Defending Democracy — A Collection Of Recent Writing


Photo: Kitty Axleson-Berry

A Special Edition of “From Other Sources: News And Features For And About Amherst” 

Editor’s Note: “From Other Sources” offers links to selected articles that might be of interest to Amherst readers. We will continue to provide a daily rundown of pandemic news here.  I am starting to favor in these postings, with a few exceptions, material that is not hiding behind a paywall. Hence, I have reduced my postings from journals like The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, which are doing some great reporting but make their articles inaccessible without a subscription.  On occasion, an article seems too important to not mention and in such cases I will post it and leave it for the reader to decide whether to pay for access. In this special edition of “From Other Sources,” we provide resources and background on Trump’s threats to steal the election and general commentary on the health of our democracy. Previous opinion pieces in the Indy on the impending coup can be found here, here, and here.

Start Here
The article below  by Barton Gellman is a must read. It focuses on the Trump team’s legal strategy to have the election decided by the Supreme Court.  This is not a conspiracy theory.  Trump has been boasting for over a month that the courts will decide the outcome of the November election  and has indicated that he believes his latest appointment to the Supreme Court, Amy Covid Barrett, could swing the election in his favor. It sounds like a plan for a coup to me.

The Election That Could Break America by Barton Gellman (9/23/20)
There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections — scholars, lawyers, and political strategists — who find themselves in the kind of 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. (The Atlantic)

Other Readings
Trump Has Launched A Three Pronged Attack On The Election by Lawrence Tribe, Jennifer Taub, and Joshua Geltzer (8/7/20). Trump’s attack on voting by mail has several fronts, but one is by far the most serious: his attempt to slow down mail service, perhaps in a targeted way, while also insisting that only ballots counted on November 3 are valid. In addition to casting doubt on the entire election, another purpose of this scheme is to engineer a scenario in which Trump can pressure Republican-controlled legislatures to ignore the popular vote in their Democratic-leaning swing state (think Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) and instead select an Electoral College slate that supports him. Trump’s attempt to cut short the counting of valid votes is flatly contrary to constitutional law and federal statutes. Even so, states can and should do more to protect American’s mailed-in votes. States should immediately enact new legislation or take other legal steps clarifying that they intend for Congress to honor electors they choose, and that they may need a bit of time to finalize choosing them—ideally doing so by December 23 and no later than January 6, 2021, when Congress meets in special session to certify the election results. Through state-level action, Trump’s efforts can be neutralized. (The Atlantic)

Last Exit Before Autocracy: An Interview With Masha Gessen by Anand Giridharadas (10/27/20). A conversation with Masha Gessen on how to prevent “autocratic breakthrough,” why Russiagate was a “crutch” for the left, and what really happened in that New Yorker election s(t)imulation Zoom (The.Ink

Arm Wrestling With Authoritarianism: The Homestretch. An Interview With Sarah Kendzior by Kelly Hayes (10/26/30). So what should we expect during this home stretch? And what will November 3rd look like during this tumultuous time? Today’s guest is my friend Sarah Kendzior. Sarah is an American journalist, anthropologist, scholar and author of the book Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America — and her analysis of authoritarianism is absolutely invaluable in these times. Sarah Kendzior, welcome back to the show. (Truthout)

If the Supreme Court Decides The Election It Will Likely All Come Down To Brett Kavanaugh by Ian Millhiser (10/30/20). Here’s how grim the future of voting rights looks for both large-D Democrats and small-d democrats: the pivotal vote on the Supreme Court — the justice who is likely to decide all closely divided voting rights disputes in the near future — is Brett Kavanaugh. Brett Kavanaugh, who worked on the Republican legal team that convinced the Supreme Court to hand a presidential election to the GOP in Bush v. Gore (2000). (Vox)

Here’s How Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Could Steal The Election And Why It Probably Won’t by Jay Michaelson (10/30/20). What’s going to happen next week? Is the Trump-stacked Supreme Court going to hand this election to the Republicans? Is democracy doomed? Here’s my sophisticated, Yale-JD-Supreme Court columnist expert assessment: Probably not. But maybe. But I doubt it. Let’s game out the possibilities—four of them, to be precise. ( The Daily Beast)

In Pennsylvania, Republicans Might Only Need To Stall To Win by Eliza Griswold (10/29/20). Trump has been laying the groundwork for questioning the election results for months. He has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power, and made unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, especially among mail-in ballots. Much of his rhetoric has focused on Pennsylvania. On September 26th, Trump held a rally at the airport in Harrisburg, where he claimed that there was rampant fraud in the state, noting that nine ballots cast for him had ended up in a trash can in Luzerne County. “The only way they can win Pennsylvania, frankly, is to cheat on the ballots,” Trump said. “Keep your eyes open if you see any shenanigans, which you probably will.” (The New Yorker)

Trump May Try To Steal The Election. Americans May Have To Take To The Streets by Sean Illing (10/30/20). An expert on nonviolent civil resistance talks about when protests work, how they work, and when they become necessary. (Vox

Social Defense Against the Impending Trump Coup by Jeremy Brecher, no date). Tyrannical regimes from Serbia to the Philippines to Brazil and many other places have been brought down by “people power” — nonviolent revolts that made society ungovernable and led to regime change. While the U.S. has a strong tradition of social movements based on people power, it does not have a tradition of using mass action and general strikes for the defense of democracy. However, in other countries where democratic institutions have been so weakened or eliminated that they provide no alternative to tyranny, such methods have emerged and been used effectively. (Labor4sustainability)

A Citizen’s Guide To Defending The Election by Anne Applebaum (10/6/20). But these are not normal times. The coronavirus pandemic—which has killed more than 200,000 Americans and sickened millions, including President Donald Trump—has made many voters anxious about going to the polls on November 3. The pandemic has also created new opportunities for Trump and his allies to subvert the election. The warning signs are multiplying: If Trump gets his way, the presidential election on November 3 will not be free and fair. My Atlantic colleague Barton Gellman has laid out an entirely plausible scenario, one in which Trump challenges the validity of mail-in ballots, more numerous this year, and persuades state legislatures to overrule them, imposing an undemocratic result. He reported that Republican Party officials are preparing for this outcome. (The Atlantic)

Short Of A General Strike, How Can Labor Stop Trump From Stealing The Election. Lessons From Chile’s Uprising And The 2000 Recount. by Jane McAlevey (1(10/30/20). There has been a lot of social media chatter about a general strike here in the United States if the results are ambiguous and Trump tries to steal the election. It would be amazing if national trade unions here were prepared to take the same actions in November 2020 that Chile’s national unions took in November 2019—but there’s absolutely no indication that people in positions of power in significant sectors of the US economy are ready to act as boldly as Chilean leaders did. Even if a presidential coup warrants a general strike, achieving one as early as next week is wishful thinking. As a campaign strategist, union organizer, and veteran of both the 2000 Florida recount and many supermajority workplace strikes, I believe it is urgent to remain deadly serious and sober about the actual possibilities when it comes to defending what’s left of our modicum of democracy. (The Nation)

Unions Discuss General Strike If Trump Refuses To Accept Biden Victory by Steve Greenhouse 10/30/20. US unions have begun discussing the idea of a general strike if Donald Trump refuses to accept an election result showing a Joe Biden victory. Such a move would be unprecedented in the modern era. There has not been a general strike in the United States since 1946 – and that was restricted to Oakland, California. The local labor federation in Rochester, New York, was the first union group to officially support the idea. Union federations in Seattle and in western Massachusetts have followed suit, approving resolutions saying a general strike should be considered if Trump seeks to subvert the election outcome. (The Guardian)

10 Things You Need To Know About How To Stop A Coup by Daniel Hunter 10/18/20. These guidelines are drawn from the wide body of experience and evidence from the many countries that have experienced a coup since World War II. You can read some fuller case studies from Choose Democracy or a longer evidence-based handbook for this moment from “Hold the Line: A Guide to Defending Democracy.” (Waging Nonviolence)

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