If anybody was unsure about Donald Trump’s plans to remain in power regardless of the election outcome, he put those doubts to rest yesterday. Refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after November’s election, the president put all his cards on the table: “There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”
The question we now need to ask is not whether Trump and his Republican allies are planning on doing everything in their power to steal the election, but who can stop them.
According to the Democratic Party establishment, the answer is clear: the system itself will preserve democracy. When asked in June about Trump’s authoritarian machinations, Joe Biden replied, “I promise you, I’m absolutely convinced [the military] will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”
But in late August, General Mark Milley — the nation’s highest military official — dashed these fantasies when he told Congress that the military would not intervene to resolve any disputes over the election’s outcome. So the final word on the now–inevitably contested presidential election will be given to a legal system packed to the brim with Republicans — which is why Trump is openly insisting on ramming through his hand-picked Supreme Court nominee before November.
Yet Biden’s comments last night remained full of confidence in our American institutions — and bereft of any realistic plan to stop Trump. “What country are we in?” he asked, before adding: “I’m being facetious. Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.” When the Democrats’ presidential nominee tells us he has nothing to say about stopping an impending coup, we should listen.
The frightening reality is that unless millions of ordinary people get prepared to take action, our country is set to plunge head first into Version 2.0 of Florida 2000, when Al Gore and the Democratic Party leadership handed George W. Bush the presidency by placing its faith in the Supreme Court — and by refusing to support mass mobilizations demanding that every vote be counted.
In her memoir of these events, labor organizer Jane McAlevey recalls how a higher-up in Florida explained why the Democrats refused to back protest efforts: “The Gore campaign has made the decision that this is not the image they want. They don’t want to protest. They don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to seem like they don’t have faith in the legal system.”
The success of the Republican’s coup was not inevitable. As McAlevey notes, “people were willing to leave their daily grind and step into history to defend their democracy, on a scale that could be called massive without exaggeration.” Yet the Democratic Party, in conjunction with its union official allies, “smothered the movement moment in Florida, snuffed it right out.“
Waiting for someone from above to save us is a recipe for disaster. To defeat Trump’s coup plans, we can rely only on ourselves, on our independent organizations, and on mass action from below.
Of course, it’s conceivable that a clear Biden landslide on November 3 could be enough to split off Trump’s Republican allies from plunging ahead with their machinations. That’s why even those of us who understand that Biden is a billionaire-backed neoliberal should hold our noses and vote to dump Trump.
But given the likelihood that Trump will ignore the election outcome no matter how people vote, it’s urgent that we get prepared to fight like hell to stop him from stealing the election — and that we ignore all efforts by the Democratic Party establishment and its allies to demobilize us.
Faced with an impending coup, there’s only one way to win: we’ll need to create enough disruption to make it costlier for the courts and America’s ruling elite to prop up Trump than to dethrone him.
From November 3 onward, we’ll need an unprecedented upsurge of nonviolent actions including rallies, marches, civil disobedience, work stoppages, student strikes, and peaceful occupations of strategic buildings. Since just mobilizing the usual suspects won’t come anywhere near sufficient to topple a cutthroat authoritarian like Trump, we have to start proactively reaching out now to our coworkers, friends, neighbors, and fellow congregants to take part. And our unions in particular have a critical role to play in this fight, because only organized workers have the power to resist an attack on democracy by paralyzing our cities and the economy.
Democracy was won from below by working people — and only we can effectively defend it. The sooner we realize this the better. November 3 is just six weeks away — there’s no time to lose.