There Are No Safe States

As of this weekend, there are about five weeks left until the 2020 United States General Election. President Donald Trump and his administration have been absolutely awful by just about every metric, from policy, to diplomacy, to staffing, to process, and so on, in an endless list of incompetence, malice, bigotry, and grift. And, thanks to comments that Trump has made about being president even beyond 2024, we have to assume the bedrock of our democracy is under threat. After all, the President doesn’t kid. Voting out Trump, and the GOP that has aided and abetted his catastrophic impacts on American life, is paramount. The importance of this task cannot be overstated. Worrisomely, Trump, his administration, and the Republican party, are working together to ensure that these elections are as unfair and unfree as they can get away with. We can take nothing for granted. We must make every effort to make sure we vote, and that our votes are counted..

The most obvious (but perhaps least predictable) factor is the coronavirus. Most poll workers are retirees, and this cycle, they are afraid of giving their lives by working on November 3. This has led to state-level decisions like consolidating polling places in order to limit the number of poll workers put at risk (as well as to increase social distancing). While sensible and a necessity, has the knock-on effect of reducing the accessibility of the polls for many. 

Because of COVID, many people wish to vote absentee (indeed, in the first week of North Carolina early voting, 10,000 people took advantage of the option). One of the more common forms of absentee voting is through the US Postal Service. Long a target of Republican attempts to dismantle and privatize it (they saddled the extremely popular government agency with an absurd requirement to prepay pensions for 75 years so that they can point to an otherwise profitable agency’s financial difficulties), the upcoming election has the historically corrupt Trump attempting to interfere directly with the efficacy of voting by mail. The new Postmaster General, Louis Dejoy (who has multiple conflicts of interest and probable ethics violations) has instituted new policies designed to slow the mail, including removing sorting machines and mailboxes nationwide. While he claims otherwise, his actions indicate he wants voting by mail to be as unreliable as possible. The president has also criticized voting by mail–even to the point of suggesting his supporters commit crimes to “protect” their votes–trying to undermine an institution that has been employed in times of peace and times of strife since the Civil War. A system, by the way, that Trump and many in his family and administration openly admit to using. (His claims of foreign countries printing ballots are, like almost everything else he says, untrue.) Trump wants fewer people to vote, especially by mail. In some states, a significant number of people who vote by mail are Republicans, but no one is sure how Trump’s war on mail-in voting will affect the election results.

Meanwhile, ever since Attorney General Barr’s confirmation, he has politicized the Justice Department and placed it in service solely to the president’s personal interests–including, now, using the department  to swing for Republicans in electoral politics. Under Barr’s leadership, Justice has extended voter suppression efforts (and refused to prosecute those who are conducting voter purges and similar tactics). Barr has publicly concurred with Trump’s unhinged, hypocritical ranting about rigged elections. Barr has suggested opening the door to the department interfering with election operations, and even possibly a widespread voter suppression via law enforcement, whether through Operation Legend (named after LeGend Taliferro) or a more general initiative. He is also conducting an investigation via the Durham probe into whether he can use the impeachment of the president to further interfere, perhaps through some form of an October Surprise.

The October Surprise may not be created by the administration (although it will certainly be assisted), but by some other nation. While Russia, China, and Iran have all been identified as attempting to hack into American systems (Russia’s methods have grown more sophisticated since 2016), neither Iran nor China’s attempts seem to have the focus or the drive of Russia’s campaign. More than 200 people associated with the Biden campaign, including staff, advisors and outside contractors have been determined. President Trump has downplayed Russia’s focused and pervasive effort, while trying to bring China and Iran’s more generalized antipathy to the fore, trying to smother concerns of a repeated interference. Another source of an October Surprise may just be more banal, with Trump announcing the availability of a new vaccine for COVID, disregarding that trials will not be finished until later this year at the earliest, and that even if they did finish in the best possible timeframe, the logistical output indicates a vaccine will  not be generally available until the middle of next year

The forces arrayed against our democracy (many from inside the President’s administration!) can be intimidating and seem overwhelming. They aren’t. The fact they are trying this hard to cheat shows they are scared–and they should be. We can win, but we have to fight. We cannot let the Republicans run roughshod over us. We can absolutely stop them in their tracks and prevent the further slide of this country into fascism. But the only way to do it is to vote. The only bulwark against the potential disasters of a population which may be too fearful to vote in person, a Postal Service which may be too dismantled to ensure quick and accurate voting by mail, a corrupted Justice Department, foreign interference, and Trump’s total disregard for the rule of law, is for us to vote in such staggering numbers that the election’s outcome is clear and final..

And no matter who you are, you have plenty of reasons to vote. Obviously, Biden is not the first pick of many, many Democrats, especially those on the left. We need to acknowledge he is not the perfect candidate, and will not agree with us on every issue. But Biden can be convinced, through effective and continuous activism, to change his mind, to compromise, to go further towards our goals as a party. Trump cannot. And the issues at stake are life and death. The pandemic, which Trump through incompetence and narcissism allowed to kill nearly 200,000 Americans (and counting), is just a preview of the greater challenge ahead: climate change. Take a look at the fires in California and the Midwest, at the alarming profusion of hurricanes and tropical storms happening right now, at historically high temperatures across the country: climate change is no longer a future concern. It is happening now. We have no more time to dither. We have no more time to wait for the Republicans to discover, or pretend they didn’t know all along, that climate change is real. Biden’s climate plan begins to address this crisis. It may not go far enough and fast enough yet, but it is a path for hope. And Biden can be pushed. Trump, if re-elected will continue to treat climate change the way he’s treated COVID-19: ignore it, lie about it, and hope it mostly kills Democrats. 

If that wasn’t enough, recent events have made it absolutely clear that the Supreme Court is under threat. With the passing of Justice Ginsburg, Trump has the potential opportunity to appoint his third Justice to the bench and thereby solidify a 6-3 Conservative majority for decades. It’s possible that this could be delayed long enough for a President Biden to fill the seat instead, but only if there is a President Biden. Nor was RBG the only member of the Court who may need replacing in the next four years. According to Trump, if re-elected, we can look forward to such exciting nomination possibilities as Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton. It’s hard to get worse than Brett Kavanaugh, but Trump found them. 

Nor is this election solely about the President. The worst man in Washington is not Trump himself, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. For decades, his only goal has been to create a permanent Republican majority, not just in the legislative branch, but also in the judiciary (through greased-conveyor-belt-speed appointments of any incompetent with a law degree and a friend at the Federalist Society) and in the executive branch, through their utter refusal to hold anyone in that branch accountable for anything. Many of these judges are completely unqualified for the position, and hold clearly prejudicial views through bigotry or partisanship, while the administration is rife with corrupt government arsonists, some of them illegally in essentially permanent “acting” positions, dodging Senate confirmations process with a wink and a nod from the Majority Leader.We are in a position where we can remove this cynical, power hungry, monstrous, awful, Senator from the powers of his office. Along with other reforms (such as removing the filibuster), McConnell’s defeat or demotion to the minority could pave the way to repairing the damage he’s done to our institutions. 

There are an infinite number of reasons to vote. Vote if you want a Democratic SCOTUS in your lifetime. Vote if you want to be able to safely go to the movies again. Vote if you want to send a message that corruption and fascism will not be tolerated in this country. Vote if you want to save the planet from climate disaster. Vote if you want to close the American concentration camps. Vote if you want to restore America’s reputation and alliances around the globe. Vote like your life, and the lives of many, many others, depends on it, because it does. Vote even if it’s difficult, even if it’s distasteful, even if you think you’re sure your vote won’t matter. Because every vote matters. Every vote must be cast. Every vote must be counted. This is our last, best chance. Don’t waste it.

If you are interested and able to work as a poll worker, especially if you are at less risk of COVID complications than others,  this is an excellent resource.

If you would like to vote early, or register to vote, here is another excellent resource.

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