A warning about the future of American democracy

6 Sep

This election will determine whether or not American remains a democracy. I try not to be alarmist as a political scientist, but I believe most Biden supporters are not nearly alarmed enough about the upcoming election. I don’t mean that Trump has a very high chance of winning the electoral college, but that most Americans don’t understand this election will not be like the ones we’re used to. In short, this will not be a free and fair election, and that should deeply concern us.

Trump has telegraphed exactly how he intends to steal the election: intimidate minority voters, sabotage the post office so mail-in ballots can’t be counted, encourage election violence by armed supporters, and declare victory long before results are counted. His strategy is plausible, and therefore deeply worrying, given his disproportionate support among in-person voters. His plan for stealing the election is a model common with aspiring authoritarian leaders around the world, and will be aided by the disruption caused by COVID.

I believe that the only way to ensure Trump leaves offices is BOTH a large Biden margin of victory in the electoral college AND massive street protests before and after the election. The large margin of victory will make it difficult for him to claim he won, and large street protests will demonstrate to other government officials they will be punished if they go along with Trump to not count ballots. Otherwise, Trump will claim victory early, cast doubt on the validity of mail-in ballots, and paralyze vote counting efforts through government channels or with armed supporters. Without massive protests, congressional republicans won’t challenge him, and congressional democrats won’t be able to. The supreme court may rule for Trump, and if they rule against him, they’ll have trouble enforcing their decision without the GOP’s cooperation.

What can you do to prevent this authoritarian power grab? Request your absentee ballot now so the weakened post office isn’t overloaded around the election! If you live in anything approaching a swing state, vote in person or drop your ballot off at a collection center directly if you’re able. I cannot stress enough that people need to be prepared to protest fraud, because it’s clear our governmental institutions alone will not uphold democracy. Finally, expect results to come in slowly, and when Trump inevitably tries to sow confusion about whether ballots are valid, see through it.

Ultimately, our election laws and constitution won’t save us. Democracy will be maintained through millions of Americans going out of their way to ensure that we don’t look back at this election as the point after which progress became impossible.

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