Think just voting will cancel Trump? Be prepared to put your body on the line because a nightmare is coming.
Let me paint you a picture.
Too many people think this election is like any other. They think they will just cast their ballot and people like me sounding the warnings of fascism are spreading nothing more than alarmist fantasies.
This election will be like no other in American history, and if what I’ve witnessed in Portland this summer is any sign, things will get much worse.
It’s Election Day 2020. The past few weeks have been among the strangest in American history. The endless avalanche of bad news has been hard for even the most devoted news junkies, piling on top of a pandemic, catastrophic wildfires in the west, hurricanes, and the worst economic depression since the 1930s.
First it seemed unrelated. Big blue mailboxes disappeared in neighborhoods. Voters report not having ballots delivered. Pro Trump rallies descend into brawls between Trumpists and counter protesters. Right-wing militants shoot counter protesters or terrorize them at home as police look the other way or are conveniently absent.
Left wing protesters and organizers in many cities have their homes searched by local and federal law enforcement. Arrests are made. U.S. Attorneys bring federal charges to individuals who may have been arrested earlier in the summer at Black Lives Matter protests. ICE agents arrest and deport individuals they accuse of not being American citizens and hold them at detention camps.
Election day nears. Ballot drop boxes and sites are vandalized or destroyed. County election offices in key states suddenly go up in flames. People report harassment dropping off their mail in ballots by armed folks in MAGA hats. Violence breaks out as Trump threatens to declare martial law.
Election Day arrives. Long lines at polling stations. Armed men intimidate voters standing in line, screaming at voters, blocking entrances and demanding to see IDs. The nation is on edge. That night, results are inconclusive with no major news outlets declaring a winner. Since many states do not count absentee ballots until the polls close, key battleground states do not have a complete tally.
The initial results show Trump leading and he promptly declares victory. His declaration sends anti-Trump protesters into the streets. Local police forces crackdown harshly with batons and tear gas. Night after night in many cities the protests continue. Trump sends federal agents to work in tandem with local law enforcement, federally deputizing the local police and gassing neighborhoods.
The protests gain momentum. Rumors of busloads of Antifa coming to small towns spread like wildfire on Facebook. Armed residents in rural areas set up road blocks and checkpoints. Vigilantes murder people they describe as suspicious. Police arrest massive numbers of protesters and house them in empty schools.
Trump threatens to invoke the Insurrection Act and send in the military, but after his generals balk at the suggestion, he sends in large numbers of federal agents to the biggest hotbeds of protests. The Department of Homeland Security swells its numbers with mercenaries. Protesters are charged with federal crimes. Police departments ignore local officials and begin taking orders directly from DHS. In cities where mayors or governors order their police to not assist, they are arrested.
Federal agents seize ballots in many states to “protect the vote.” Lawsuits fly left and right. The courts attempt to parse through options, as ballots continue to be counted and Trump’s victory looks slimmer. A Supreme Court skewed conservative (in either 8 or 9 person formation) does not help Biden as the campaign seeks to release ballots and continue the count, as weeks go by and deadlines approach.
There is a chill in the air as December rolls in and the likelihood of a peaceful transition of power dims.
Think this fantasy is far fetched?
A lot of this has already happened. The US Postal Service already dismantled much of its sorting infrastructure. Neighborhoods are seeing large delays in mail. Mailboxes have been removed. Others have been vandalized and disappeared. The Trump administration has made vote by mail harder.
Federal agents beat, shot, gassed, spied on, and disappeared Portlanders this summer into unmarked vans. After weeks of protests, Governor Kate Brown announced a deal to end the standoff where federal agents would withdraw and state police take over. Within hours of her announcement, both acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and President Trump said the feds were going nowhere. They have remained in Portland, having made recent appearances on the streets the past two nights.
Never in modern times has the Federal government domestically deployed militarized forces without the invitation of local officials. Both Mayor Ted Wheeler and Governor Kate Brown requested the feds go home. The federal deployment exacerbated the situation, escalating Black Lives Matter protests into demonstrations that drew thousands. Since then, the local US attorney has charged protesters with federal crimes, for offenses that typically would have been handled at the local level. On top of all this US Attorney General Bill Barr has mentioned charging local officials in Portland and Seattle because of protests, and Trump has now threatened to cut off funding to Portland, declaring the city an anarchist jurisdiction.
If you think your local police will save you, they won’t. Portland Police has already decided whose side they are on. They stood aside and did nothing while right wing Proud Boys assaulted, maced, and brandished guns at counter protesters on Aug. 22. They escorted a Trump Caravan into downtown Portland on Aug. 29, and did nothing while Trumpists shot bystanders with paintballs and pepper spray. They are hypocrites, looking the other way when Trumpists commit crimes, but then out come the batons and chemical weapons when Black Lives Matter protesters start marching from a park towards a police precinct. When Portland Police get the order from the White House, I know who they will listen to, and it won’t be the mayor.
If you think your local officials will save you, they won’t. Portland may be a special example of a combo weak mayor and weak governor, but the feds could try it in your city or state too. What is to stop Barr from arresting a mayor or a governor that stands up to Trump? What is to stop them from deploying federal agents and mercenaries to cities to “protect federal buildings and monuments?” What’s to prevent them from using the mounds of intelligence information they gathered this summer spying on protesters to use federally deputized local police to arrest those disloyal to the regime?
If you think this is too far fetched, it’s not. Feds are already showing up at people’s houses in Portland, arrests of protest organizers are happening in Denver and Richmond, Va. Wolf has already promised the arrest of BLM protest organizers. The threats of arresting mayors and governors who stand in the way have already happened. Trump has already threatened to cut off federal funding to disloyal cities. DHS has spied on journalists and they are spying on protesters. Trumpists are blocking early voting sites.
Even if Biden wins a clear victory, will Trump even leave the White House? He has spent the past four years sowing doubt in our electoral system, discrediting vote by mail even while he casts an absentee ballot. He claimed his 2016 win was fraud ridden. Daily he tweets about how this election will be a fraud too if he doesn’t win. He has already said he might not leave office if he loses. At a rally he said he would issue an executive order preventing Biden from taking office in the case of a Biden victory. Trump has said he wants to delay the election. He has encouraged his supporters to vote twice. So, if you think just voting him out will get him to leave, think again.
If you’re one of the lucky Americans who still have a job, a roof over your head, and food in the fridge, I know this year has been rough, but you are still comfortable.
If Trump is re-elected or if he seizes power, you’ll stay comfortable. The stores will have most of the food you want, most of the things you need. The stock market will continue to surge. Major league sports will return. Netflix will have new shows to binge. A new app will suck up your kid’s attention. Schools and businesses nationwide will reopen under executive order.
At first you’ll hear rumors of protests, but they will disappear as leaders and participants are arrested. Some municipal leaders and government employees will resign in protest when asked to do something illegal or undemocratic, but most civil servants will comply because it’s easier to comply than make a fuss.
Trump will continue to say inane things on television, but you’ll tune him out like you tune out the ever decreasing number of voices decrying him. People will stop talking politics, they’re tired of it and life is hard enough without having to think about it. Abortion will be banned, but you’ll be thankful you don’t need one. Your child’s history books will miss most of the regretful moments of American history, but did the kids really need to know that stuff anyway?
One day you’ll hear a commotion down your street, the neighbors you waved to but never really talked to who had the Black Lives Matter sign in their lawn. You’ll see the mother cuffed in zip ties dragged out to an unmarked van. You’ll watch through the curtains, but you’ll say nothing. You’re safe in your home, you’ve done nothing wrong, and know by now that if you speak up you might risk your life too.
This is what your country is now, but is it one you are proud of?
How do you want to be remembered? How do you want to remember this time? Do you want to know that you did everything you could to stop the end of democracy in the United States? Do you want to be able to look at your kids and say, we stopped it, or we tried everything we could? Or do you want the shame of knowing you gave up your birthright as an American to fair and free elections, democracy, and freedom?
It will be much easier in the coming weeks to stay at home, despair and do nothing. It will be too easy to be scared, to lack the courage to be in the streets, and you will need to be in the streets. Tweeting away, posting memes on Facebook, donating money to a cause or a candidate will not be enough. You will have too many excuses to ignore what is happening, to look away, to think it will be alright without you. Your home will be too comfortable, your job will make you too busy. You will say you have too much to lose, but what is worse to lose than freedom?
Are you brave enough to demand an end to the nightmare and injustice? Are you brave enough to demand democracy? Are you brave enough to demand freedom? How do you want to be remembered by future generations? Do you want to remember this time as one where you stayed at home ignoring the world, or one where you stayed engaged and you protested for your freedom.
I know where I will be. I will vote and when that isn’t enough, I will be in the streets protesting. And when that isn’t enough, I’ll yell from whatever camp or prison they have us locked up in. And when that isn’t enough, when they have beaten me, or starved me, or gassed me, or shot me, I hope the world and future generations will know there were some good Americans, some good patriots, who tried their hardest to save their country.