From a Zoom call to a Times Op-Ed, I believe we are at the precipice of the day/days of reckoning!
Last night, on my regular Thursday Zoom call with a group of my closest friends from Marin County, California, my former home, the conversation focussed almost entirely on the election. While we spent a good part of the call talking about what’s going to happen in the Upper Mid-West battleground states, how Florida will end up – are Hispanics really leaning towards Trump? – the bulk of the conversation revolved around Election Day itself and the aftermath.
What’s going to happen? Will right-wing bullies show up at polling stations with the goal of intimidating voters? How will Trump and his team react to the results? Will a Biden landslide head off Trump-induced catastrophic protests and rioting? Will razor thin results in Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and/or Michigan cause calls for ending vote counting (from the Trump side, if he’s ahead) or keep counting (from either side depending on whether they’re ahead or behind)? Will Election Day and the following days (or weeks) provide no definitive answer? Will this “most consequential election in our lives” end up being decided by the the six conservative Supreme Court justices, not the people (or more accurately, the Electoral College)?
Finally, one of the participants said, “I’m too old, but what should we do? Should we go out and protest? Should we finally say, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore?'”
I responded that I’ve been thinking about this a lot; that I’m finally at the point where I’m willing and able to go out to wherever to join in the protests, to, in “Les Miserables” terms, “man the barricades.”
When another “Zoomer” said, “I’ve never bought a gun, perhaps it’s time.”
“No wait,” said another, the voice of reason, “no guns, no ammo, if this is going to happen, it needs to be peaceful, we need to be responsible.”
After a pause and some reflection, the conversation turned to the more conventional: “So, what shows are you watching? What books have you read?” Then we adjourned until next week, our first post-Election Day Zoom call.
When I awoke this morning I found this New York Times story in my inbox: “The Day After Election Day” by journalist Ron Susskind.
Susskind sub-heads his story, “Current and former Trump administration officials are worried about what might happen on Nov. 4.”
As you can imagine, the story did not make me feel good about what I’m calling “The Aftermath.” I encourage you to read the story in its entirety (unless you want to have a pleasant day).
Susskind spends most of the first half of his essay putting “meat on the bones” about what we already know of Trump. How? As he writes about the insiders he spoke with: “You don’t know Donald Trump like we do.”
“That guy you saw in the debate, (the first debate) when the president offered one of the most astonishing performances of any leader in modern American history — bullying, ridiculing, manic, boasting, fabricating, relentlessly interrupting and talking over his opponent. That’s really him. Not the myth that’s been created. That’s Trump.”
“He has done nothing else that’s a constant, except for acting in his own interest. And that’s how he’s going to be thinking, every step of the way, come Nov. 3.”
Susskind learns, first hand, and with details:
- “Trump was all but un-briefable.”
- “He couldn’t seem to take in complex information about policy choices and consequences.”
- “He’d switch subjects, go on crazy tangents, abuse and humiliate people, cut them off mid-sentence. “
- “In the middle of a briefing, Mr. Trump would turn away and grab the phone. Sometimes the call would go to Fox television hosts like Sean Hannity or Lou Dobbs.”
- “Staffers would ask an array of people — some Trump friends, some members of Congress, assorted notables — to call Mr. Trump and talk to him about key issues, comparing the technique to the manipulations of ‘The Truman Show,’ in which the main character, played by Jim Carrey, does not know that his entire life is being orchestrated by a TV producer.”
There’s more, including details of the frustrations of Trump’s “generals,” particularly Mattis and Kelly.
But that’s all about the past, the facts and the Trump behaviors that will inform November 3, November 4 and God knows how much further into the future.
But how about that future? Some excerpts:
“‘Nov. 4 will be a day,’ said one of the former senior intelligence officials, ‘when he’ll want to match word with deed.’ Key officials in several parts of the government told me how they thought the progression from the 3rd to the 4th might go down.
“They are loath to give up too many precise details, but it’s not hard to speculate from what we already know. Disruption would most likely begin on Election Day morning somewhere on the East Coast, where polls open first. Miami and Philadelphia (already convulsed this week after another police shooting), in big swing states, would be likely locations. It could be anything, maybe violent, maybe not, started by anyone, or something planned and executed by any number of organizations, almost all of them on the right fringe, many adoring of Mr. Trump. The options are vast and test the imagination. Activists could stage protests at a few of the more crowded polling places and draw those in long lines into conflict.
“A group could just directly attack a polling place, injuring poll workers of both parties, and creating a powerful visual — an American polling place in flames, like the ballot box in Massachusetts that was burned earlier this week — that would immediately circle the globe. Some enthusiasts may simply enter the area around a polling location to root out voter fraud — as the president has directed his supporters to do — taking advantage of a 2018 court ruling that allows the Republican National Committee to pursue “ballot security” operations without court approval.
“Under the 12th Amendment, which Mr. Trump has alluded to on several occasions, the inability to determine a clear winner in the presidential election brings the final decision to the House of Representatives. The current composition of the House, in which Republicans control more state delegations even though Democrats are in the majority, favors Trump. But the state count could flip to the Democrats with this election.”
And about those peaceful protests that I’m now willing to participate in? Susskind’s insiders tell him:
“If the streets then fill with outraged people, he (Trump) can easily summon, or prompt, or encourage troublemakers among his loyalists to turn a peaceful crowd into a sea of mayhem. They might improvise on their own in sparking violence, presuming it pleases their leader.
“If the crowds are sufficiently large and volatile, he can claim to be justified in responding with federal powers to bring order. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, have both said they are opposed to deploying armed forces on American soil.
“A senior Pentagon official, though, laid out a back-door plan that he was worried about. It won’t start, he thinks, with a sweeping move to federalize the National Guard, which is within the President’s Article 2 powers; it’d be more of a state by state process. The head of the National Guard of some state ‘starts feeling uncomfortable with something and then calls up the Pentagon.’”
So, now that I made your day, my final ask, again borrowing from “Les Miserables,”
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free