It does not seem to be a question of “if.” We’ve got a good inkling about the “when.” The real question of 2024 is “who will be doing it?” And all we know for certain is this: now is the time to be thinking about it.
It is troubling that no one is talking about what could very likely happen on Tuesday, November 5, 2024 and the weeks that follow.
You know… when the next insurrection happens. The fire next time.
This prediction is not that hard to make.
Certainly not as hard as when BTRTN alone accurately predicted that both Georgia Democrats would win the run-off races in January 2021. Not as complicated as our August 1, 2020, post entitled “How This Election Gets Stolen,” a reasonably accurate forecast of Trump lawyer John Eastman’s memo about how to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Not requiring the prescience of our post of January 3, 2021, entitled “14 Days of Living In Danger of All the Spite,” which speculated on the unhinged behaviors that might occur in the final days of Trump’s presidency… three days before the lunatic fringe exploded in the Capital.
Sadly, it is pretty easy to predict a scenario in which Election Day 2024 is the day when all hell breaks loose in America.
It might be smart to recognize this possibility and begin to think hard about what we should be doing now to minimize it, if not avoid it.
It’s not hard to sketch out a scenario in which misinformation and malignant manipulation of our elections cause vast uncertainty and doubt about the real winner of the 2024 Presidential election. This uncertainty could, in turn, trigger an epic power struggle to determine the Presidency that becomes completely detached from the election itself. Regardless of which candidate is ultimately declared to be the winner, the opposing party will completely reject the legitimacy of the President of the United States. Then things get ugly in a way that makes January 6 look like a Muppet movie.
Yeah, really. Here’s how it could go down…
For over a year now, Trump and his lackeys have been screaming into microphones that elections in the United States are rigged and fraudulent. Should Trump run in 2024, this charge will essentially be the first and only plank of his campaign. Other Republicans may urge him to talk about the economy, Covid 19, China, Russia, Iran, burgeoning debt, inflation, and the border, and Donald Trump may mention such talking points in the course of an hour long MAGA rally speech. But on the matter of what is the central issue of the campaign, he won’t budge: he will keep coming back to his contention that the election of 2020 was the greatest robbery of all time.
Don’t believe it? Mitch McConnell just announced that there would be “no Republican legislative agenda” for the 2022 midterms. Indeed, the Republican Party never offered an official platform for the 2020 Presidential race. This is a free and clear concession that the only thing the Republican Party stands for is what Donald Trump said five minutes ago. And these days, what are the only things Donald Trump talks about? That the 2020 election was stolen, and that he is out to destroy every Republican who does not support this position.
Don’t believe it? Check out the race for the Republican nomination for Governor of Georgia. Once considered one of Trump’s most ardent acolytes, current Governor Brian Kemp is being challenged in the primary -- essentially because he failed to bend to Trump's pressure to overturn the election results. Kemp’s opponent in the primary is former Senator David Perdue, who has been endorsed by Trump. Perdue was recently quoted by Axios as saying the he would not have certified the Georgia election results. In that there has never been the slightest evidence of material voter fraud in Georgia, Perdue’s assertion is a stunning proclamation of his willingness, and perhaps intent, to manipulate the 2024 election results in Georgia.
Would Trump really try to turn the 2024 campaign into a single issue debate about the legitimacy of the 2020 election? Pundits who are governed by reason might think that such a strategy is foolish. What such pundits fail to understand is that the “stolen” election has long since transcended beyond logical, left brain analysis and now must be viewed through the prism of pure symbolism. There are two immensely powerful symbolic messages embedded in the concept of a “stolen election.”
On the one hand, the idea that the 2020 election was stolen preserves Trump’s essential brand message that he is a “winner.” Throughout his life, he has striven to convey a notion that he is a man with a Midas touch, that every deal he makes is a winner, and that he always emerges triumphant. To acknowledge that he is a “loser” would be kryptonite for his brand. He must declare that the 2020 election was stolen to in order to preserve his essential identity, and he may now view running – and winning – in 2024 as the ultimate vindication of his position.
But at perhaps an even more significant level, Trump trumpets the “stolen election” to stoke feelings of victimization in his white, Red State, rural, and less educated base. These people feel that their jobs, their status, and their very way of life have been “stolen” by minorities, immigrants, coastal intellectuals, and Washington insiders. The Republican Party has become the party of white grievance, victimhood, and resentment – and the notion that the election was “stolen” plays perfectly into the mindset of a Trump base that believes it has swindled out of jobs, status, retirement security, and the rightful President of what Congressman Jim Jordan now calls “real America.”
Will is work at the polls? Ironically, the “stolen election” concept has the advantage of being the one crystal clear policy position of the Trump administration. Trump may try, but he will have a dicey time claiming superior policy success on the economy or the coronavirus. He’d have a tough time campaigning about a wall that never got built. Trump can complain about Biden’s foreign policy, but withdrawing from Afghanistan was his idea, and Trump’s cancellation of the Iran nuclear deal has only brought Iran closer to building a bomb.
If he focuses on the issue of the legitimacy of the election, however, he has only upside and no downside. It’s his opinion vs. the fake news media.
In a sense, Trump’s “Big Lie” has already been wildly successful: approximately one third of Americans believe that Joe Biden won the Presidency because of voter fraud, according to a Monmouth University poll in June, 2021. And a great many people are really angry about it.
All of that anger and symbolism is going to be stoked to a frenzy as Election Day, 2024 unfolds.
But here’s the really weird thing.
In their own way, Democrats, Progressives, and Liberals are also now messaging to their own constituencies that the elections of 2022 and 2024 may well be “stolen.”
The difference, of course, is that they are right. But when both parties assert that our elections are fixed, that cannot be good for democracy.
The Democratic version of the “fixed election” message is correctly focused on the plethora of voter suppression laws that are being passed in Republican Legislatures all across the country. As of October, the Brennan Center for Justice – the “go to” source for monitoring voter suppression laws -- noted that 19 states have passed a total of 33 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote. Moreover, there are hundreds of proposed laws working their way through state governments across the nation.
The Republican assault on election law is well-documented and has been the subject of a number of recent feature stories, but it remains maddeningly low on the list of concerns, even among Democrats. To infer from headlines, Washington Democrats are urgently focused on finishing the “Build Back Better” soft infrastructure bill, all with an eye to providing tangible economic benefits and support to a vast majority of voting Americans. The status of Roe v. Wade remains front and center, and climate change was the concern-du-jour during Glasgow. News of yet another variant has vaulted Covid 19 back to the top of the list of worries, and the endemic pandemic feels more and more like a societal chronic disease rather than a temporary condition that can be cured. It remains job # 1 for Biden.
Voter suppression doesn’t seem to make the “top ten” of concerns, even in the Biden administration.
But it is the voter suppression laws that are on a trajectory to undermine the Democratic agenda – and American democracy -- far more effectively and permanently than Krysten Sinema, Joe Manchin, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Kevin McCarthy, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Donald Trump combined.
A significant amount of this legislation may feel like small ball: much of it is designed to disenfranchise minority voting by limiting mail-in voting, voting hours, and reducing access to drop boxes. But the reality is that when Texas has one drop box in Harris County – home to 4,713,000 voters, 43% of which are Hispanic and 20% are Black – the impact on Democratic voting is profound.
Even scarier measures are the laws that change the chain of command in local elections, enabling state legislatures – invariably Republican – to overrule traditionally non-partisan local election officials.
In aggregate, these laws have the power to dramatically shift the results of elections in the swing states that decide Presidencies and the majorities in the House and Senate.
But beyond changing the outcome of elections, these laws will cause liberals to not trust the results of the 2024 elections any more that Republicans trust the results of 2020 – or 2024.
You see, it’s one thing to simply count ballots, determine that only a microscopic number of ballots were “fraudulent,” and declare a winner. But in 2024, Democrats may be stunned to realize that tens of thousands of ballots – votes that could swing the election results in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin – were never counted because they were never cast. They were prevented from being cast by Republican laws.
If eligible citizens are prevented from voting by laws that were designed specifically to thwart one party, then elections are no longer a simple matter of counting ballots. How do you quantify the impact of the votes that were blocked from being cast?
Both Republicans and Democrats will head into 2024 believing that the other side is determined to steal the election.
By Election Day of 2024, the suspicion, vilification, and vigilantism will be a toxic cocktail. Expect incidents of physical confrontation to be reported at polling places across the nation. Count on Tucker Carlson to report “massive” voter fraud in Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. CNN, in turn, will report on how the voter suppression laws that have been enacted throughout the south are dampening Democratic turn-out.
In Georgia, a new law has given the State Legislature – controlled by Republicans – the power to intercede in local elections, and supersede the authority of local election officials. Expect a Georgia Republican legislator to appear on Fox News and express outrage at supposed fraud, raising the specter of invoking the legislature’s authority to alter or ignore local election results.
Indeed, it is possible to imagine MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki putting a laser focus on quantifying the issue of voter suppression in Red States. What if 2024 voting data proves that Democratic turn-out in Blue States is at or above the tally in 2020 – but Democratic turn-out in Red States in ten percent lower than 2020? Would that not be dramatic proof that Red State laws had effectively repressed Democratic vote?
And what if that ten percent swing was enough to make the mathematical inference that Republican voter suppression laws changed the Presidential election in enough states to swing the outcome in the Electoral College?
What will happen next? What always happens in the egregiously litigious United States of America?
As election eve wears on, court challenges – authored by legions of lawyers paid by partisan PACs long before election day – will be filed all across America by Republicans and Democrats alike, demanding that voting machines be impounded and that records of voting processes be turned over for investigation. Dozens and dozens of court documents, long since drawn up to cover a myriad of possible situations, will flood the legal zone, creating a molasses of legal uncertainty.
Only then will Democrats finally grasp the implication of a new Arizona election law that changed the responsibility for handling election litigation from the Secretary of State – a Democrat -- to the Attorney General, a Republican.
In short, the suppression of minority vote, coupled with the actions of newly empowered Republican state legislatures, could actually reverse the outcomes in Georgia and Arizona. Throw in one state – Wisconsin? Pennsylvania? – actually flipping red, and voter suppression laws in Georgia and Arizona will actually change the outcome of the Electoral College, putting Donald Trump back in the White House.
The avalanche of legal challenges across the nation also favors the Republicans, who argue that cases should be immediately railroaded to the highly politicized Supreme Court, which will certainly rule in favor of the Republican position.
Should the mid-term elections shift majorities in the House and Senate to Republicans, there exists that further possibility that a Republican Congress could actually successfully reject Electoral College votes from Blue States, further sealing a Republican victory. Meaning: they could actually accomplish what they tried but failed to achieve in 2020.
In such an environment, who would blame desperate Democrats from resorting to Republican tricks? What if the Democrats make a last ditch effort to reclaim the election by asking Stacey Abrams – who, we hope, is elected Governor of Georgia in 2022 –to “not certify” the Republican legislature’s election fix -- just as the would-be Republican Governor Perdue openly spoke of doing earlier this week?
And what if that Hail Mary fails? Here’s an unnerving scenario: in 2024, Kamala Harris will be in the exact same place that Mike Pence was in 2020… the sitting Vice President who must formally announce the results of the Electoral College. But unlike Pence, Harris knows that the election really was stolen. What does she do?
Bottom line: it is 2020 all over again, except this time it won’t matter who “wins” – the opposing party will categorically refuse to accept the outcome, no matter what.
And the insurrection next time may not be a few thousand lunatic fringe right wing armed vigilantes with face paint storming the United States Capital. Or even hundreds of thousands of Kyle Rittenhouse wannabees exploding in anger if Trump loses again.
It may be millions of Democrats marching on Washington, protesting a stolen election.
Because by then, it will be too late. Trump will be back in the White House, now determined to finish the job he started, installing utterly unqualified loyalists, sycophants, and lackeys in every position in government, and using the powers of government to destroy enemies. Democracy will be gone before we ever get to 2028.
What’s to be done?
How about we start by demanding that Democrats put the passage of Federal voting rights laws at the top of their agenda? HR 1 – the bill designed to protect every citizen’s right to vote – is already written. It is simply not getting priority attention from Democrats in Congress or in the White House.
Which is a disaster, as much of the scenario laid out above is already unfolding before our eyes.
The voter suppression laws that could swing the electoral college results in Georgia and Arizona are already in the books. The laws that could prevent Texas from turning blue are already in the books. The Supreme Court that will decide the appeals has already been packed by Mitch McConnell.
Joe Biden appears to be taking the tact that it is better to focus on the health of the economy and the pocketbooks of all Americans than to tackle Federal voting rights legislation. And, yes, we can all agree that the trifecta of economic stimulus bills that Biden hopes to have enacted by year’s end will have a real impact on the lives of everyday Americans.
But candidates always say that they have to be able to “walk and chew gum at the same time.” These days we’d be happy to have a government that could either walk or chew gum, let alone synchronize. Joe Biden simply cannot punt on voter rights and focus solely on the Build Back Better bill.
Without Federal voting rights legislation to level the playing field and ensure that all Americans have equal access to the voting booth, our elections themselves will be drained of meaning… for both sides. Republicans will be free to suppress votes. Democrats will not believe the outcome. If no one trusts that elections are free and fair, no one will feel bound to abide by their outcome. The rule of law will give way to the rule of an authoritarian regime, enforced by weapons, violence, and the silencing of protest.
What is blocking the passage of HR 1? Round up the usual suspects: Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema. Each opposes abolishing the filibuster. If these two Senators agreed to abolish the filibuster, Democrats could pass HR1 without a single Republican vote.
These two Senators fail to grasp that in their supposed desire to preserve the arcane institution of the filibuster, they are enabling Republicans to take a sledgehammer to the vastly more sacred principle that every eligible citizen in the United States is entitled to vote.
If there ever were a time for Joe Biden and Democrats to come down like a ton of bricks on these two Senators, now is it. If the Democratic vote is suppressed, the entire Democratic agenda goes with it: climate change, income and wage inequality, abortion rights, gun control, immigration policy, endemic racism, and eradicating the coronavirus – all will be crushed by an authoritarian government focused wholly on white supremacy, wealth concentration, and the preservation of Republican power.
All Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema need to agree to is to a carve-out that eliminates the filibuster on this one legislative issue.
Biden must make every possible effort to twist those arms.
Because if this nation does not operate under a single, common set of rules about its most central, sacred, crucial, and basic right as a citizen, who are we kidding? Are we really a single country?
If Blue State voters choose their elected officials, but Red State elected officials choose their voters, are these United States united in any real way at all?
Or does the very existence of this debate demand that we finally examine the underlying issue: that the United States has actually become two entirely separate countries that currently occupy the same geographic space?
Political polarization in the United States is now so completely and thoroughly baked into our society that Red and Blue America have diametrically opposing viewpoints on just about everything: how to navigate a pandemic, social programs, gun control, immigration reform, taxation, abortion rights, concentration of wealth and income, the role of the United States on the global stage, whether embedding societal racism is real, whether scientists and health professionals should be respected and heeded… and, indeed, whether there is even such a thing as objective reality and fact.
Our political polarization is functioning like centrifugal force that rips orbiting objects further and further from the center. There is no effective counterweight. Fed by highly partisan news networks, the polarization continues to grow more and more extreme. And now, one political party is centering its entire identity around a “Big Lie.”
Blue America and Red America now even appear to disagree on whether the country should be a democracy or an authoritarian dictatorship controlled by one party. If we cannot even agree on the form of our government, are we one country… or two?
And now, as we face the possibility that we can no longer execute free and fair elections, we must ask whether one country within the United States can co-exist with the other… or is it seeking to permanently rule and subjugate the other?
For now, we must be able to look ahead and clearly see the crisis that is looming. We must not wait until what is unfolding is allowed to occur.
One of the most important things that decent people must be able to do is recognize and deal with evil.
The Republican Party of Donald Trump is pursuing a clear strategy of subverting democracy in America by denying minority citizens access to the vote.
If you don’t understand that or recognize that it is evil, then you are being naïve. You are failing to recognize evil, and failing to deal with it.
Now is the time to deal with it.
Not after it happens, when Donald Trump is back in the White House, and Eric Trump has been named Secretary of State and Attorney General Rudy Giuliani has pulled the broadcasting license of NBC.
Not when it is too late.
Get rid of the filibuster. Now.
Vote for HR 1. Now.
Save our democracy. Now.
What can you do? Call your Congressional representatives. Tell them that it is time to prove that they can walk, chew gum, and save democracy in our nation all at the same time.
And, just in case they really only can do one, make sure they know which one is most important.
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