Workers and Unions Must Remain Vigilant to Prevent Trump from Delegitimizing the Election, and to Stop Trump’s Desired ‘Coup’

Crowd with many "count every vote" signs and balloons

Hundreds of people joined a three-day demonstration and dance party outside the Philly Convention Center this week, demanding that every vote be counted, while a small group of Trump supporters yelled for the vote count to stop. Photo: Joe Piette, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Now that Biden and Harris have won a decisive victory, not only in the popular vote but also in the electoral college, it is more important than ever for workers and their organizations to remain vigilant and not de-mobilize while making sure every vote is counted.

We only have to look back 20 years, to the 2000 election, for a successful judicial coup in a U.S. presidential election. In Bush v. Gore, a Supreme Court that was far less conservative than today’s court invented an equal protection theory out of whole cloth to stop vote counting in Florida, the decisive state, which the Democrat Al Gore would otherwise have won. It is important to remember that the Republicans organized people to storm the election counting offices and intimidate the workers. They acted to preserve George W. Bush’s razor-thin and disappearing margin. The Supreme Court, upon which Democrats wrongly pinned their hopes, made it official. As a result, we got 9/11, the Iraq war, Guantanamo, and an unending “war on terror” whose violent consequences we are still living—and dying—with.

Today, we have not only a far more conservative court, but also an authoritarian president who has shown he cares only for his personal interests and will stop at nothing to avoid losing. We have Republicans in Congress and state legislatures and governors’ mansions who will echo and enable any lie or atrocity to preserve Trump’s power and thereby, they believe, their own.

EVIDENCE SHOWS NO FRAUD

Let us be clear. All the evidence we have seen points to an election and statewide counts that are accurate and have been conducted without fraud. All of the legally and morally questionable maneuvering we are aware of has been by Republicans, who have engaged in unprecedented voter suppression, yet failed to stop the will of the people from being expressed at the ballot box.

Yet facts, the truth, and morality itself have no influence on the actions of Trump and his enablers. They have already turned to the courts, and rest assured they will also turn to Republican-controlled state governments in the battleground states to try to overturn the will of the people.

We have reviewed the most high-profile cases of the hundreds filed by Republicans to try to overturn the election results, and none of them has any likelihood of success before an honest judge.

Stopping the count won’t help Donald Trump now. The news organizations called Pennsylvania because Biden’s lead is unassailable even without mail-in ballots that were postmarked by but arrived after election day. Michigan and Wisconsin have already been called for Biden and the margins are too big for recounts to change the result. The same will soon be true of Georgia and Nevada.

But none of this will stop the Trump campaign from throwing up every invented fact and legal theory they can, in hopes of getting one or more cases before a Supreme Court they believe they control.

SHOW HIM THE DOOR

Because their legal claims have no merit, Trump and his enablers are trying to foster a false public narrative that delegitimizes the election results, to create a climate in which friendly judges and legislators feel safe to bend or break the law and the truth to preserve and consolidate the power of their “Dear Leader” and themselves.

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In such a climate, we must be active participants in creating a public narrative that effectively defends the will of the people and shows the would-be dictator the door. We can look to examples like the three-day labor, anti-racist, and left dance party outside the Philadelphia Convention Center, where votes were being counted, that helped deter a right-wing attack.

This approach avoids the 2000 election mistake of simply “trusting the process.” Instead it means becoming actively engaged with groups (some of which are listed at the end of this article) that are strategically protecting the election results, and, if necessary, participating in their calls for massive, nonviolent direct action and general and/or rolling strikes.

FAITHLESS ELECTORS?

On December 14, electors meet in each state to cast their ballots for president. On January 6, the U.S. House and Senate meet jointly to certify the vote of the electoral college, and on January 20, the winner of the electoral college is sworn in as President.

Prior to December 14, states will designate their electors. In “normal” times, those electors perform only the ministerial function of casting a vote conforming to the outcome of the popular vote in their state (or in the cases of parts of Nebraska and Maine, their Congressional District).

But in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Republicans control the state legislatures, while Democrats are the governors. In both Georgia and Arizona, Republicans have a “trifecta,” meaning the governor is Republican and the party also controls both houses of the state legislature.

It is important to prepare for the (hopefully unlikely) possibility that Republican leaders will attempt a coup via the electoral college, using electors who do not respect the outcome of the vote in these battleground states.

This is particularly so given that Trump will continue to foster, and his followers will believe, a public narrative that challenges the legitimacy of the election outcome in these states. Protests triggered by that narrative, some violent, have already erupted, supported by far-right groups and Trump-loving police.

Battleground states could end up with competing slates of electors in the states with divided governments, or a single slate that decides to disregard the will of the voters in the trifecta states. Although Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, and Wisconsin have laws that disregard the votes of or punish so-called “faithless electors,” Pennsylvania and Georgia do not. The head of the Pennsylvania Republican Party has refused to rule out such a course of action.

MOBILIZE NOW

In this environment, we must not succumb to the narcotic belief “that it can’t happen here.” It has and it can again.

It is imperative for every worker, every union member and leader, to step up and participate in the movement to defend our democracy, not just in the courts but also in the streets. And not just for this election, but also for the long haul—to eliminate racist voter suppression, gerrymandering, and other barriers to voting that give the U.S. one of the lowest voter turnouts in the developed world, and prevent progress towards real democracy.

National Lawyers Guild chapters throughout the country, as always, will be there to provide legal observers and support to demonstrators and activists.

We urge all unions to mobilize their members, and all workers to sign up right now to support the following groups, which along with many others are mobilizing people to protect the results of our election:

Comments

BarbaraStivenson | 11/19/20

For me, Trump's recognition in this situation is very important, since the court still determines the honesty of the election results. I don’t think the situation can change dramatically, but anything is possible.