We Need All Hands on Deck to Stop a Coup

Trump wants the vote counting to stop and our democracy is at stake

Donald Trump speaks during election night in the White House early on November 4, 2020. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has declared victory on national television, claimed that his voters have been disenfranchised, and threatened to go to the Supreme Court to dispute the 2020 presidential election results. Regardless of the official ballot count, this declaration puts the president’s disdain for the electoral system in full display, and calls for a passionate, urgent, and coordinated defense of democracy.

“Millions of people voted for us tonight. A very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people,” the president said from the East Room of the White House to cheering supporters. “And we won’t stand for it. We were on our way to win the election. Frankly, we did win this election.”

It is important to call this what it is: a power grab by an autocratic, White supremacist authoritarian who has previously told the violent far-right group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

“We want the law to be used in a proper manner, so we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop,” he added. “We don’t want them finding any ballots at four in the morning and adding them to the list.”

To be clear, counting ballots is not voter fraud, Trump’s voters are the least likely to be disenfranchised and the president has not won the election yet. It is important to call this what it is: a power grab by an autocratic, White supremacist authoritarian who has previously told the violent far-right group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” Although the president had been teasing he would declare himself the winner for some weeks now, watching him lay the groundwork for an illegitimate presidency was chilling, and his words will no doubt embolden his supporters.

Last week, an open letter written and signed by scholars of authoritarianism and fascism warned that “unless we take immediate action, democracy as we know it will continue in its frightening regression, irrespective of who wins the American presidency.” It is not only American democracy that is at risk, they emphasize; democratic systems are in danger of “withering or in full-scale collapse globally.” It is clear that we are at a crucial moment in history that begs for energetic, outside-the-box, tangible defenses of democracy at every level of society; and some experts even warn of the possibility of a civil war.

After four years of chaotic, careless, and corrupt leadership that has culminated in the death of over a quarter of a million Americans due to the mishandling of the global pandemic, President Donald Trump should have lost by a landslide — and Biden’s lackluster bid for the White House is partly to blame for this.

As hopes for a blue wave of voters dissipate and we settle into excruciating uncertainty and the possibility of White supremacist violence, the Democratic Biden/Harris campaign must overcome their passivity and lack of opposition to Trump’s authoritarianism; they must be aggressive and throw civility to the wind. After four years of chaotic, careless, and corrupt leadership that has culminated in the death of over a quarter of a million Americans due to the mishandling of the global pandemic, President Donald Trump should have lost by a landslide — and Biden’s lackluster bid for the White House is partly to blame for this. A robust approach to antidemocracy activity is urgent; this includes challenging Trump’s attempts to slow or simply stop the ballot count, and long-term commitments to abolish the electoral college and tackling gerrymandering and voter suppression.

Beyond Democratic resistance to Trump’s strongman tactics, it is essential to note that action can also be taken by citizens all over the U.S. As Jack Herrera, writing for Prism, notes, coups can and often are stopped by regular people. Drawing on the knowledge of experts and examples from coups that were stopped in the past, Herrera emphasizes that the best strategy for stopping a coup is to shut down key parts of society rather than taking to the streets to protest; in Venezuela in 1958, he writes, dictator General Marcos Pérez Jiménez self-exiled after a general strike brought the country to a standstil and he had no other choice but to flee. Unions are already organizing general strikes across the United States, and it is advisable to join in on any strike you can. More generally, we need all hands on deck: If you haven’t made plans on how you will take action or you cannot join a strike, Choose Democracy has published a guide on how you can defend democracy from where you are.

As the pleading letter by scholars of authoritarianism puts it, democracy is “extremely fragile and potentially temporary, requiring vigilance and protection.” It is infuriating that we must protect our own right to fair elections — particularly when voting rights have been under attack for decades and the Democrats have passively watched it with little opposition — but this is where we are currently. Fighting for democracy is fighting against fascism, thus not allowing society to slip back into genocidal authoritarian regimes that we might not survive; though taking safety precautions is paramount as violent White supremacist groups roam the streets, doing what you can to fight back is critical.

Women’s Studies PhD student in UK. Writer, reporter, thinker, feminist. Views my own. #Latina. Culture Columnist for Zora. Tip jar: paypal.me/NHernandezFroio

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