Monday, July 27, 2020


I had hopes for this Washington Post opinion piece by Brian Klaas, titled "Here’s How to Prepare for Trump Rejecting the Election Results in November." Klaas has coauthored a book called How to Rig an Election; he knows what happens when elections results are disputed in other countries.

Some of his advice is not bad, if obvious:
... the media should do more to educate voters about election administration. Trump’s lies about election procedures work when people don’t understand the process. For example, Trump tried to attack mail-in ballots while saying that he has no issue with absentee ballots, even though no-fault absentee ballots and mail-in voting are exactly the same thing.

... state and local election officials should do more contingency planning for a pandemic election. Things will go wrong. The more preparations are done now, the fewer examples Trump and his allies can cherry-pick to make false claims of being the victim of an unfair vote.
But a couple of his recommendations just wouldn't work in America today.
First, we need a bipartisan pact endorsing the results. Incumbents who reject results solely because they lost tend to get more traction when their party backs them uniformly. When cracks show, the self-serving farce falls apart. Democrats and Republicans who believe in democracy should agree to immediately and publicly accept the election results (barring any major irregularities).

All living former presidents should be involved.
All living former presidents? Here's the complete list: three Democrats, all of whom are regarded by American right-wingers as among the worst people who ever lived (Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama), plus George W. Bush, a Republican who's now regarded by Trumpists as a suspect "globalist" and crypto-Democratic member of the Deep State. They would have credibility with all the people who didn't vote for Trump, but with hardly any of the people who did.
It would also be particularly helpful to ensure that former members of the Trump administration — such as John Kelly, H.R. McMaster and Jim Mattis — are on board. The broader the coalition, the more Trump’s desperate ploy would be exposed for what it is.
Kelly, McMaster, and Mattis? Omigod, more Deep Staters! Not one of them would command the respect of the Trump base if they challenged the God Emperor's take on how the voting went.

And yes, this sounds nice in theory...
Second, shore up public confidence with oversight. State election officials can conduct quick randomized audits and release results that demonstrate the integrity of the process. Many states do not automatically mandate such audits, but there is still time to expand them before November.
But the very states where Trump will challenge the results are the ones where Trumpist officeholders will probably choose to sow doubt about the outcome rather than express confidence in the process. I think secretaries of state will defend their work. But GOP governors and state legislators won't back them up if they think there's an angle to be played.

And this is a terrible idea:
... while some states have put up roadblocks to independent international election observers in the past, now would be a good time to welcome them with open arms. They might shine an embarrassing light on any state’s electoral failings, but can quickly debunk false claims of manipulation made by losers.
I don't think it would be a terrible idea in a rational world. I'd actually like to see UN observers reporting on election procedures in, say, Brian Kemp's Georgia.

But if you want right-wing militias out in the streets, persuaded that the One Worlders' takeover of America has begun and we're at war, then send international observers to supervise elections in the red states. Maybe there wouldn't be masses of wingnuts with AR-15s physically preventing the observers from doing their jobs, but I wouldn't bet against it.

Klaas's final bit of advice is his best:
Finally, it would help if the margin was clear and court rulings were swift and decisive to uphold democracy. As professor Sarah Birch, author of “Electoral Violence, Corruption, and Political Order,” told me: “Malawi provides a good example of a country that recently weathered a contentious election more successfully than many observers had expected.” Even though the president tried to manipulate the vote — and even tried to cancel it — “the clear margin of victory of the winner together with the resoluteness of the courts in insisting on adhering to democratic electoral norms” blunted the damage done by the losing incumbent.
I don't know how much we can count on the courts in the America of Trump, Mitch McConnell and Leonard Leo, but nothing will blunt Trump's efforts to the steal the election as effectively as kicking his ass by many millions of votes. Gray eminences and international institutions won't get the job done.

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