by Jeff Mackler, published on Socialist Action, October 24, 2020
President Donald Trump responded on Sept. 23 to a reporter’s question “Win, lose, or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transfer of power after the election?”
Trump said, “We’re going to have to see what happens…We want to get rid of the [mail-in] ballots, and we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” Trump subsequently repeated his threat to declare himself president on Election Day, apparently based on his presumption that his personal rejection of counting mail-in and absentee ballots will ultimately be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The spectacle of some dozen U.S. TV stations broadcasting election returns on November 3 while Trump’s White House simultaneously prepares its own count, is almost beyond belief. Yet, if would-be dictator Trump takes this route there is zero doubt that we will see a massive protest mobilization of unprecedented proportions in the streets of the nation.
Anticipating such a mobilization the threatening Election Day coup plotter bigot Trump has announced his response in advance. He intends to interpret the 1807 Insurrection Act as empowering him to deploy the U.S. military and federalized National Guard troops to brutally repress demonstrators across the country who insist on the constitutional right to peacefully protest and insist on the right of the people to vote. Such were Trump’s stated intentions a few months ago when he called on his top general, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mark Milley, Secretary of Defense Esper and an entourage of government officials to personally accompany him in a walk across Lafayette Square, adjacent to the White House, to St. Peters Church for a one-minute photo op, bible in hand. A few blocks away his National Guard troops viciously gassed and brutalized thousands of peaceful protestors, including several media reporters. Assembled on the outskirts of the city were federal troops awaiting Trump’s call while Pentagon helicopters flew low overhead to intimidate the peaceful demonstrators.
A few hours earlier a frightened and panicked Trump had ordered his security staff to escort him and his family to safety into the bunkers deep beneath the White House. No doubt the cowardly Trump felt a compulsion to counter his subterranean disappearance with an immediate display of “courage.” Milley and Esper soon after disassociated themselves from Trump’s mini-parade as well as his stated intention to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy the already assembled armed federal troops. But Trump has never retreated from this threat.
Brute force and violence remain embedded in the president’s contemplated arsenal of repression as in his repeated threats to call in federal troops to repress anti-racist supporters of Black Lives Matter in Oregon, Wisconsin and elsewhere, not to mention his giving the high sign to overtly racist, neo-fascist groups who thrill to his lending them legitimacy.
Trump’s parallel efforts to retain the presidency include defunding the Post Office to limit the timely distribution and counting of mail-in ballots. His generalized support to voter suppression measures, if not the outright theft of votes, largely aimed at Black, Latinx and Native Americans communities, permeate the U.S. election system. The Electoral College itself operates to undermine the right of the majority to decide the presidency.
The fact that U.S. elections are largely limited to the parties of the corporate elite, that ballot access and access to the corporate media are similarly and severely restricted, further testifies to the system’s base failings. No question, the Democrats too, where they hold state and local majorities, regularly rig the electoral system to their advantage.
President Trump’s Nov. 3 intended measures to declare himself both the official vote tabulator and president are tantamount to a declaration of a personal coup, that is, the abrogation of a fundamental democratic right enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Such an action can only be considered a Trump effort to declare and establish a U.S. dictatorship, presumably to be backed by either the Supreme Court and/or by his Insurrection Act-deployed federal troops.
If and when Trump’s threat becomes a reality, we see no alternative but the full national mobilization of all democratic-minded working people in the streets to shut down the nation entirely, including the closure of all government and corporate institutions via united and coordinated strike actions and related mass protests. Only an undertaking of this magnitude – deploying the mass power of the people to insist that the election results be fully tallied and formally declared – can be realistically expected to compel Trump’s full retreat, not to mention his repudiation and punishment to the full extent of the law.
U.S. capitalism today already faces a crisis of legitimacy. Its inherent racism, sexism, compulsion to endless wars and economic inequality, its mad rush to global warming catastrophe and its incapacity to address the COVID-19 pandemic are magnified its twin parties mired in an electoral shit fight.
No to a Trump Coup Dictatorship! Prepare to Shut It Down! Into the Streets!
Jeff Mackler is the national secretary of Socialist Action. He is also Socialist Action’s candidate for U.S. President in the 2020 elections and he was the Socialist Action candidate for President in 2016. Mackler founded Northern California Climate Mobilization, is a longtime teacher and union activist with the American Federation of Teachers in Hayward, California and is director of theMobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.