretty regularly but I thought there was something else going on since 47 came up a couple of times. I'll assume it's just a mistake then.
posted by JenMarie at 12:20 PM on September 24 [4 favorites]


I think the likely strategy is that whatever Team Trump is hatching, the bluster and speech of Trump himself is not the plan, it's the cover for the plan

This is one of those things where purporting that there is some kind of central organizing principle to strategies that don’t need it makes your analysis look less plausible than its parts. Voter disenfranchisement is what Republicans do, and even the possibility of voting machines being crooked is something that has been warned about for years. The local parties don’t need a plan, they know which side their bread is buttered on already and always.
posted by atoxyl at 12:29 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


LooseFilter, the article goes into this in length and the news has been full of examples: voter suppression and physical intimidation; deliberately sabotaging the USPS; disparaging mail-in votes as inherently fraudulent; discarding the popular vote altogether and offering state-presented electors; declaring victory on Election Night if there is a "red mirage" event (and very likely in any other scenario) and claiming that continuing to count votes at all is fraudulent; deploying DHS, the National Guard or the military to Democrat-run cities; invoking the Insurrection Act; riling up militias and mercenaries to go do some more stochastic terrorism; declaring votes from blue districts invalid.

There are a lot of strategies being employed! Republicans are not bothering to be subtle or sneaky about any of them. The Trump campaign advisor quoted in the article outright threatens that any potential conflict will be the fault of Democrats for... ensuring there is a fair election:

Trump’s instinct as a spectator in 2018—to stop the count—looks more like strategy this year. “There are results that come in Election Night,” a legal adviser to Trump’s national campaign, who would not agree to be quoted by name, told me. “There’s an expectation in the country that there will be winners and losers called. If the Election Night results get changed because of the ballots counted after Election Day, you have the basic ingredients for a shitstorm.”

There is no “if” about it, I said. The count is bound to change. “Yeah,” the adviser agreed, and canvassing will produce more votes for Biden than for Trump. Democrats will insist on dragging out the canvass for as long as it takes to count every vote. The resulting conflict, the adviser said, will be on their heads.

“They are asking for it,” he said. “They’re trying to maximize their electoral turnout, and they think there are no downsides to that.” He added, “There will be a count on Election Night, that count will shift over time, and the results when the final count is given will be challenged as being inaccurate, fraudulent—pick your word.


That's a legal advisor on his campaign essentially saying that the election is only valid if Republicans win, and that their plan for dealing with losses is to create as much conflict as possible and project it onto Democrats who for as long as I have been alive largely accept this kind of blame for what Republicans have done and allow it to become a cultural Narrative.

No one is prepared for this. These are not scenarios one sees in democratic countries. These are what the early stages of an authoritarian regime looks like. I am not trying to scare anyone, but I am pretty scared myself. This needs to be taken soberly and seriously.

Edward Foley's report Preparing for a Disputed Presidential Election: An Exercise in Election Risk Assessment and Management Election Risk Assessment and Management and the Transition Integrity Project's Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition are required reading right now. There are numerous ways in which things could get very bad soon. I know examining worst-cases is frowned on by site culture, but it's part of basic risk management to look at likely threats and prepare for them. As TheophileEscargot says above, the more people who have some idea of how these scenarios could unfold, the better prepared we will be to mitigate them before they spiral out of control.
posted by Lonnrot at 12:37 PM on September 24 [37 favorites]


Has Trump ever done anything competently? His response to COVID-19 was about as competent as his response to Hurricane Maria. He couldn't repeal Obamacare or get funding for a wall even with a Republican-majority Congress.

Trump's entire modus operandi is to bunt a baseball straight to the pitcher and claim it was a homerun.

Trump's attempt at a coup will be run just as incompetently. Doesn't mean there won't be disruption and bloodshed, just that I imagine that he believes he is universally loved in places where he is not. This is why he is so vindictive against the FBI. They were supposed to love him (more than a few do).

The only problem is that Trump owns quite a few of the umpires.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:57 PM on September 24 [4 favorites]


Incompetent will hobble the efforts, for sure.

But one of his main strategies since decades is to tie things up in lawsuits and endless appeals. That's ... not good for any of us.
posted by Dashy at 1:00 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


Trump's incompetence has been largely beneficial to Republicans. The response to Covid-19 - a decision to essentially exacerbate the disaster - has made the situation much more chaotic and easily gamed than it would have otherwise. Likewise, the utter lack of leadership has meant giving power to "lackeys" with malicious intent, which has resulted in weakened institutions that are more easily corruptible. As a reminder, Republicans have openly sabotaged the USPS, hijacked the NOAA and the CDC is an arm of Trumpist propaganda now.
posted by Lonnrot at 1:10 PM on September 24 [8 favorites]


Oh crap I'm sorry about the 4745 thing, total brain fart. It's just [ gestures broadly ] all this.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:37 PM on September 24 [11 favorites]


Trump's incompetence has been largely beneficial to Republicans. The response to Covid-19 ... has made the situation much more chaotic and easily gamed than it would have otherwise

Totally. The GOP always seeks to make it harder for Dem-leaning people vote. A pandemic that only your opponent's base believes in is like a gift from the gods.

Also, it's a sick irony for Biden that Trump is encouraging in-person voting during a plague, effectively playing chicken with him and betting he won't be equally reckless, since that's exactly what Biden's campaign did back in the pr*maries.
posted by Beardman at 1:44 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


Oh, I was thinking if 46 is Ivanka... Oh, never mind.
posted by PhineasGage at 1:52 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


The DOJ released a statement on nine discarded military ballots from Luzerne County, Pa. The statement had to be revised about an hour later to correct the number of ballots that were votes for Trump.

It's unusual for the DOJ to make any kind of statement on "potential issues." NPR quoted Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola Law School:
"It is the vital duty of government not to announce partial facts and 'potential issues' in pending investigations," Levitt said in an email interview. "Indeed, it's quite improper to announce the fact of an inquiry. And grotesquely improper to announce whom the ballots were cast for, as if that mattered in the investigation."

On the other hand, Levitt said, it would not be improper to investigate if local officials were refusing to set aside and count valid ballots. But it's not clear that's what happened, he added.
posted by gladly at 2:11 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


Don't forget the Trump family is making money hand over fist by being horribly corrupt.... 900k is pretty much more than I'll make in my working life, and that's just part of what we know they soaked the secret service for, as the tip of the iceberg...
posted by Jacen at 2:15 PM on September 24 [9 favorites]


Bellingcat has a new report from Robert Evans and others about how the right wing gangs are arming up, provoking incidents and targeting leftists, journalists and local politicians.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 2:29 PM on September 24 [10 favorites]




I don't know if Republican candidate for Senate Loeffler (Georgia) 's Attila the Hun ad has been posted here. She claims to be more conservative than the 5th century Attila the Hun (and you thought the GOP was aiming at the 19th century).

Attila the Hun enslaved those he captured.

Stay for the end of the commercial where it makes a light-hearted jab at killing journalists.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:45 PM on September 24 [6 favorites]


PSA: If you requested an absentee ballot, you can take your paperwork (ALL OF IT INCLUDING THE ENVELOPE) to early voting and vote via the machine. The poll worker will take your paperwork and void it all. This might help if things get chaotic with mail in voting. (at least this works in Virginia, best to check your state's rules).
posted by bluesky43 at 2:58 PM on September 24 [1 favorite]


I am in North Carolina and requested an absentee ballot months ago. It arrived in early September, and having no witness I called my local BOE. They told me to leave everything blank and come visit them. I had to sign a statement saying that I voted on that day and submitted my ballot to the BOE. They had a little booth set up and I just went to the booth with my ink pen and put it in the envelope while they watch and everyone signs and you get your sticker. It was actually a hell of a lot less painless even compared to early voting. NC uses BallotTrax and I can see online that my ballot has been accepted.

To the poster above who wants political volunteers to stop hounding them: voting seemed to do the trick. As soon as it was public knowledge that I had cast my ballot, all of the texting and phone calls stopped. I don’t know if that’s true in your state, but it seemed to be the impetus for the barrage of non-stop communication (maybe because NC is a battleground). When I was text-banking earlier this month, we were pushing people to just freakin vote. Then, please volunteer to badger other people to vote.

ETA: I probably wasn’t clear in my first paragraph - they watch at a distance while you are at the booth placing your ballot into the envelope. They aren’t up on you.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 3:23 PM on September 24 [8 favorites]


Got my ballot today. Lo and behold! Those Libertarians are on it again. Some woman named Jo and her running mate Spike.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 3:40 PM on September 24


>tip of the iceberg

controlling US policy to the extent the Trump family does should be worth billions and billions in assorted numbered bank accounts.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 4:21 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


No one is prepared for this. These are not scenarios one sees in democratic countries. These are what the early stages of an authoritarian regime looks like. I am not trying to scare anyone, but I am pretty scared myself. This needs to be taken soberly and seriously.

I agree completely, but have not commented about this specifically here at all for a few months now, because when I did make a few straight-forward comments about believing what Trump has been saying and that he clearly will not accept any election result where he loses, no matter what, they were deleted by moderators for doom-saying or catastrophizing. Which, fair enough, my comments were in their substance discussing a looming catastrophe, and it does put extra stress and strain out in conversations where we're all way too stressed and strained already, and I understood those decisions...but how do you talk about the realistic possibility of an actual brewing national emergency and even nascent civil war without doom-saying as the honest, non-hyperbolic tone? Even now, it seems most in public discourse are not ready to have serious and sober conversations about what's actually happening, and what Donald Trump will do to avoid being a loser. (For real: his entire life is about proving Fred Trump wrong, he's just a boy screaming SEE DAD I AM NOT A LOSER and there simply are not any limits to what he will do to prove his winner status to the haunting wraith of his father's memory.)

Personally, I think both things are happening: Trump's bluster is the point of the spear of social division and chaos, which is preparing the public sphere for massive voter disenfranchisement and attempts to discredit election results, so that we turn against each other. But I also think it's naive to not think that people smarter and with a lot more in the game than DJT are also running their plans, too. Whether that includes trying to steal the election outright (like, altering votes or using state legislatures to toss a state's tally) or simply helping to sow division and chaos, it's not overthinking things to understand that Trump's goals are far from the only ones in play, here. BUT, having said that, I can only do anything about the first set of things, so that's mostly what I've been paying attention to and thinking about and reacting to, so will continue to help GOTV and etc. until the election, and we'll just have to react to whatever happens then. But my expectations have definitely adjusted from "I hope there's no violence" to "I hope there's not much violence, and that it's scattered and stopped quickly" but are steadily moving to "I hope that we can salvage our democracy after this clusterfuck of an election and all of the violence that is going to follow."

I try to always keep my comments here thoughtful and at least fairly level-headed, but with this, I don't think there is a moderate position to be had. This is actually happening, we have to deal with a president who is a legitimate aspiring autocrat, and one of our two major political parties is helping him, because then they can launch and impose the theocratic state they've been lusting after for decades. I don't want any of this to be happening, but it clearly is. The more we can find ways to talk about this horror dispassionately, the better we can find effective defenses and responses to it...but, we're not robots, so.
posted by LooseFilter at 4:47 PM on September 24 [23 favorites]


the right wing gangs are arming up, provoking incidents and targeting leftists, journalists and local politicians.

The left are arming up, too. I think this is the largest wave of leftist gun owners in the US there has ever been.

Feel free to email or mefimail me if you'd like to learn how to buy a gun in California. The process is kinda annoying, but not too complicated once it's explained to you. If you live in the SF Bay Area and already own a gun, let's go out to the range sometime.
posted by ryanrs at 7:09 PM on September 24 [4 favorites]


Ooh I'm a bit late to this thread. But something similar happened in Malaysia. (my memory is a bit hazy on details and it's hard to Google this as it was all coming out on twitter in real time)

1. As votes are counted the Opposition party comes close to the number of seats required to win
2. Government imposes blackout on vote count reporting
3. After several hours a sympathizer within the central vote tallying center leaks a screenshot to the opposition showing that the opposition had indeed won
4. Opposition leader tweets that photo and declares victory without waiting for the incumbent to concede

The incumbent party had ruled continuously for 61 years and had never given up power before, so the transition of power was a bit irregular.

I can just imagine the shitshow if on election night Trump tweets a screenshot showing he won and declares victory, and says all other reports that he lost are fake news. Then Biden tweets a screenshot he won instead as proof. Oh man.
posted by xdvesper at 7:36 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


Note that doxxing is one of the tactics that the hard right / white supremacist types love to use.

And one that I really believe needs to be adopted the other direction.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:52 PM on September 24 [3 favorites]


LooseFilter, I feel you 100%. I wish this were catastrophizing but it's plainly happening. It's a question of how bad will it get and how much can be saved at this point. It really hurt my heart to make my earlier comment about letting go of the fantasy that extant laws or unspoken agreements would be able to block Trump or Republicans from simply staging a coup. I wish this wasn't where we are right now, but it is. Relying on laws or norms or Trump's incompetence to stop this is like shouting at a man waving a gun around that murder is illegal. It is, but the situation needs to be greatly deescalated before that matters.
posted by Lonnrot at 11:23 PM on September 24 [8 favorites]


I can just imagine the shitshow if on election night Trump tweets a screenshot showing he won and declares victory, and says all other reports that he lost are fake news. Then Biden tweets a screenshot he won instead as proof. Oh man.

I'd put money down that this, or something like this, will happen.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:19 AM on September 25 [4 favorites]


I've just heard a striking analogy. It's like in medieval Europe, much of the wealth was stored in monasteries and churches, and the only real defense was the fear of god. You can't rob a church, you'll be damned for all time. Then the vikings arrived. They weren't Christians, all they saw was that the loot was in these buildings defended by some monks in robes.

I imagine the Christians were confused and frightened by how anyone could just wreck a church like that. I suppose the Vikings were confused yet grateful that it was all made it so easy for them.
posted by adept256 at 3:37 AM on September 25 [31 favorites]


I'm trying to take some small measure of comfort in the fact that Colorado (which is my legal residence for overseas voting purposes) lets you return your ballot electronically and check the status online. There's a big glowing "BALLOT ACCEPTED" showing now for the one I submitted on our county clerk and recorder's ballot website...so I'm reasonably sure my vote will be counted. I think. I hope.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:55 AM on September 25 [3 favorites]


This article from CNN summarises the position really well.

I have no doubt at all that Trump will screenshot a 'win' on election night and will then go full-on with allegations of fraud.

I was talking about this with a friend this morning and, looking at this from across the Atlantic, we can both envisage this ending in a civil war in the United States. I hope I'm wrong, but the seeds are being sown - and have been for months by Trump - that anything that doesn't result in a win for him will be a fraudulent result. If Biden wins, the second amendment MAGA nutjobs might just try to settle by force what they see as an election stolen from Trump, their one true President.

Six months ago I wouldn't even have thought this might be possible, but today ...
posted by essexjan at 5:49 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Still national treasure Alexandra Petri discusses The Principled Conservatism of Attila the Hun.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:59 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


The left are arming up, too. I think this is the largest wave of leftist gun owners in the US there has ever been.

And as usual, a bunch of us can continue to be baffled that anyone thinks "more guns" is the answer to any question, while Colt & Friends loosen their belts and pull up to the trough.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:47 AM on September 25 [11 favorites]


Just wanted to resurface this link from upthread: 10 things you need to know to stop a coup.

I found this more useful than the Atlantic piece because it's laying out an actionable plan and an argument for it: most coups fail, because there is a moment when institutions all decide who to follow, and enough people take to the streets demand continuity that enough institutions fail to follow the coup leaders that the coup can't sustain itself.

So: think in advance about what red lines* you personally might consider a coup; make connections with a group of friends who can support each other in protesting; reach out to anyone you know in any institution that might find itself choosing who to follow; start stating clearly that you are concerned that the United States will face a coup between now and January and you need help in preparing to stop it; work on winning the election decisively enough for this not to matter.

* Regarding red lines, coup leaders will of course attempt to hide the crossing of the red lines as much as possible, and it might be a trap to get too caught up in semantic arguments here -- you could definitely quibble with the articulation of red lines in the article. I'm personally more energized by the activating-networks part of this strategy than the debating-scenarios part of it, unless I'm actually talking with my network about what to plan for.
posted by john hadron collider at 7:28 AM on September 25 [9 favorites]


Dems in my area are resistant to taking action about the Judicial appointment because they say it's a lost cause. Jeez, I'm sick of accepting shit.
posted by theora55 at 8:02 AM on September 25 [4 favorites]


Insofar as it would be a coup, I don't think it look much like the ones that are described in that post. Most coups fail because they're really a small group of conspirators who are easily rounded up and arrested and/or shot.

I think it would look more like a self-coup. Self-coups do fail, but they probably succeed more often than ordinary coups do.
posted by BungaDunga at 8:07 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Yeah this isnt a coup. Its a Fascist movement. Analyzing it through the coup lens will mislead us.

There isnt a small conspiracy woth lots of military power seekimg to overthrow the government. Theres a huge movement of frighteningly close to half the population seeking to distort and bend the rules in order to assure permanant minority rule.

Coup is entirely the wrong way to think of this present crisis.
posted by sotonohito at 8:12 AM on September 25 [16 favorites]


> The left are arming up, too.

To what end? (I'm presuming you don't mean just people who have recently discovered the joy of target sports.) Lefties with guns: who are you planning on shooting?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:20 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


>Coup is entirely the wrong way to think of this present crisis

Apparently the Germans did coin a term for it . . .
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:58 AM on September 25 [3 favorites]


Lefties with guns: who are you planning on shooting?

Don't have a gun but I assume it will be the right wing fascists that are gleefully planning violence. The cops are in league with them. The feds will take time to respond.

When the fabric of society starts to tear, in the moment, all the theory about rights you have means absolutely bupkis.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:08 AM on September 25 [3 favorites]


Also from 10 things you need to know to stop a coup:

7. Commit to actions that represent rule of law, stability and nonviolence.

Stopping a coup is dependent on the size of mobilizations and winning over the center. It is really a fight for legitimacy. Which voice is legitimate? Some people will have already made up their minds. The aim, then, is convincing those who are uncertain — which may be a more surprising number than you expect.

To swing them to our side, that uncertain center has to be convinced that “we” represent stability and “the coup plotters” represent hostility to the democratic norms of elections and voting.

We prevent that possibility when we dehumanize potential defectors, make sweeping statements like “the police won’t help,” never encourage people to join our side and create chaotic scenes on the street.


We also see in the leaked communications from violent militias instances where armed people with vegeful ideations have already been successfully pushed back by far larger nonviolent demonstrations. Focusing on revenge fantasies may be personally satisfying yet ultimately counterproductive.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:33 AM on September 25 [8 favorites]


ryanshepard re: Rwanda and possible right wing efforts at genocide.

Never forget that this is an ethnic conflict disguised as a partisan conflict. At heart it is white supremacists working to assure white supremacy and the elimination of non-white Americans.

How will they know who the enemy is? Simple: anyone with dark skin or any race traitors like me. Sure, sure, there's some ideological crap as a mask, but if the killing starts the mask will be taken off quickly. And then people like my Trump supporting Black brother in law will find out that his conservative "friends" and "allies" have really just been waiting for the chance to kill him ugly. Maybe a few white supremacists he personally knows and is "friends" with will refuse to take direct part in his murder, but they'll stand aside and let it happen without saying one word in his defense.

The lines will break down where they have since America was founded: white supremacists on one side, non-white people and their white allies on the other.

In a way it'll be even easier for the people seeking genocide here than it was in Rwanda, because here they've got a really obvious skin tone metric for deciding who they want to kill and they don't need to rely on neighbors knowing one another's tribes.
posted by sotonohito at 9:37 AM on September 25 [8 favorites]


Dunno, I think white nationalists are perfectly happy with other groups as long as they toe the party line of their fascism [i.e. I don't think Clarence Thomas is going to the wall upon this putative destruction of the current Republic].

Now, he does have a white wife, which might cause him problems, but maybe they've moved beyond opposing Loving vs. VA???

I see radical fundamentalist / End Times evangelical Christianity as the dominant driving force in the current insurgency (Rushdoony, etc.)

They can't square any of this with being to true to democracy, so here we are.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 10:23 AM on September 25


Dunno, I think white nationalists are perfectly happy with other groups as long as they toe the party line of their fascism [i.e. I don't think Clarence Thomas is going to the wall upon this putative destruction of the current Republic].

No. The circle of who is deemed "acceptable" is ever-closing. Other groups toeing the line might get a pass initially, and there may be high-profile examples of "good" minority members who are high-status, but it will be their turn soon enough.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:51 AM on September 25 [6 favorites]


Exactly. One of the hallmarks of fascism is that it always requires an out-group to vilify. If they run out of external out-groups, they'll find someone and something to turn on, and unless checked at some point, it'll come down to one of the last two people on earth killing or enslaving the other. It's not an ideology that has some stable end-game, it's just violence and domination all the way down.
posted by mrgoat at 12:16 PM on September 25 [6 favorites]


Take a moment to contemplate a right-wing authoritarian theocratic regime with access to everyone's porn browsing history.
posted by MrVisible at 12:19 PM on September 25


...run by Jerry Falwell, Jr.
posted by Gelatin at 12:35 PM on September 25


...first they came for the vore fetishists but I did not speak out, for I was a cuck and I knew Falwell had my back.
posted by Nelson at 1:46 PM on September 25


If you look back at Trump's life, whenever he fails, he simply claims he is winning and hangs on until he can get enough concessions from everyone else that he actually does, in the end, win. When he drove his Atlantic City casinos to bankruptcy, he somehow convinced his creditors that if they didn't give him a $250k/month allowance, he'd pull his name off the buildings and they'd never recover their money. In the end, he lost control of the Trump casinos but they kept his name on them, so John Q. Public never knew the difference. They paid him to go away and make it look like he won, all at the same time.

He's doing the exact same thing here. And with the whole of the Republican Party (disbelievers have been purged) and, by extension, the Senate and the federal court system.

Now, here's the good news: the motherfucker is failing. He's losing right now. He knows it. He's just trying to hang on until he can salvage some sort of win out of this mess. Don't let his version of reality go unchallenged. Part of the reason there are so goddamn many Trump 2020 signs out there is because he knows if it looks like he has a lot of support, people will take him more seriously.

Biden may be milquetoast, but he's what we've got right now. Buy a Biden lawn sign and put it up. Let's make those fucking Trumpster's worry about how many of us are out there. That sign will finance his campaign and, more importantly, his legal bills, which will be many come November 3rd.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 2:14 PM on September 25 [18 favorites]



...first they came for the vore fetishists but I did not speak out, for I was a cuck and I knew Falwell had my back.


Then they came on the bukkake fetishists, and I did not speak out—
Because it seemed like they were enjoying it
posted by Balna Watya at 2:34 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Also it took a few weeks to get Biden/Harris signs made and mailed out to people who ordered them after the convention; we’re not in a swing state, so ours only showed up a week and a half ago, but now they’re popping up around the neighborhood.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:30 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


HMIII > Apparently the Germans did coin a term for it ...

Machtergreifung on Wikipedia > Adolf Hitler's rise to power > Seizure of control (1931–1933). After the Nazis' violent and legally twisted power grab worked better than they hoped, their promised 1000 year millenium mallenium lasted barely 12 years. As said by William Pitt the Elder in 1770, "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it." The prerequisite greed and overconfidence needed by those who seek absolute power blinds them to failure.

In his own mind, the Imperial Donald cannot (and must not) lose the 2020 election. He dwells in confusion and doubt, and will say anything at any time — with no regard for truth or lies — to prop up his winning self image, even if he knows he’s lying to himself.
posted by cenoxo at 3:47 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


This is typical Trump bravado/posturing. Trump knows that at least a certain percentage of his support is predicated on him presenting the idea that he's a winner and by portraying the possible result that he will lose the election as clearly based upon fraud (which he's been pushing since losing the popular vote in 2016) he's saying to his fandom that "hey i can't possibly lose unless the other guys are cheating". Even admitting the possibility of loss is a risk to him because so much of his public persona is basically "always be winning".

The other aspect of this posturing is to gain leverage in case Biden wins in November. He can basically negotiate that he's going to contest the election ad infinitum unless Biden agrees that he and his family won't ever be subject to federal prosecution. Yes he can always go with the last minute resign and Pence pardon get out of jail free card which makes him immune to federal prosecution (he's fucked on state charges) but he also really wants to shut down any deep analysis of his business dealings for fear that all of the malfeasance will be revealed. I think he's also hoping that if he negotiates a deal with Biden that the various state investigations will be quietly ended.

The reality is that the possibility of a significant change in the electorate at this point is unlikely no matter how much last second pandering he's trying to do. It's not like he has a zero percent chance of narrowing the gap and making it more competitive but right now he's basically noncompetitive in Michigan and while Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are tighter than they should be if Biden wins both of those it's all over. This isn't even factoring in the other possible routes to 270 that Biden can realistically pursue. Yes Texas and Georgia are extreme long shots but the fact that Trump isn't clearly ahead in either state this close to the election means he has to devote time and resources to protecting his base of states. 2018 was already indicating a major loss of support in suburbs in most states in an off cycle election. Factor in the increasing strength of Biden among seniors and Trump has virtually no wiggle room. I think he knows his base isn't 100% secure and he needs to peel off some Biden voters (or encourage them not to vote) thus the last minute pandering. However he has virtually no ponies left to give at this point since EOs aren't going to magically pay rent for people.

The law and order appeal he tried failed, the senate investigation into Hunter Biden showed nothing of note that they could build into a "But her emails" type attack. He's not going to get a last minute Covid response bill that he can buy votes by paying unemployment or giving a stimulus check. He seems to think that the SC is a winning issue but polling isn't with him and it's seeming to energize the Democratic base just as much as it's engaging his own base. But the reality is that he can't win based solely on his base even with the fact that Biden's support is not evenly distributed geographically. He has to narrow the gap but poll after poll sees Biden at or very close to 50% in many of the key battleground states. So even if Trump gets a majority of the late deciders if Biden can hold onto his 50% he can't make up the difference.

I'm not saying that there is zero chance of Trump doing a last second come from behind but everything seems to suggest that despite the extreme chaos of the Trump presidency the proverbial cake is already baked at this point and we are just going through the motions at this point and that the likelihood of a significant October surprise is increasingly small.
posted by vuron at 4:23 PM on September 25 [7 favorites]


Biden is neck and neck with Trump in Iowa. Trump took this state by 9 points in 2016. Iowa won’t decide the election but if Trump can’t win here, he will be fucked if he tries to contest the election nationwide.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 6:48 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


2016: It's not like there will be concentration camps, calm down you hysterical lefties
2018: I don't think it's fair to call these camps "concentration camps"
2020: If they didn't want to be sterilized against their will maybe they should just have stayed at home
- classiclib3ral
posted by fragmede at 7:32 PM on September 25 [17 favorites]


Ugh, the "surprise" can't even wait until October. Uncounted ballots have already started being found. (Not going to link to the disreputable websites reporting this.) There doesn't need to be anything substantial to it, just enough so Klanma's children can feel well-informed and smug about voting for Trump again.

Who could forget about her emails back in 2016, and all zero indictment Benghazi brought forth.
posted by fragmede at 7:44 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


So they call you "Concentration Camp" Trumpf. - Joseph Tura.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:51 PM on September 25


Exactly. One of the hallmarks of fascism is that it always requires an out-group to vilify. If they run out of external out-groups, they'll find someone and something to turn on, and unless checked at some point, it'll come down to one of the last two people on earth killing or enslaving the other. It's not an ideology that has some stable end-game, it's just violence and domination all the way down.
posted by mrgoat


The ultimate nihilism, the ultimate evil.
posted by Pouteria at 9:11 PM on September 25


The far more likely scenario than a coup is that we have a hundred legal battles in the days before and shortly after the election, some of which may go to the Supreme Court but most of which will stay in state. They will happen so fast and below the radar that there will be very little time for most people to do much of anything but watch as the bigwigs deploy their chess pieces around the country. Republican-appointed judges will bend the rules as much as possible to advantage their side, from the precincts to the state supreme courts to the state legislatures, while Democrats will stick to precedent and norms whenever they get the chance to decide.

In most scenarios the vote differential -- whether Biden or Trump wins -- is big enough that all of this won't matter. But there is still a significant percentage chance -- far more than the chance of a coup -- where a few or even dozens of little legal losses, miniature Bush-v-Gores, are enough to flip results in various swing states. That's the most likely "stolen" scenario: not some coupishness from Trump, but a myriad of small cheats and biases by Republican adjudicators up and down the state systems. Whether it's a state court suddenly throwing out all the ballots of ex-felons whose debts were paid by Bloomberg in FL, or dismissing the "naked ballots" in PA, or some other legal reasoning at some other level, the most likely scenario is a set of small, fast, local legal decisions that together amount to swinging the election.

The question is, what can we -- the 99% who are not lawyers -- do about it? What can the public do to protect democracy from this form of distributed "coup by judge"?

I honestly can't think of anything except mass nonviolent movements in the street that begin before the election. The Brooks Brothers riot did work, mass movements do sway court decisions, from local to supreme, and they certainly affect the media who have such an outsized effect. But they may also encourage denunciations of equivalence, if it looks like the left is ready to deny a set of legal decisions that declare Trump the winner, and that may in turn repel sensitive swing voters. But absent mass movement, I see almost nothing any of us can do outside of the usual donations and phonebanking -- with a significant chance of another outcome like 2000 that is not a coup, just a legal and democratic travesty. Either we are going to accept a legal travesty again for the sake of the nation, or we aren't, and if not, we need to make that clear ahead of time, because if it does happen, it will likely be much quicker than in 2000.
posted by chortly at 9:59 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


To put it another way, here is the hierarchy of likelihood in the event of a contested election:

1. Trump baldly declares himself "winner". Unlikely, and probably lots of people would resist this, especially most of the elites.
2. The Department of Justice or other executive agencies issue a set of legal interpretations that affect contested votes and ballots and in turn affect the outcome. Trump is the winner and by most international standards this is still a coup, but it is legal in the sense that there are extensive legal documents justifying whatever was done, and everyone on his side and some in the middle will accept it as legal, though many on the left will decry it.
3. These sorts of legal arguments are taken up by the Supreme Court, who makes a legal decision supporting Trump, probably with better reasoning and precedent than Bush v Gore. A larger portion of the middle, possibly including Biden's team, accepts this, even though the Court minority dissent makes it clear that the legal counter-arguments were far better.
4. A variety of state-level decisions favoring Trump are made, based on state law and legal legislative maneuvering, and the Supreme Court does not take up any of the left's efforts to contest these decisions, letting them stand. A very large portion of the middle and left goes along with this, even though the individual decisions are travesties. They are still legal, and partisan-motivated law is still law.

So the question is what we can do to prepare for each of these scenarios, especially the latter, more likely ones.
posted by chortly at 10:19 PM on September 25


a few or even dozens of little legal losses, miniature Bush-v-Gores, are enough to flip results in various swing states

In my circle of friends, I have a bit of a rep as the political nerd. People ask me "what do you think will happen in November".

The quick answer I give: "Remember Florida in 2000? This year, expect four to six Floridas."
posted by gimonca at 5:38 AM on September 26 [4 favorites]


chortly I think you missed the most likely outcome: all of the above.

Trump absolutely will declare himself winner on election day, his psychology makes that all but inevitable. The Justice Department will also pull legalistic BS to proclaim Trump is winner. The Supreme Court and other Courts dominated by Mitch's appointees will make weird esoteric rulings which declare Trump is winner. AND the state level decisions will also favor Trump and declare him winner.

Ultimately either the courts will rule directly that Trump won, or throw it to the House for a contingent election, or just rule in such a way as to let enough states toss out the vote and appoint electors so that Trump wins.

Of all the outcomes, I think the contingent election one is the one that would most appeal to Trump's sadism and need to force his opponents to humble themselves. The House is controlled by the Democrats, but in a contingent election state delegations get one vote each meaning Trump will win. Forcing the Democratic controlled House to hold an election he's guaranteed to win would be a huge psychological thrill for Trump.

Plus, like Bush v Gore, it'd have just enough surface level legitimacy and obscure Founding Fathers BS that it blunts Democratic opposition.
posted by sotonohito at 5:49 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


The one thing that I haven't seen in the discussions so far, either in the big media or in narrower channels:

Let's say the election is fully deadlocked in early January 2021. The only real way out is negotiation by both sides--a repeat of Hayes-Tilden in 1876.

If you're on either side of that negotiation in January 2021....what do you ask for? What's the price of peace?
posted by gimonca at 6:13 AM on September 26


Assume it's the Republicans negotiating to let Biden be President. Which would involve throwing Trump under the bus and I'm not sure it'd happen.

If I was Mitch I'd press for a law capping the Supreme Court at nine justices and preventing any new judicial appointments for the next four years. Basically demanding that the Democrats accept their judicial supremacy and keep open any Federal judicial posts for the next Republican President to fill, and possibly also holding open Breyer's seat if he dies during Biden's term in office.

Really that's their prime goal. Once they have their 6-3 majority (which can easily become 6-2 if Breyer dies) they'll get 90% of what they want just through the courts. New taxes on the rich? Unconstitutional. LGBT rights? Unconstitutional. ACA? Unconstitutional. Roe? Overturned.

And then they get to campaign for four years to try to make everything Biden's fault so they can get a Republican in office in 2024 to fill all the delicious judicial openings.

If it's the Democrats negotiating to let Trump be President, I think they'd be suckers because the Republicans have proven they will break any and all deals. There is literally nothing I can think of that the Republicans could offer I'd believe they'd stick to.
posted by sotonohito at 6:31 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


>what do you ask for? What's the price of peace?

Thinking of this guy, beating the rush back in 2002
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 7:26 AM on September 26


I definitely think that there will be shenanigans at work during this election but it's critical to note that the federal government does not run elections each individual state does and while the Supreme Court has a little bit of say in how things go if there is a ton of confusion about things they fundamentally are limited to Constitutional questions and while Bush vs Gore set some very bad precedents there is zero indication that no matter how partisan the SCOTUS is right now that they can effectively force a state to declare a winner. They were able to end a recount in 2000 that hinged on ambiguity about "hanging chads" in an extreme close result in one state but there is very little indication that they can just say "looks like Trump is leading in Pennsylvania on November 3rd let's call it". Keep in mind even with an expedited review it takes time to even get to the SCOTUS and during that time if there are outstanding votes the various states will still be processing them. Very very few judges are going to try to do an injunction blocking vote counting.

The key to this election is to not have it remotely close. Trump will not win the popular vote (California can basically guarantee that) so he's got to use his demographic advantages in key states to keep things close enough for friendly judges to help alter any possible jump balls. While such an event is possible its improbable and Biden's campaign has about a zillion lawyers on speed dial that will be looking to negate any of these last second shenanigans.

What Trump is doing is trying to create a sense of of his election being inevitable (its not) or that it's going to be hopelessly compromised (possible but unlikely) to the point where voter turnout is kept low especially in battleground states. Republicans can win if turnout is below a certain threshold although even there it seems possible that Biden's advantages with Seniors will eat into Trump's normal advantages there. What he really needs to accomplish is to win a higher percentage of votes from PoC (thus last second pandering) and try to shore up voters in rural states (hence last second farm payments) and try to get seniors to overlook his botched handling of COVID (hence $100 gift card he can't actually deliver on). Basically he's going for the "look I'll give you a pony if you vote for me" combined with an increasingly irrelevant claim that Antifa and BLM are going to riot and burn down your business playing into his Strongman rhetoric. But poll after poll is indicating the Law and Order gimmick that Republicans pull out at the last second is failing to resonate with the "soccer mom" contingent of suburban voters. White women particularly white women with college degrees were willing to overlook his flaws in 2016 but he's not managed to actually keep them onboard.

Instead of being doom and gloom, which will almost certainly result in Democratic voters going "hey my vote won't count anyway so why not just stay home" its extremely critical to engage voters in the locales that almost certainly will be pivotal.

Yes contesting Florida, Iowa, Georgia and Texas is very useful because they force Trump to play defense. It's also important to make sure that the current list of "safe" states like Minnesota and Nevada stay safe. But realistically the core of the Biden campaign should be about hitting urban areas in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, NC and Michigan over and over to make sure turnout is high in those areas.

By my estimates Biden is at 248 (this includes Michigan which doesn't look competitive currently) currently which means he needs to lock in the final 22 electoral votes. He can do this with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania or alternatively Wisconsin + Arizona + the contested Maine and Nebraska districts. Honestly if he wins NC, Iowa, Georgia or Florida he's most likely already carried Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and those are just about running up the score. If you dig in even further the reality is that this election will really be won (or lost) in the following areas. Philly, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Madison, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Tucson and Lansing (and their suburban areas). High turn out in those urban areas combined with a higher than average turnout in any college towns in those states should negate any Trump advantage in rural areas. Yes at a national level land does vote but within an individual state increased voter turnout in urban areas particularly among PoC can negate rural bias towards Trump.

If you live in those areas or know people that do try to increase engagement. If you know students at Arizona or ASU or University or Wisconsin or UMich (or other large universities in those battleground states) encourage them to vote because they could easily be the difference in battleground states. Alternatively combat any sense of Trump inevitably winning or that the election will be fatally compromised because that will depress voter turnout. Don't get depressed about the sign advantage when you drive through Pennsyltucky because those areas are increasingly losing population and signs don't vote. Most liberal voters in urban areas don't bother putting out signs or if they do they put them out for local elections because they don't want to run into conflict with that loudmouth obnoxious neighbor who will try to bully them if they express support for Biden.

The other area where increasing voter engagement is key is Senate races. Keep in mind if Schumer gets the majority even with Manchin being a potential Lieberman in the caucus Democrats will likely have a trifecta. Even if we don't want to pull the trigger on increasing the SCOTUS we can follow FDR's lead and threaten to increase it if the SCOTUS takes an increasingly partisan stance. The conservative justices don't want to see their majority eliminated by expansion or their individual power diluted and while they will continue to chip away at the margins they will avoid trying to completely roll back the LBJ and FDR legacies.
posted by vuron at 7:38 AM on September 26 [13 favorites]


i'm sorry, the correct technique in doom panic improv is to "yes and", otherwise you interrupt the creativity
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:44 AM on September 26 [5 favorites]


Also don't buy into the right wing fantasy of civil war. Yes there are distressingly large number of White Nationalist operating with some level of impunity particularly because they've found an increasing number of allies in law enforcement but despite their massive collections of weapons their aggression is based on fear and the number of people that are actually willing to put their lives on the line for some LARP of a FPS is honestly much smaller than it appears. Push comes to shove people don't want to sacrifice what they have for some vague promise of getting more especially if getting more requires them to get shot at.

This isn't the War of Independence where Washington was fighting against a limited force of British soldiers with significant logistical issues or even a Civil War where you had two sets of states willing to fight each other. This is a small but extremely vocal and unfortunately visible set of people that actually think that a militia group can actually fight off the Army/National Guard or somehow effectively subjugate Urban areas through force of arms. This is bad fanfiction and believing it is remotely possible is a way of surrendering power to a minority that is mainly motivated by fear and the performative aspects of appearing tough, aka Toxic Masculinity.
posted by vuron at 7:54 AM on September 26 [26 favorites]


^ This is a much-needed tonic this morning, thanks.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:05 AM on September 26 [4 favorites]


It's no comfort to say that elections are run by states, not the federal government. We know. We know about places like Georgia, and North Carolina, and Texas, and Wisconsin, where the voters have been continually and blatantly overruled by the Republicans who control the government apparatuses. That's the problem with Republicans. Let them win once and they'll never lose again. They'll make sure of it. Trump's fascist foot soldiers are everywhere.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 8:44 AM on September 26 [5 favorites]


Of all the outcomes, I think the contingent election one is the one that would most appeal to Trump's sadism and need to force his opponents to humble themselves. The House is controlled by the Democrats, but in a contingent election state delegations get one vote each meaning Trump will win. Forcing the Democratic controlled House to hold an election he's guaranteed to win would be a huge psychological thrill for Trump.

I personally think the scenarios that entail contested electors and House voting are fairly unlikely (though not impossible). It would require a virtual tie with no universally declared victor to persist for weeks, which would require both a lot of very close elections in states, and that neither state legislatures nor state courts make declarations to bring things to a close, nor that the SC step in again in order to stop these processes. The contested elector scenario of course only happens if Democrats look to be winning and it's quite close, but if there is any way to swing it via state legislative or legal action prior to that, that's what they will do, so it would require a concerted effort against a large Democratic lead that involves first reducing it via the states, and then tipping it finally via the House or whatever. That requires a very specific set of dice rolls to come up which I personally see as unlikely -- far less unlikely than that it is just decided via a strong win or loss (most likely) or a series of court and legislative actions that come earlier in the fall (less likely but most likely of the "stolen" scenarios). But who knows! We should prepare for all the eventualities.
posted by chortly at 10:04 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


There are other scenarios of 'chaos' than a full Civil War. A deadlocked election where there are two sets of states answering to two competing federal administrations, each of which claims to be the legitimate one, is a situation that a lot of powerful elements in society would find intolerable. The key power players then are probably finance/business elites on one hand, and the military on the other--particularly since a divided and weakening federal government would be losing prestige and the ability to implement anything. I would see this kind of ruling-class pressure forcing the two sides in a constitutional crisis into, basically, Hayes-Tilden Version 2.
posted by gimonca at 10:10 AM on September 26


As a very long-time Minnesota resident, I'll remind people that it took nearly eight months for Al Franken to be seated as a Senator in 2008. One of the main items of contention was absentee ballots.

Some of these scenarios may seem a bit outlandish at first, but there are elements of them that are not hypothetical.
posted by gimonca at 10:17 AM on September 26 [6 favorites]


chortly I think Trump's 6-3 Supreme Court could just get the inevitable Trump lawsuit which claims there was massive widespread voting fraud and therefore the election is a fraud, then they could proudly proclaim the question was a political question and outside their sacred Originalist jurisdiction and gleefully send it to the House as they could claim the Constitution demands for times when the election is contested and the Electoral College is tainted.

The outcome would be a Trump win, which they want, coupled with them getting to pretend to be totally independent and impartial judges who take no partisan stance at all.

It'd be total and complete bullshit, probably not following the actual law at all. Just like Bush v Gore was.

The real glory of it is that it doesn't even require the election to be close, just that Trump can scream loudly enough that it was a fraud and a few Republican governors to agree. Bonus points if we can get a situation where a state lege and the governor are in opposite parties and therefore the state lege says one thing and the governor says something else, then the Court could have fun talking about how politics has tainted the election and therefore it must go to the Constitutional remedy of a contingent election.

I'm not saying it will happen, I suspect the odds are low. But I think it could happen, and I think Trump would see that as his absolute most amazing dominance show ever.
posted by sotonohito at 10:17 AM on September 26 [6 favorites]


I think sotonohito's scenario is extremely plausible.
posted by Gadarene at 10:34 AM on September 26


Yeah, I don't want to argue that anything is impossible. I'm more interested in figuring out what can be prepared for, and part of that process is assigning some rough probabilities to the different scenarios in order to allocate preparation/discussion time. But whether one thinks the scenario of the SC refusing to decide a legal dispute about ballot counting has a ~0.1% (my guess), or a ~5% likelihood, or something in between, doesn't matter as much as figuring out the basic set of likely scenarios and preparing for each.

Though again, from a public rather than legal point of view, I'm not sure there's much we can all do besides (1) try to win by a landslide, and (2) start practicing our marching muscles. I guess my main point is just to draw attention to the less dramatic scenarios -- less dramatic than 2000, let alone an electoral college contestation -- where it's decided by quick, local, legal decisions, because those would still benefit from mass protest but it might be easy to miss the window for effective protest, unlike the more dramatic scenarios that will make themselves quite known and don't require as much preparation.
posted by chortly at 10:36 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


This is a small but extremely vocal and unfortunately visible set of people that actually think that a militia group can actually fight off the Army/National Guard or somehow effectively subjugate Urban areas through force of arms. This is bad fanfiction and believing it is remotely possible is a way of surrendering power to a minority that is mainly motivated by fear and the performative aspects of appearing tough, aka Toxic Masculinity.

Yes and as Rittenhouse showed when he murdered people they are not even remotely good at it. The only reason he is alive and others are dead is that the others were not actually trying to kill him. As was he ended up on his ass firing so wildly it only his gang member's luck that kept them from also catching one of his bullets. These "militia" men are cowards and that is why they are so terrified of equality. If they came out looking for their civil war they would probably lose so humiliatingly fast they'd have to spin up some all new conspiracies theories to explain it.
posted by srboisvert at 10:45 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


And I guess a logical extension of my previous comment is that many of those local, legal decisions that may be decisive in flipping the election are actually happening right now, prior to election day, not just after it. If we think we may need to protest "four to six Florida" 2000s, then we should be protesting now too, as the courts and legislatures are deciding naked ballots in PA and felon disenfranchisement in FL and a number of similar fights in these and other states. Protesting after a court has decided or a legislature has passed a rule is almost entirely useless; it only works during the decision process. Marching for free and fair elections that allow all votes to be counted is something we can do right now, particularly at the state level, both to pressure local decisions, and to show the country that we're serious about the scale of protest such skulduggeries will unleash afterwards.
posted by chortly at 10:53 AM on September 26 [3 favorites]


Let me throw in a couple of interesting aspects of the contingent election in the House, as well:

The election would be conducted by the newly elected House, not the current one.

You have to get 26 state delegations to win, it has to be a majority of the states. If any states don't or can't cast their state vote, that doesn't reduce the 26 count.

Currently, the Republicans only have 26 state delegations under control. They can't afford to lose any.

So, this November's elections could have an impact on that hypothetical contingent election.

Two state delegations that are evenly divided, and would likely be deadlocked in a contingent election and lose their votes, are Michigan and Pennsylvania. If Democrats can pick up Michigan's 3rd or 6th, and Pennsylvania's 10th, and not lose any other seats in those states, they'd pick up two more delegations.

In addition, if Democrats win the at-large seat for Montana, that counts as an entire state delegation. Or even, if Democrats finally manage to unseat Don Young from the Alaska at-large seat, that's yet another one.

So, not out of the question that Democrats could win a contingent election, but it does depend on picking up a few key seats.

There's also a small chance that a small-state representative, say the at-large rep from North Dakota, might sit out the vote, which would reduce the Republican delegation count.

If neither party can get to 26, I'd assume that the other constitutional/statutory rules on Presidential succession would come into play, and depending on other factors, we could end up with President Mike Pence, President Kamala Harris, or President Nancy Pelosi.

(There's also the very theoretical possibility of representatives walking out to have the session fail a quorum call. However, a quorum is defined as 1/3 of the states, which mean 17 state delegations. You'd have to have 100% control of the delegations, otherwise if all the Democrats for that state walk out, they'd be conceding that delegation to the remaining Republicans who stay. Democrats are unlikely to have total control of more than about 8 or so delegations.)

My understanding of the contingent election is that if the House can't decide immediately, they could revisit the contingent election later in the term and elect a President at that time. Votes could change due to vacancies in the House, individual members could change their minds for whatever reason, or it could wait until January 2023 when a new House would be sworn in.

Finally, the candidates in the contingent election would be the top three electoral vote recipients, per the 12th Amendment. So the choices could be Biden, Trump.......and some currently unforeseen person who managed to get a vote or two from faithless electors.

Not the most likely scenario, but one to be aware of. Just in case.

So yes, if you know any Democrats in Grand Rapids, Michigan, add this to the growing pile of reasons that, for the love of all that's holy, they need to get out and vote.
posted by gimonca at 11:02 AM on September 26 [4 favorites]


Quorum in the 12th Amendment is two-thirds of states (for the House) or Senators (for the Senate), which is a higher requirement than usual and offers the possibility of a boycott being effective, which isn’t great.

The problem is that you all have to be there to count the votes in the first place, so if you try to no-show, you get outvoted up front, and they can lock you in if you try to leave after.

And, yes, in a contingent election the President and VP are elected separately, by different chambers, so you can get a split. You do need a majority of Senators to elect a VP; Pence doesn’t count.

12th Amendment on Wikipedia. If there’s no President chosen by inauguration day, the new VP acts as President. This was clarified further by the 20th Amendment: “the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified...”
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:51 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


A deadlocked election where there are two sets of states answering to two competing federal administrations, each of which claims to be the legitimate one, is a situation that a lot of powerful elements in society would find intolerable. The key power players then are probably finance/business elites on one hand, and the military on the other

The question that matters is who is issued a biscuit. It can't be both, and it certainly can't be neither. Probably the only thing worse than one man being able to launch US nukes on a whim (the current situation) is two or none. What the Constitution says probably matters less than whoever can actually dial up the National Military Command Center and be recognized as the National Command Authority, and the shibboleth for that are the Gold Codes.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:06 PM on September 26 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the correction. My math was correct, but I mistyped that phrase. Quorum is 2/3, Democrats would need to muster 1/3 for the session not to meet the quorum.
posted by gimonca at 12:25 PM on September 26


12th Amendment on Wikipedia. If there’s no President chosen by inauguration day, the new VP acts as President

No they don't? If there is no President chosen by inauguration day then there is no Vice President chosen, either. Therefore the office of Vice President is vacant as of 12PM on 20 January and under the Presidential Succession Act, the Speaker of the House acts as President.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 2:40 PM on September 26 [3 favorites]


a nation-wide general strike - an enormous effing strike - would be a strong response.

Why not the idea behind the Buycott app but instead taging the people and corporations which supported the people who got "us" here?

The day to day power people have is where they spend their money. Try to not give it to the people who then used it to create the situation that now exists.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:44 PM on September 26


The day to day power people have is where they spend their money. Try to not give it to the people who then used it to create the situation that now exists.

So, virtually all corporations. The underlying problem is structural.
posted by Gadarene at 2:52 PM on September 26 [1 favorite]


Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.
-- Ulysses S. Grant, 1864

Ceterum autem censeo Trump delenda est
posted by kirkaracha at 2:53 PM on September 26 [19 favorites]


Why Donald Trump isn’t Hitler – he poses a new threat:
The reality is that right-wing extremism mutates to fit the specificities of time and place. The United States in 2020 is not the same as Germany in 1933...

... Nazi Germany comprised two distinct and parallel states: the “normative” and the “prerogative”. The normative state consisted of the legal remnants of the Weimar Republic: its constitution, the rule of law, up to a point, and the traditional civil service. The prerogative state, by contrast, consisted of the parallel institutions of the party, where the only law was the word of the Führer and the interests of the people, as interpreted by the party... The Nazi Party had its own foreign policy office, paramilitary force and party court...

...comparisons with the 1930s misunderstand how rapidly Weimar Germany slid into totalitarianism. Dachau concentration camp opened in March 1933, two months after Hitler took power. Germany was declared a one-party state in July that year. The anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935.
Trump seems to be emulating more modern authoritarian leaders like Putin. He doesn't so far do everything Putin does, like control the entire media and assassinate opponents. But Putin uses low-grade, local officials to quietly rig elections. He uses his control of the state to hamper opponents. He uses his control of the judiciary to subvert the constitution.

This is a much slower process than Hitler's. But it can eventually leave an authoritarian leader in just as secure a position. In theory, Putin's Russia is a democracy: it has regular elections, opposition parties, a constitution and courts. But in practice all these institutions have been subverted to the point of being worthless.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:03 PM on September 26 [10 favorites]


Big Al 8000: “They paid him to go away and he made it out to be a win”
so clearly captures who he is.
posted by bjrubble at 9:18 PM on September 26


When one is reading about election fraud as a topic take note of how often the discussion talks about Bev Harris or the presentations on hacking electronic voting machines at HOPE, DEFCON or BLACKHAT conferences.

The concern about electronic fixing has existed for 2 decades with various solutions offered but how good do you feel about the auditing that is being done on the electronic machine you are voting on?

As for the Courts having sway - who actually spends time as a court watcher? The courts are one of the least observered part of the system to the point when a court room has many people the Judge will make a comment about the large number of people. If you are a solitary watcher eventually the Judge will send over the bailiff to ask you why you are there. There should be court watchers in every city with protests being declared a riot. And one should really consider having watchers in courts NOW as I'd bet if the Judges understand they are subject to observation (and judiciual conduct complaints WHEN they make a mistake) if there is going to be judicical issues with the vote they will think a bit harder about their action.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:30 PM on September 27


At my (richer, whiter) voting place we had the proper setup: electronic voting machines that both recorded your vote electronically **AND** produced a human readable paper ballot that you deposited into a locked ballot box. In the event of any worries of electronic cheating the paper ballots can be counted.

That's where I live now. In my former (poorer, less white) voting place they were the Diebold "trust us, we'd never do anything wrong of course you don't get a human readable paper ballot" machines.

Secure electronic voting is possible. It just requires a paper, human readable, ballot in addition to the electronic record. And for 40 years the voting machine people have fought tooth and nail to prevent that from happening.
posted by sotonohito at 1:17 PM on September 27 [7 favorites]


So in regard to the contingent election discussion....here we are the following Monday, and Pelosi is discussing it publicly.
posted by gimonca at 8:23 AM on September 28


Trump's election team in 2016 got intel on millions of black voters in the 2016 election that they sought to disenfranchise. The UK Channel 4 exposé will be on in about an hour and we'll find out what happened.

Meanwhile, Brad Parscale's attempt at self-harm could have been ahead of an exposé on Trump's reelection team laundering campaign money to others through Parscale's companies. I wonder if someone at the FEC tipped Parscale off that he was going to be in HUGE trouble.
posted by droplet at 9:47 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]


Pelosi is discussing it publicly

I'd think the simplest solution, if Democrats take the Senate, is to just not bother with the House vote and let Harris become President a moment after she becomes VP. Even if the Senate stays Republican, they could still do that and let Pence become President, and then not approve a new VP.

The second simplest solution is for strategically-located losing Democratic candidates (ie AK, MT) to complain to the House that their election results are invalid and for the House to judge that they actually won irrespective of any evidence. Just refusing to seat a GOP winner in AK or MT, or states with a one-seat R majority, until the conclusion of a lengthy investigation, temporarily eliminating those state delegations, would do almost as much good.

(Pelosi's letter as described by politico reads more like a fundraising letter to me than anything else)
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:08 AM on September 28


The question that matters is who is issued a biscuit. It can't be both, and it certainly can't be neither. Probably the only thing worse than one man being able to launch US nukes on a whim (the current situation) is two or none. What the Constitution says probably matters less than whoever can actually dial up the National Military Command Center and be recognized as the National Command Authority, and the shibboleth for that are the Gold Codes.

This tail will not wag the dog, we're not perched on a Cold War knife's edge where any momentary break in deterrence invites some game-theory based Soviet first strike. Not to mention that the US military is deadly enough without nukes in the equation and who's in charge of it is a problem anyway, but not one sufficient that that....what?....the Joint Chiefs will be compelled to de-facto decide the election by announcing who they'll obey?
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:19 AM on September 28


Although I guess the idea of nuclear authority devolving to Nancy Pelosi along with the rest of the interim Presidential power might cool some right wing chuds' appetite for an indefinite election dispute and interregnum.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:23 AM on September 28


I've always understood the "he can launch the nukes" to be shorthand for having control over the entire military up to and including the nukes.
posted by VTX at 11:34 AM on September 28


I mean that the military will have to pick someone to send the new Gold Codes to at noon on January 20th, and whoever that is will be the person that the military thinks is the commander-in-chief. It's a forcing mechanism- who do they deliver the football+the biscuit to?

I agree that practically speaking we aren't on a nuclear knife-edge, but someone in the military will have to decide, Jan 20: who- if anyone- physically receives the new Gold codes for that day? If it's "nobody", then it will look like a quiet military coup. Someone is going to order them to cough up the newest codes and then they will have to decide whether to obey that order, and it will happen on inauguration day.

This isn't uniquely a problem with nukes (the military has to recognize some commander in chief eventually) but it means that there's very little room for muddling through.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:45 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Barton Gellman, from the Atlantic article, warned everyone on PBS Newshour last week to vote in person, if possible (especially in a swing state), because he felt Trump would likely use the early returns to declare victory and then trash mail-in voting as fraud, in order to dismiss it before it was counted.
posted by Brian B. at 3:40 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


It's a forcing mechanism- who do they deliver the football+the biscuit to?

Nancy Pelosi gets it.

It's no different or any more of a forcing mechanism than any other question of who carries out necessary Presidential tasks without an election result. And being challenged with some kind of non-nuclear military crisis during an interregnum is vastly more likely.

The Constitutional design of Presidential succession -- predating nukes, but not war -- is that the Presidential powers devolve to the Speaker of the House. (Reasonable enough when it comes to war, given that the Framers expected wars to require Congressional approval and were not designing around a standing military maintaining a global empire.) There's no asterisk for nuclear authority.

The potential that Trump hardliners might wind up with a Nuclear Nancy through their own electoral overreach....absurd, but no more than the rest of the current reality.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:04 PM on September 28


they don't have to worry: she won't use it.
posted by 20 year lurk at 4:15 PM on September 28


I'm guessing rightwing militias plotting to kidnap a US Governor wasn't on the Atlantic's bingo cards though.
posted by Harry Caul at 10:06 AM on October 8 [7 favorites]


Err . . I'm sorry, they're apparently plotting to kidnap two US Governors.
posted by Harry Caul at 9:27 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]




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