“We are in one of the most perilous and fraught moments for American democracy since the mid-19th century,” Chris Hayes told me in a recent interview for the Nation.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we must prepare for all outcomes.
If we are to have a republic left to govern after Nov. 3, Democrats need a game plan for every possible outcome.
In the event of a landslide Trump victory, Joe Biden would concede, and the president would remain in office.
Should Biden win in a landslide, Trump might refuse to leave office. And while that is hard to imagine, a close election could prove even more complicated.
Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has already publicly advised Biden not to concede if the race is too close to call. She isn’t the only one worried. As Sam Stein writes in the Daily Beast, some progressives are debating how Biden should proceed if he becomes the third Democratic candidate in two decades to win the popular vote but lose the electoral college (or at least appear to on election night).
If Biden wins a tight race, his team will need to be prepared for court battles. Given the legwork the president has already put into undermining the U.S. Postal Service and sowing mistrust of mail-in voting, Democrats may have some catching up to do.
While Trump’s claims about mail-in voter fraud are patently false, they are also strategic. His supporters are three times less likely than Biden’s supporters to vote by mail this year, the Pew Research Center recently found. What happens if some work to disrupt the count of votes by mail? If violence breaks out, are local police forces prepared to protect election offices?
Biden’s team should avoid repeating Clinton’s mistakes, particularly her reported decision in October 2016 to move “her focus beyond Donald Trump, increasingly planning for what she believes will be her transition to the presidency.”
It’s critical that Biden remain focused on fighting the Trump administration’s misinformation on voting and simultaneously equipping voters with every resource available to ensure they can cast their ballot securely come November — if not earlier. Given the likelihood of Trump mounting a legal challenge against a close defeat, developing an airtight post-election legal and movement strategy is as important as protecting the integrity of the voting process in the coming weeks.
The Biden campaign won’t be able to do this alone. This is where the progressive movement comes in.
As my colleague Sasha Abramsky writes in the Nation, Trump’s naked opposition to a free and fair election has provided progressives with unlikely new allies: Republicans. Under the leadership of the Indivisible Project and Stand Up America, organizations including Republicans for the Rule of Law and Stand Up Republic are joining forces with Public Citizen, MoveOn and other progressive groups to organize against Trump’s attacks on democracy.
Another organization, the Transition Integrity Project, co-founded by Georgetown University law professor Rosa Brooks, has built and run a series of election-outcome simulations to inform Democrats’ strategies. And the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is coordinating with the 50 state secretaries of state, as well as congressional leaders and public officials in swing states, to promote early voting and sign up election volunteers.
Ultimately, protecting our democracy may take mass mobilization — that is, millions of activists following their vote with nonviolent protests. Here, too, progressives have been preparing since the Women’s March in January 2017.
The media also have a role in helping to ensure a free and fair election. With states including Michigan already expecting days-long delays in their election results, news outlets will need to manage expectations and resist the urge to be first with “breaking results.” We all saw the chaos that was unleashed when results did not emerge as expected from this year’s Iowa caucuses. Voters, and our democracy, will be ill-served if media outlets are caught off-guard by contests that stretch past Election Day.
Every four years, as candidates and supporters wait for votes to be tallied, Election Day has turned into a long night. This year, it’s more likely to be a long month. But there is still time for the Biden campaign, the media and the progressive movement to go into November prepared for no outcome on election night.
If they don’t, it could be a long four more years.