Updates on U.S. democracy in crisis with post-election power grab timeline

By Marjaan Sirdar, Freelance Columnist

The Democrats are proving more afraid of a Black-led working-class street rebellion than they are the threat of fascism, appearing to have given up trying to hold Donald Trump and the GOP accountable, increasing the probability of a constitutional crisis. 

Americans have been celebrating the end of Trump’s presidency in urban streets, from coast to coast, since Saturday, when the election was called for former vice president, Joe Biden. Although there are reasons to celebrate, including a violence-free election day, we are not yet in the clear, as we are seeing Trump and his allies ratchet up their rhetoric to delegitimize American democracy and steal this election from the will of the People. Posing as the real victims, with baseless claims of election fraud, Trump and his base of law enforcement and wannabes are standing by ready to fight for their cause, although he lost by over five million votes. The Trump administration is behaving exactly how you would expect a crime syndicate on their descent downward, after years of committing atrocities, attempting to elude justice from their countless victims. The mainstream press and the Democratic Party’s failure to call this an attempted coup — and treat it like one — has enabled Trump and the Republicans to test the limits of our institutions.

Some believe we are lucky to have had peace at the polls on election day, or that the calls for violence and intimidation from the right were blown out of proportion by the left. However, as a community organizer, it is my assessment that the online and grassroots organizing by Choose Democracy, the intelligence provided by Hold the Line and others, combined with local efforts around the nation, is what staved off political violence on election day. People in our communities were prepared on election day, considering Trump told us what he was up to well in advance. My own polling place in South Minneapolis is 1.4 miles from George Floyd Square, the memorial site erected after Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis police. Having the international press from Japanese television present, provided additional layers of security for voters like myself, on top of the poll workers assisting people outside St. Joan of Arc’s Catholic Church. 

As he stated many times, Donald Trump never planned to concede this race:  “…the only way we would lose the election is if it is rigged”, he repeated at rallies and in interviews, months before anyone even casted a vote. The day before the election, in response to the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to count ballots postmarked before election day, arriving up to three days after Nov. 3, Trump tweeted that the decision will “induce violence in the streets.”  On Saturday, former advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod, said on CNN that Trump has been setting up a power grab for months, saying the election is rigged, and now they’re in the process of finding the supporting evidence, “…after the fact”. So far, the only evidence of widespread election rigging has been on behalf of Trump and the GOP. Although the Democratic Party is considered corrupt by many, for failing marginalized communities time and again, they have not behaved anti-democratic in the way the GOP has by outwardly trying to steal this election, and others. A new international report by the Varieties of Democracy Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, compared the Republican Party to autocratic regimes in Turkey, Poland, India and Hungary: 

“We’ve seen similar shifts in parties in other countries where the quality of democracy has declined in recent years, where democracy has been eroding…It fits very well into the pattern of parties that erode democracy once they’re in power…

“The demonisation of opponents – that’s clearly a factor that has shifted a lot when it comes to the Republican party, as well as the encouragement of political violence…

“We have several quotes from Trump, that show how he has encouraged supporters to use violence against either journalists or political opponents,” wrote the authors of the study. 

The Democrats, as predicted, are doing their best to make friends with the criminal Republicans. Neither Biden or any Democratic officials have given any indication of prosecuting Trump for his many crimes, including this attempted coup. In fact, Sen. Murphy (D-CT) told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday that he expects Trump to lead the opposition party for the next four years, out of office, and run again in 2024, as speculated by Trump allies. Senator Murphy’s comments reflect the rhetoric of a party who has no clue how to fight its opposition. Let alone, an existential threat such as, fascism. They were unable to hold Donald Trump and his regime accountable for the past four years. Moderate Democrats have gone as far as attacking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), “progressives” and “socialists” for their disappointing support and underperformance in the election. In a recent interview with Astead W. Herndon of the New York Times, AOC clapped back

“We know that race is a problem, and avoiding it is not going to solve any electoral issues. We have to actively disarm the potent influence of racism at the polls.

“But we also learned that progressive policies do not hurt candidates. Every single candidate that co-sponsored Medicare for All in a swing district kept their seat…

“I think it’s going to be really important how the party deals with this internally, and whether the party is going to be honest…Because before we even had any data yet in a lot of these races, there was already finger-pointing that this was progressives’ fault and that this was the fault of the Movement for Black Lives.

“…And the thing is, I’ve been unseating Democrats for two years. I have been defeating Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee-run campaigns for two years. That’s how I got to Congress. That’s how we elected Ayanna Pressley. That’s how Jamaal Bowman won. That’s how Cori Bush won. And so we know about extreme vulnerabilities in how Democrats run campaigns…

“If you’re not door-knocking, if you’re not on the internet, if your main points of reliance are TV and mail, then you’re not running a campaign on all cylinders…

“…And so, yeah, they were vulnerable to these messages, because they weren’t even on the mediums where these messages were most potent. Sure, you can point to the message, but they were also sitting ducks. They were sitting ducks.”

Election Day

On November 3, 2020, election day in America, there was no winner declared at the end of the night, as expected and explained by experts weeks in advance. Vice President Biden spoke out, calling on patience from voters and “…every vote to be counted”. That changed on Saturday, Nov. 7, when Biden was declared the 46th president of the United States. A defiant Trump and allies rejected the results and have ratcheted up their rhetoric to delegitimize the outcome, just like he said they would do. Here is a political timeline of the past week, following election day.

Post-Election Power Grab Timeline:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020:
    • Early Wednesday morning, Trump declared himself the winner and called on the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the count; 
    • Vice President, Mike Pence, attempted to walk it back at the same press conference: “While the votes continue to be counted, we’re going to remain vigilant…The right to vote has been at the center of our democracy since the founding of this nation. We’re gonna protect the integrity of the vote,” he said;
  • Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020:
    • Trump gave a primetime press conference at the White House and declared himself the winner, again, claiming the Democrats were trying to cheat, without any evidence: “This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election. They’re trying to rig an election and we can’t let that happen,” he said. 
    • Major news networks cut Trump’s speech because of the lies;
    • In an unprecedented move, CNN gave a disclaimer before they played the entire speech by the president, as well as afterwards, warning of misinformation;
    • Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: “The best thing for America’s future is for @realDonaldTrump to go to total war over this election to expose all of the fraud, cheating, dead/no longer in state voters, that has been going on for far too long.

“It’s time to clean up this mess & stop looking like a banana republic!” His tweet came with a disclaimer from Twitter that the content may be misleading. 

  • Friday, Nov. 6, 2020:
    •  House GOP leader, Kevin McCarthy, tweeted: “Far from over. Republicans will not back down from this battle.”
    • Sen. Toomey (R-PA) told Jake Tapper live on CNN that the votes in Pennsylvania that arrived after election day should be thrown out and that the PA Supreme Court made a terrible decision;
    • U.S. Supreme Court ruled that PA must segregate 3000-5000 votes that arrived after election day, but, rejected Trump’s request to stop the count;
  • Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020:
    • Biden was called the winner on all mainstream news networks after winning PA; 
    • Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, gave a confusing press conference, at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping Company in Philadelphia on behalf of the Trump Campaign, disputing the outcome, as Biden was declared winner;
    • A defiant Donald Trump said on Twitter: “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!”;
    • Biden and Harris gave prime-time victory speeches to cars full of supporters;
  • Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020:
    • Republican senators, Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz, went on FOX News repeating baseless claims of potential voter fraud;
Screenshot: Marjaan Sirdar
  • Monday, Nov. 9, 2020:
    • The Trump administration has yet to sign the approval for the transition of power;
    • Donald Trump fired his defense secretary, Mark Esper, and installed supporter/ loyalist, Christopher C. Miller;
    • Richard Pilger, top prosecutor inside Trump’s justice department, resigned after Attorney General Barr ordered his staff to prosecute baseless claims of election fraud;
    • GOP Senators called for the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, but he refused;
    • Senate leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said on the senate floor that the election has not concluded and “Trump is 100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options…”;
  • Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020:
    • Sen. McConnell stated at a press conference of the Republicans refusal to concede: “It’s not unusual. Should not be alarming. At some point here we’ll find out, finally, who was certified in each of these states, and the electoral college will determine the winner. And that person will be sworn in on January 20th. No reason for alarm…”; His claim is untrue and this attempted power grab by the GOP is unprecedented in modern history in this country; 
    • President-elect Biden refused to take legal action to resolve the election, in a press conference on Covid-19;
    • CNN reported that 30+ GOP lawmakers signed a letter calling on Donald Trump to concede;
    • Mike Pompeo, Trump’s loyal secretary of state, said: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”;
    • (8:12 pm EST) CNN Breaking News: “Wash. Post: PA postal worker claims have been cited by top Republicans admits fabricating allegations of ballot tampering”;
Screenshot: Marjaan Sirdar
  • Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020:
    • Republican election official in Philadelphia, Al Schmidt, called the allegations of voter fraud in his city “ridiculous”, prompting attacks from Trump;
    • (5:35 pm EST) CNN Breaking News: GA Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, told Wolf Blitzer live on CNN that there is no evidence of voting or vote counting irregularities in his state, but because the race is close they will conduct a hand recount, which will conclude by Nov. 20; He promised integrity and doubted this would change the outcome;
    • Republican attorney general of Arizona projects Biden winning the state, according to CNN’s Erin Burnett.

The corporate media and the Democrats still refuse to call this an attempted coup. Ezra Klein, cofounder of Vox, wrote in response to mainstream media’s coverage of the power grab, in his latest piece, Trump is attempting a coup in plain sight

“To say that America’s institutions did not wholly fail in the Trump era is not the same thing as saying they succeeded. They did not, and in particular, the Republican Party did not. It has failed dangerously, spectacularly. It has made clear that would-be autocrats have a path to power in the United States, and if they can walk far enough down that path, an entire political party will support them, and protect them.” 

The Republicans failed if you actually believe they were committed to the Constitution. If you view them in the light of organizations who behave similarly to the GOP, such as the mafia, then they were largely successful, as they have managed so far to get away with committing countless crimes against the American people while amassing enormous wealth for themselves. In my last column for The Uptake, I called for the reclassification of the GOP as a terrorist organization: “It is time to declare the Republican Party a terrorist organization and stop them from further harming our communities and setting back the progress we have made in terms of building a truly democratic society…Imagine if the U.S. Chapters of Hamas or Al Qaeda existed and they were engaging in this same behavior. How would the federal government respond?”, I wrote two weeks ago. The Democrats need to draw significant contrast between their party and the GOP, especially in terms of their commitment to fighting racism and inequality, as AOC articulated to Herndon, otherwise their party will become even less competitive. 

Although the Democratic Party is viewed as corrupt by many on the grassroots left because of its failure to adequately address historic inequalities, they have not committed anti-democratic crimes like the GOP, who has been outwardly trying to steal this election and others. Imagine if President Obama was defeated by Mitt Romney in 2012, and he refused to concede, citing widespread fraud by the GOP, without any evidence. So far, the only evidence of widespread election rigging this year has been committed by Trump and the Republicans. On October 1, I warned of the consequences if the Democrats failed to take Trump’s threat of a coup seriously: “If he’s saying he will not leave office by ballot box then We The People are going to have to mass mobilize and take to the streets and force his resignation, similar to the Arab Spring.” As of now, there has been no unified response from organized labor at the national level. With a united front rooted in labor strikes, boycotts and a commitment to non-violent street demonstrations by the Movement for Black Lives, Choose Democracy believes this right-wing power grab can be nipped in the bud. We shall see if the grassroots can succeed where our institutions have failed. If the Democrats do not exhaust all efforts to remove Trump from office, including invoking the 25th Amendment, then their worst nightmare, of a Black led street rebellion, might be the only thing left to save America. If not, this may be the end of democracy as we know it.

 Photo Credit: Andre Balian

 About the author: Marjaan is a freelance writer and community organizer in the Bryant neighborhood in South Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed. He is the host of People Power Podcast.

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