As of this writing, Trump surrogate in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has not accepted his election defeat by Lula da Silva. Immediately following his loss, he was reported as meeting for hours with his secretary of defense. By all appearances, he is investigating whether he can institute a coup. Trump advisor Steve Bannon is urging Bolsonaro to do exactly that by saying Bolsonaro “cannot concede”.
Bolsonaro, on his part, is following the game plan of Trump and taking it a step further. Make no mistake, though, Trump and his party (which now is his party) are plotting the exact same thing. Others include Republican congress members Louis Gohmert, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. These types have taken over the Republican Party, all the way down to the county level.
Trump’s Ground Troops
Consider Robert Beadles, a California transplant to Washoe County, Nevada. Beadles reportedly made millions speculating in crypto currencies. In 2019 he moved to Nevada and started pushing the 2020 “fake elections” lies and got involved in Republican networks pushing this lie. These networks must be taken seriously and often include threats made to voting officials. Take the example of Deanna Spikula, the Washoe County registrar of voters, who according to Reuters ended up quitting, saying that she feared for the safety of her family.
Reuters also reports: “Other states also report mass departures of election staffers, according to Reuters interviews with election officials in 13 states. In Pennsylvania, more than 50 county election directors or assistant directors have left in the state’s 67 counties since the 2020 vote. In South Carolina’s 46 counties, 22 election directors have left office. And 30% of Texas election officials have exited over that same time period; in one county, the entire elections staff resigned. Many officials in those states said threats, harassment and incessant voter-fraud claims were driving factors in the resignations.”
These mass resignations “have created [election] chaos” in three counties in Texas, according to the NY Times. In Kentucky, 23 of the state’s 120 election clerks are not running for reelection, due to these accusations and implied or open threats, including being guilty of “treason” (which is a capital offense).
The Brennan Center describes the general process: “At the heart of this effort lies an effort to recruit and train election deniers as poll workers. In gatherings held across the country, network speakers have outlined combative strategies for poll workers to challenge voters and question routine election processes. These tactics have already filtered down to the local level, where party officials and even one candidate have encouraged aspiring poll workers to break local election rules.”
These efforts are leading to delay and chaos in the counting of votes. In Cochise County, Arizona, the two Republican members on the three member Board of Supervisors voted to hand count all the ballots, vs. doing a machine count, which is far, far less subject to fraud. This is despite the fact that such hand-counting of all the ballots violates Arizona law. It will probably take days and days to count the ballots of the 87,000 registered voters in that county. Meanwhile, we can only imagine all the lies and hysteria that the Republicans will be whipping up.
There is also the outright voter suppression, such as that which results from Texas’s voter “reform” law, S.B. 1. That law requires that any mail-in ballot must contain either the voter’s driver’s license number or their social security number on the envelope. That seems simple enough, but there’s one problem: If a voter writes their driver’s license number on the envelop (and they might not even see where that is required) and they had registered – possibly years ago – using their social security number, then the vote is thrown out. This includes requesting a mail-in ballot in the first place. Again, according to the Brennan Center, during the March, 2022 primaries, 12,000 applications for mail-in ballots were rejected out of 25,000 requests. Nearly 50%! There is a race gap: “The overwhelming majority of ballot rejections were due to the new ID number requirements imposed by S.B. 1 and… Latino, Asian, and Black voters were significantly more likely to have their mail ballot applications rejected than white voters. We also found that even when voters successfully applied to vote by mail, voters of color were far more likely to have their mail ballots rejected. This combination of application and mail ballot rejections left nonwhite voters at least 30 percent more likely to have an application or mail ballot rejected than white voters,” The Brennan Center reports.
The Republicans are cutting off voting rights by reducing the number of polling places. According to the Washington Post “The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights reports that in the 13 states that were previously covered by the VRA’s pre-clearance provision, 1,688 polling locations were closed between 2012 and 2018. A little less than half of those occurred in one state alone, Texas, which closed 750 polling places in an effort to centralize voting.” These tend to discriminate against people of color. For example, in Georgia the election officials proposed shutting down all but one polling place in Lincoln County, which has a large rural (and poor) population. That plan was rescinded due to protests.
The U.S. is headed for a train wreck. Many elections this year are likely to be extremely close. The results could be determined by these measures of voter suppression and election rejection. Complaints about this will be hurled back at those who complain. “Now you are doing the same thing that you accuse us of doing regarding the 2020 election,” will be the reply. There is one major difference: In this case, the complaints will be true!
Liberal groups like the Brennan Center do valuable research. But that is insufficient. So far, the main strategy has been to take complaints to court. The Republican majority on the US Supreme Court has proven time and again which side they are on. They did this when they made impotent the Voting Rights Act. That they didn’t allow Trump’s claims in 2020 was only due to the fact that it was too many states whose results they’d have had to overturn. Also, the Republican ultra-reactionaries had not yet seized full control over that party and they weren’t well enough organized at that time. Now they are, and they’re coming after you and your right to vote in any meaningful manner.
What is to stop this far right Republican majority on the Supreme Court from simply ruling that the Constitution mandates that the state legislatures are the ones who determine election procedures? If the Republicans succeed in carrying out their plans for this election, the road will be open to ensuring their presidential candidate taking office in 2024 and dominating congress in that year. Then they will have unchecked power of all three branches of the federal government – the Supreme Court, congress and the presidency.
It will require a mass grass-roots movement in the streets to turn them back. That is where the problem lies. An article in the NY Times explains the problem. In January of 2021, shortly after Trump’s January 6 coup attempt, a group of some 900 NGO representatives, union leaders and Democratic Party strategists met to prevent the Republicans from overturning the election results. They put all sorts of pressure on different officials, but the key sentence is this: They “organized mass gatherings only sparingly and in highly choreographed ways after Nov. 3. In a year of surging political energy across the left and of record-breaking voter turnout, one side has stifled itself to an extraordinary degree during the precarious post election period.” These same groups, following the leadership of the entire Democratic Party, have continued with that same strategy ever since then.
Who can break this impasse?
The great majority of the socialist left has proven its utter confusion. Almost all of them not only opposed voting against Trump – which can only mean voting for Biden – in 2020; they spent most of their time attacking Biden. It’s not that Biden represents the working class. He never has. But the greater danger was and is Trump and his fascist connected party. This same socialist left today has joined with the far right in giving Putin political cover in his invasion of Ukraine. They can be called the “RT left” (after the Putin “news” site, Russia Today). Some are influenced by the likes of Trump supporting and light minded conspiracy theorist/”comedian” Jimmy Dore. Others follow the views of Green Party leader Jill Stein, who called Trump the “peace candidate” in 2020.
The tiny socialist forces that are connecting with the Ukrainian working class should strive to make similar links with at least sectors of the US working class. In doing so, they would find an audience among the many thousands of union members who voted down union contracts last year. Those and thousands of other such workers. It is there that we can start to build a movement to resist Trump and resist Putin – a movement in the streets.
That may sound like a huge task. It is a huge task for our tiny numbers. But what is the alternative?