Photo: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald
On the eve of Election Day here in the U.S., I share the perspectives and insights of three commentators on what many believe is the most important election in modern American history. And people know this, which explains why as of yesterday, 94 million Americans have voted early. According to ElectProject.org, this represents 73 percent of the total votes cast in the 2016 general election. With this in mind, I think what the commentators I highlight today have to say, though different in focus and approach, is what we all need to hear right now.
His use of colorful language aside, the first commentator, Joshua Ellis, provides an excellent overview of where we’re currently at politically, and how we got here. Ellis is a recently expatriated U.S. citizen who clearly has a way with words and a willingness to speak some hard truths – especially to liberals who don’t always want to connect the dots. In this regard, he’s like a potty-mouthed Marianne Williamson!
The second commentator whose insightful words I share is Heather Cox Richardson, political historian and the author of the book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America. She also regularly publishes a dispatch via Facebook in which she “uses facts and history to make observations about contemporary American politics.” What I share today is from her October 31 dispatch, later published as an article at BillMoyers.com.
Lastly, I share the critically important warning by legal scholar Richard L. Hasen on how Trump and his Republican enablers are planning to prematurely declare victory tomorrow night. Yet I also share Hasen's common sense advice on why and how we can and must resist any such declaration.
Four years ago we learned that 63 million Americans were credulous morons and absolute bastards. In a few days, we find out how many of them have graduated to full Mentally Defective Nazi status.
As for Trump himself, it’s obvious that his mind is going and I hope he’s aware of every single moment of it and feels trapped in a brain that’s rapidly crumbling apart. God, I enjoy imagining that, almost as much as I enjoy imagining the looks on his cult’s faces if he loses. . . . I say "if he loses" because I don’t think that’s inevitable. And I think there is zero chance that he will accept a loss if he does lose. I think he’s constitutionally incapable (pun intended) of losing gracefully. And I think he knows that if he does, his twilight years will be spent as some mob accountant's prison bitch in Danbury or some other federal pen.
I think because of this, America is possibly, maybe probably, a few weeks out from some degree of civil war. I think that unless the entirety of the legislative body gets swept out from under the Republicans in a landslide, sectarian violence is probably inevitable now.
A lot of you wonder how we got so divided. That’s frankly a stupid question to ask. America has always been a place of deep divisions. But for most of its history, it was a given that straight white rich people, mostly men, were allowed to dictate terms to everyone else. You’re not seeing new divisions. You’re seeing the end of the idea that white supremacist conservative Christian patriarchy is "normal." You’re seeing people standing up for themselves, many for the first time in history. You’re seeing black folks and Hispanic folks and women and gay and trans folks drawing a line in the sand and saying: no further. You’re seeing people wake up to the idea that free market capitalism is actually a pretty shitty basis for an advanced society. You’re seeing people realize that police who pretend they’re an occupying military presence instead of peace keepers is a really shitty idea in an advanced society.
This seems to have driven a lot of Americans crazy, but they were always crazy, really: it’s just that nobody questioned their craziness until now. Nobody looked at the idea that white Christian men deserved to make all the rules in their favor. . . . Nobody looked at the idea that the rich deserved to own almost everything and control politics and said, "Well, that’s just horrific nonsense." Nobody looked at cops murdering black children and said, "These guys should be held accountable for being either completely cowardly fuck-ups or actual Nazis or both."
Well, that’s not true. People did see and say these things. And America mostly ignored them or shut them up forcibly or killed them.
I have very little sympathy for the people who are frightened in America of no longer being in control by default, or who just wish we could all get along. That’s not what you mean. You mean you want America to go back to where the blacks didn’t get uppity about racism and the gays were gay behind closed doors and the Hispanics just did the work you’re too lazy to do for whatever pennies you decided to pay them and were happy to be deported whenever you forgot that your entire economy uses them as the next best thing to slave labor.
So, you know, fuck you and your longing for a time when we all got along, because all that means is you want things to be shitty for everybody but you.
So I suspect that atavistic ignorant bullshit is about to make things shitty for everybody. Maybe for a few weeks, maybe for a few years. But these bastards aren’t giving up the whip without a fight. They’re used to the feel of it in their hands. And sadly, they have very little in the way of opposition within the system.
What they mostly face in the halls of power are gerontocrats who issue press releases with no teeth to bite, who are just as unwilling to see the writing on the wall as their adversaries. The fact that they're not bloodthirsty bigots does not make them righteous heroes. It merely makes them people with a baseline of human civility.
And that’s why this is almost certainly going to get ugly – because as long as the Democrats are still playing party games and chess, they are useless and more than useless, because the opposition isn’t playing chess. And they're going to stomp on all the limousine liberals and Prozac progressives who still can’t quite comprehend that not only have the rules changed, but the very game itself isn't the one they’re playing. And again, I have very little sympathy, because most of them have been working off the same bad assumptions as the right wingers. Nancy Pelosi cannot imagine an America where neoliberal capitalism with its horseshit ideals of "markets as democracy" isn’t the default. Joe Biden cannot imagine an America where we stop giving armies and cops unlimited budgets and instead focus on making the world better for people instead of threatening them for behaving reasonably when the system fucks them. They still cling to ideas of what’s reasonable that are no longer so, if they ever were, and to a party politics of point scoring and counting coups that is as useless in the 21st century as trepanning or musket warfare.
That’s on them, but it’s on you too, Americans. You keep voting for these bad ideas because they’re also your bad ideas. So don’t look so shocked when your bad ideas have led you to calamity. You bear the responsibility for this, whether you want to believe it or not. You allowed this to happen because most of you, deep down, still think someday you’re gonna be allowed into the rarified halls of true power rather than realizing your best bet is to tear down those halls and put the power where it belongs: in the hands of the people. And that means ALL the people, not just the ones who look like you or fuck like you or believe in whatever God you believe in. That means an America where a gay black atheist or a trans Muslim or a Catholic from Jalisco who busts ass in the fields every day has the same rights as any white Baptist or Wall Street stockbroker.
Until you see that, and see that it’s better to give power away than horde it for yourself – whether it’s political, cultural, or economic – America will always be a step away from civil war, and as awful as that will probably be, you can’t say nobody told you it was coming or how to avoid it. But maybe if America hits rock bottom this time, she will make an honest inventory of herself and her addictions to bigotry and greed and selfishness and childish ideas of freedom without responsibility. And maybe she can start to work towards a brighter, better, smarter future.
Until then, I’d batten down the goddamn hatches if I were you. They say you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but that’s clearly not true. So I’m your weatherman, and I’m reporting to you from outside the disaster area, here in gray damp England, because I knew which way the wind was blowing. Believe me or not, it’s up to you. But I’m not coming back until you get your shit together.
– Joshua Ellis
October 16, 2020
October 16, 2020
Lots of us are exhausted and discouraged, and after the chaos of the past four years, it seems entirely fair to be exhausted. As civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer said, we’re “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
But on this night of calm before the storm, I am the opposite of discouraged.
I am excited about our democracy and our future.
Our nation faces headwinds, for sure. We simply must get the coronavirus pandemic under control, and then address the extremes of wealth and poverty in this country. Fixing healthcare, systemic racism and sexism, climate change, and education all must be on the table as we move firmly into the twenty-first century. It sounds like a daunting list, but after years of apathy while a few wealthy Americans tightened their grip on the nation, Americans have woken up to the fact that democracy is not a spectator sport.
We are taking back our country, and once we have done so, we will find that no problem is insurmountable.
Democracy is rising. It might not win on Tuesday – no jinxing here! – but if not then, the week after that, or the month after, or the year after. After more than thirty years studying our country’s history, I have come to believe in American democracy with an almost religious faith.
And then, with our country free again, the future looks wildly exciting, full of different voices, races, abilities, religions, foods, gender identities, books, ideas, inventions, music, clothing, political identities, perspectives. In the past, when we have come through a period in which a small group of Americans has taken control of our society and ordinary Americans have taken it back, industry, art, science, and civil rights have blossomed. For my part, I don’t expect to like everything that happens in such a fertile world, but I do expect to learn, and grow, and feel privileged to watch the construction of a world that reflects our people at their best.
I know it’s frightening to hear the stories of Republican leaders trying to get ballots thrown out, and right-wing thugs intimidating Biden voters, and so on. But that Republicans feel the need to engage in such tactics despite their ongoing voter suppression and gerrymandering is a tell-tale sign that they know their party has lost any hope of winning a majority of voters, and that the only way they can win an election is to cheat.
That strategy is not sustainable.
– Heather Cox Richardson
Excerpted from “This Night of Calm Before the Storm”
November 1, 2020
Excerpted from “This Night of Calm Before the Storm”
November 1, 2020
With Joe Biden ahead in the polls, the Trump end playbook has become increasingly clear: attack the counting of ballots after election night – even if they’ve arrived by Election Day – and prematurely declare victory if Trump is ahead – or possibly even close – in the early count. Indeed, Axios reported on Sunday that “President Trump has told confidants he’ll declare victory on Tuesday night if it looks like he’s ‘ahead,’ according to three sources familiar with his private comments.” This is largely in line with Republican lawsuits this election season, including a request over the weekend by Texas Republicans for a federal judge to throw out more than 100,000 ballots, which is likely to fail. Any such effort to continue this ploy after election night would be a disgusting attempted coup to try to stop the counting and manipulate public opinion, but the good news is it is also very unlikely to work.
Let’s start with the counting of ballots. While there has been some dispute about whether state courts such as Pennsylvania’s and Minnesota’s had authority to extend the deadline for receipt of mail ballots that arrive after Election Day (a practice allowed in a fair number of states), there has never been any basis to claim that a ballot arriving on time cannot be counted if officials cannot finish their count on election night.
Indeed, such a claim is preposterous because no state fully counts their ballots on election night. Returns are unofficial and always contain errors. Many states allow military ballots to arrive for days after Election Day. Counting generally continues for days and weeks after Election Day, and results are not certified until weeks after. When it comes to the president, the presidential electors do not cast their official ballots until Dec. 14, and Congress does not count their votes until Jan. 6. This calendar leaves plenty of time to get the counting done.
That’s what makes the Trump campaign efforts to cast doubts on even the counting of ballots after Election Day, even of military ballots, so unprecedented. As Slate’s Will Saletan noted, Trump adviser Jason Miller, speaking on ABC News’ This Week, signaled a legal battle against ballots not yet counted by Tuesday. “If you speak with many smart Democrats, they believe that President Trump will be ahead on election night,” Miller said. “And then they’re going to try to steal it back after the election.” Counting legitimate ballots is not stealing or flipping the election, and no amount of spin can make it otherwise. But this is part of a broader strategy of Trump, also signaled to Axios, to prematurely declare victory based upon partial vote totals. . . . Trump’s blatant telegraphing of this strategy through leaks to Axios is a blessing in disguise. The public is now going to be hearing from the media about Trump’s plans over the next few days and learn more about why election night vote totals are not likely to reflect the final results if the election is close.
The strategy is not going to work. The networks and news organizations are prepared for this, and Americans have learned to discount anything the president says. Most are inoculated against his lies about voting. And assuming there are no major foul-ups in how the rest of Election Day voting goes, it is hard to imagine any legal strategy that will lead courts to order a halt to the counting of ballots that have arrived before Election Day (even if there could still be litigation over late-arriving ballots). So far, all of the Trump and Republican suits aimed at stopping the easing of voting rules during the pandemic on grounds of a risk of fraud have failed miserably, and any postelection attempt on these grounds should fail too.
The mantra for the next few days is: Count all the ballots arriving legally under state law. Ignore premature victory statements. Take a deep breath.
– Richard L. Hasen
Excerpted from “Trump Can’t Just 'Declare Victory'”
November 1, 2020
Excerpted from “Trump Can’t Just 'Declare Victory'”
November 1, 2020
Related Off-site Links
Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst: Why We Must Be Ready to Protect the Vote – Leah Greenberg and Sean Eldridge (Talking Points Memo via Common Dreams, October 30, 2020).
A Few Days Away From November 3, Another Week of Trumpian Havoc – Michael Winship (Common Dreams, October 31, 2020).
Democrats Led Early Voting After Trump's Attacks on Mail-In Ballots. Now Trump Needs to Dominate Election Day – Joey Garrison (USA Today, November 1, 2020).
Make This Election About Care – Elaine Shelly (Other Words, October 28, 2020).
Count on the National Popular Vote, Not the Electoral College – Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan (Democracy Now!, October 29, 2020).
Youth Activists Are Transforming the Election by Leading Protesters to the Polls – Leanna First-Arai (TruthOut, October 31, 2020).
Trump’s Failed State – Karen Greenberg (TomDispatch.com via Common Dreams, October 29, 2020).
Amnesty Condemns Trump for Praising Mob That Harassed Biden Campaign Bus – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams via TruthOut, November 2, 2020).
Trump Says 'Hopefully' States Won't Be Allowed to Count Ballots After Election Day, Which Is a Normal Part of the Electoral Process – John Haltiwanger (Business Insider, October 28, 2020).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• Eight Leading Progressive Voices on Why They're Voting for Biden
• Chadwick Boseman’s Timeless Message to Young Voters: “You Can Turn Our Nation Around”
• Heather Cox Richardson on the Unravelling of President Trump
• Progressive Perspectives on Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee, Amy Coney Barrett
• The Sad Fate for Amy Coney Barrett
• Deep Gratitude
• My Summer of Supporting Progressive Down-Ballot Candidates
• Progressive Perspectives on the Biden-Harris Ticket
Image: A woman walks by voting posters displayed in windows of the Portland Public Library. The posters were created by graphic design and printmaking students at the Maine College of Art. (Photo: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald.)