Who Americans must become to stop the coming upheaval
The Postponed is a daily dispatch during the post-electoral purgatory between the results and the inauguration
Okay so yesterday, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo basically confirmed that the Republican Party is preparing for a “smooth transition into Trump’s second term,” delegitimize the election and stage an upheaval of the “democratic process.” Democrats have largely remained mum on the topic outside of laughter and silly high school hijinks. For instance, while talking to CNN yesterday, Senator Chris Coons bragged about how members of the GOP “Bluntly … they call me to say, ‘Congratulations, please convey my well wishes to the president-elect — but I can’t say that publicly yet,’” Coons said. Some are skeptical this is really happening — giggling at the profound loserishness of it all — and others are very damn sure it’s happening. Of all people, Democrats should be the least surprised by this and not just because Trump has been signaling it for the last few months. Pompeo said it himself, “It took us 37 plus days in an election in 2000, conducted a successful transition then.” So, yeah, nah, this has been happening, staggeringly consistently, for almost thirty years. This is what Republicans do.
Before the election, Fareed Zakaria laid out the very constitutional way that the Trump will both extend this process, challenging the validity of mail-in ballots (which he’s already done), twisting swing states in lawsuits and court appeals (which he’s already done) and force individual electors in the House to decide the next President.
Zakaria couldn’t account for the Democrats edging out a narrow win in the House, making that timeline of fraud a little more complicated. But the fact remains, Trump is going to fight tooth and nail to maintain power and avoid the legal drama that awaits him once he loses. But Zakaria also notes that it’s very simple to see what the Republicans are planning because they’ve done this so many times. The last stat Zakaria drops is harrowing especially considering how much meaning and energy we place into the symbolic power of voting: the GOP has held office for half of the last 28 years of the Presidency and have only won the popular vote one single time — in 2004 following 9/11. Every other time they’ve relied on the non-democratic, racist institution of the electoral to sway political leadership.
So much of this battle feels like it’s out of the hands of The People. We are so remarkably exhausted by 2020’s constant fight with covid, uninterested and uninteresting leaders, and a collective, perpetual state of grief. There seems to be a sort of resignation whether because some folks do not believe a “coup” is too inept to make a “coup” possible (this language feels off to me because, as we’ve laid out, this has happened so many times before), or because they ultimately believe in the power of their vote. And I suppose there is power in having numbers attached to one’ ideology but we know that numbers are fungible. Votes have proven vapid in the past.
But there are still ways we can press on this government to stand by what The People say they want. The last four years, the messaging from the DNC has amounted, quite banally to, “Anyone but Trump.” But that is not an ideology strong enough to combat fascism. It isn’t an ideology that extends into action beyond one man in one administration. But we do need tactics as folks fighting for liberation during a time of what political scientists would call a “self-coup.” George Lakey, a sociologist and activist, talked to the New Yorker yesterday about a few tactics that have helped citizens stave off tyrannical coups in the past. Coups happen very quickly and, as Lakey notes, it takes new approaches: “The average American needs a new skill set.”
The first thing he notes is that there is “no cutting a deal with Trump…Every vote must be counted” No shortcuts, no half-measures, no band aids. For activists it’s important, he writes, to build alliances among different industries and interests. “We are not as polarized as we can become.”
I thought that quote was fascinating because there is a sense that we all want different things in the world. And to some degree that is true. But we also know that capital and capitalism is built on these perceived separations of personhoods and values. If people are trying to stave off the upheaval, according to Lakey, a practical approach to centrists is crucial. He argues that their omnipresence in every industry from the bottom up means they are reachable and probably aren’t feeling too hot about the whole right wing extremist takeover thing. I’m a bit more dubious on the potential of coalition building from Centrists but I’m trying to come to grips with the ideas of temporary alliances for people who are attempting to go that route.
There are so many roads people may trudge down to influence how we’re thinking about Trump’s antics. The Pumpkin will need support from so many different institutions (Lakey calls them “pillars” under the current regime): Business, Politicians, Military, Media, Judiciary, Police, and Bureaucracies that must be all working toward cutting ties from the administration. Activists, thinkers, businessfolk, veterans, court officials, media workers, trade unions and teachers, all must be working within their own spaces to ensure the government is held accountable to the will of the people. If this is the people’s will.
While I do think it’s a bit narrow to strategize around one villain, putting people on game about how to organize and build ideology in their own realms of influence is necessary in sustaining mass movement. When we recognize that our government isn’t representing us — whether that person is rockin with the donkeys or the elephants — having a bevy of political strategies to demand change makes it all the more likely that it will come. The hope derived from working directly with radical people who are rethinking the world will keep our spirits up. Luckily, the educating and strategizing around the possibility of another stolen election have been happening consistently for the passed few months. The will of the people is once again being challenged by those meant to articulate and stand in for it. Who will bend first?