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USA: Millions of Americans have risen up and said: democracy won’t die on our watch

Sunday 8 November 2020, by siawi3

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/nov/07/americans-democracy-trump

Carol Anderson

Millions of Americans have risen up and said: democracy won’t die on our watch

Every maneuver by Trump and his enablers to block voting was met with a more powerful and effective counter-maneuver by citizens. It had to be.

Sat 7 Nov 2020

The question Americans faced in this election was clear. What were they prepared to do to protect their democracy?

Americans saw the “hail Trump” Nazi salutes shortly after his election in 2016. They have endured the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists that have killed police, massacred Jews in a synagogue, plowed a car into a crowd in Charlottesville, killing a young woman, slaughtered Latinos in El Paso, sent bombs to those whom the president blasted as his “enemies”, and murdered African Americans in Louisville.

Americans witnessed Trump’s nonchalant attitude as domestic terrorists plotted to kidnap and “put on trial” a governor who dared to stand up to him. They were barraged with his brags and taunts about how he had packed the US supreme court to intervene if he wasn’t declared the winner on 3 November. They heard him repeatedly intimate – threaten, even – that if the votes didn’t go his way, there just might not be a peaceful transition of power. They have also seen his absolute inability to denounce the white supremacists whom he summoned to “stand back and stand by” on election day.

But Americans had to fight more than just Trump. The Republican National Committee, recruited a 50,000-member army of “poll watchers” who are little more than a goon squad used to intimidate voters in 15 states, particularly in minority precincts.

Then there were the Republican governors and secretaries of state, who tried to weaponize a global pandemic and make it another barrier to the ballot box. By election day, Covid-19 has killed more than 230,000 and infected at least 9 million Americans. But instead of working overtime to protect their citizens’ health and right to vote, like the Jim Crow politicians of days of yore, they were determined to make people choose between casting their ballot or avoiding death. The CDC noted that with indoor transmission, “people farther than six feet apart can become infected by tiny droplets and particles that float in the air for minutes and hours, and that they play a role in the pandemic.”
In Mississippi, those basic public health warnings were shredded by a policy that made masks optional at polling stations and also gave poll workers the latitude to ask voters to remove their protective face coverings to verify identity. South Carolina, Alabama and Texas went to court multiple times to ensure that a viable solution to voting during a pandemic – absentee ballots – would become less and less viable. They fought numerous legal battles to require absentee ballots to be notarized, or have witness signatures, or be used exclusively by those over 65-year-old. Texas was clear. Voters under 65 must have a valid excuse to receive an absentee ballot. Fear of contracting Covid-19, however, was not one.

Trump added to the difficulties by deliberately kneecapping the US Postal Service. He bragged about withholding funds from the agency so that it would be unable to handle the exponential flood of mail-in ballots. He appointed Louis DeJoy as the postmaster general, who then ordered the dismantling of sorting machines, banned most overtime, commanded that trucks leave on time even if the mail was not on board. Then the president and the Republicans, after wreaking havoc, went to court to force states to invalidate ballots that the post office could not, would not deliver by election day.

The disdain for democracy dripping from Trump and the Republicans has done its damage. They had subverted and perverted many of the pillars of democracy – the protections of democracy. A US Senate run by flag-lapel wearing saboteurs let bills rot that would have expanded accessibility to the ballot box, blocked foreign interference in our elections, and repaired the Voting Rights Act. That same Republican-led Senate stacked a federal court system whose rulings aided and abetted voter suppression and packed a US supreme court that planted a poison pill in the Pennsylvania decision that it would be more than willing to decide the merits of mail-in ballot deadlines after the election (apparently if the vote totals were close enough to tip it towards Trump in this electoral college-rich swing state).

While the forces arrayed against the United States looked formidable, they were not invincible. Instead, they ran into something that is even more powerful than a president, a senate, or the US supreme court. The American people themselves and their belief in and devotion to democracy.

Of course, the hints were there all along that this regime and its supporters were in trouble. In 2016, there was so much wrong with that election, including Russia, that Trump’s victory had a huge, de-legitimizing asterisk beside it, starting with 2.9 million more votes for his opponent. Then there was the 2018 mid-term, which was a referendum on and repudiation of Trump when the House of Representatives flipped and the Democrats picked up more than 40 seats. What became obvious, as the Republican party shrank, as Never Trumpers gained an important toehold, and as he could only speak convincingly to his base supporters, what Trump brought to America simply was not acceptable or accepted. Then, what he did to America – the lies, the corruption, the stoking of white supremacist violence, the damage to the nation’s international reputation, the debasement of its institutions, the stealing of Americans’ joy and celebrations, the contempt for their lives – sealed his and his enablers’ fate.

CNN’s Van Jones brought to tears as Joe Biden wins US election – video here 2:14

Americans used, in the final words of Congressman John Lewis, “the most powerful nonviolent change agent” at their disposal, the vote, to fight for this nation and this incredible democracy. And fight they did. Americans maneuvered around, under, and over every barrier to get to the ballot box. With the help of an impressive array of legal and grassroots warriors, like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, March for Our Lives, FairFight for Action, Black Voters Matter Fund, Voto Latino, the Native American Rights Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the New Georgia Project, the NAACP, Democracy Docket, VoteRiders, and more, Americans fought for this democracy.

They stood in lines up to 11 hours.

They covered themselves in plastic to wait to vote and protect themselves against those who defined freedom as the right to hurl a deadly virus at innocent bystanders.

They volunteered and they donated, in the midst of an economic recession, with millions of people out of work, more than a billion dollars to fund candidates who did not have nor want access to unseemly dark money.

They used their age to motivate them in the war for democracy. A married couple in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, both over 100 years old, sang Swing Low, Sweet Chariot while waiting to ensure that their votes counted. Indeed, Black people 65 and older, clearly with memories of Jim Crow, voted in higher numbers during early voting than they had overall in 2016. And, Americans between 18-29, seeing a planet ravaged by climate change and their very future imperiled, came out in force to ensure that democracy and Earth had a fighting chance.

Americans refused to be stopped by all of the court shenanigans and bureaucratic rabbit punches. While Trump threatened the ability of the Post Office to deliver the ballots on time and the courts put an electoral timebomb on the due dates, the majority of Americans launched a pre-emptive strike and sent their ballots in even sooner, often weeks before the deadline. Others, leery of the disruption that Trump, DeJoy, and the courts had caused, bypassed the Post Office altogether and took their ballots to local boards of elections or put them in drop boxes. Tens of millions of ballots.

Americans were not going to be stopped. Those who did not or could not vote in 2016, cast their first ballot ever in 2020 and accounted for 20% of the record-breaking early voter turnout for this election.

In the end, every maneuver by Trump and his enablers was met with a more powerful and effective counter-maneuver. It had to be. One voter out of the record-breaking millions who braved Covid-19, the assault on mail-in ballots, the threats of violence at the polls, and the reality of what four more years of an anti-American regime would mean, explained simply: “This election is for saving the US.”

Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University and the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide and One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy. She is a contributor to the Guardian