Our democracy hangs in the balance. We are in a presidential election in which the incumbent candidate has threatened to take power by force, by not counting all votes and/or ignoring the vote if he loses.
But within this frightening prospect there is some good news. Most coups are a surprise, a sudden overnight power grab. It’s rare that a president announces that they’re thinking about doing a coup in a few weeks. This means we’ve had time to react, and prepare.
For the past month we’ve been a core part of a growing local coalition, as well as being connected to national level conversations, that is preparing for various scenarios that might play out in November.
Here’s what you can do to be ready for this election:
1. Understand the situation
– Don’t expect results on election night. With so many people using mail-in ballots it is very likely that millions of votes will not be counted for days or even weeks after November 3. Data suggests that Democratic voters are significantly more likely to use mail-in ballots than Republican voters, so it is expected that the preliminary results on election night will skew heavily Republican. As more votes are counted over the coming days the results could shift. This unusual delay could call the legitimacy of the election into question. During this time expect false flags and outlandish claims. Be very cautious with news. Don’t simply pass on whatever seems dramatic examples of wrongdoing — but take the time to check if it has been verified, already debunked, or from a source you don’t trust. Encourage people in your community to prepare for some uncertain weeks.
– Do call it a coup. There is a high likelihood that there will be attempts to stop the counting of ballots, through lawsuits, divergent media narratives, and elected officials attempting to take actions – including illegal actions. We can know this is a coup if the government stops counting votes; declares someone a winner who didn’t get the most votes; or allows someone to stay in power who didn’t win the election. If any of those three principles are violated, we have to declare loudly and strongly: this is a coup.
– Know that coups have been stopped by regular folks. Coup attempts have happened all over the world, and over half have failed. That’s because coups are hard to orchestrate. Because they are a violation of norms, they require quick seizure of multiple levels of institutions with a claim that they are the rightful heir. Coups tend to fail when government institutions (like elections) are trusted, there is an active citizenry, and other nations are ready to become involved. The role of citizenry is crucial. That’s because during the period right after a coup attempt— when the new government is claiming it is the “real” government — all the institutions have to decide who to listen to.
– We will refuse to accept election results until all the votes are counted. Every vote being counted is a cornerstone of our democracy. Any attempts to stop counting votes must be met with resistance – see more on that below.
Read more in the Transition Integrity Project or on Choose Democracy.
2. Vote early, encourage others to vote early, and Get Out The Vote
The best way to stop a coup is to never have one. People are doing lots of good work on issues of voting rights, urging turn-out, stopping repression, uncovering fraud, and getting people to commit to democracy. That may be enough. And you can be one of those people!
– Vote early – Voting as early as possible allows your vote to be counted on election night, reducing the confusion, and therefore reducing the opportunity to use that confusion for a power grab.
– Encourage others to vote early – reach out to anyone you know encouraging them to get their ballots in as soon as possible. See more info on different state voter timelines here.
– Get Out The Vote – For the past 3 months we’ve been calling and texting folks around the country to help them register to vote, understand their vote-by-mail system, and encouraging folks to vote. You can join our team working on this here.
3. Get prepared
There are lots of trainings and events in the run-up to election that will help you be more prepared:
- Mon Oct 26, 6:00PM – 350PDX General Meeting – Preparing for the Election – Register here
- Almost every day – National Workshop – How to Beat an Election-Related Power Grab – Info here
- Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, 4:30PM – Election Defenders! Training Series – Register here
- Sun Oct 25, 9:00AM – 12:30PM – United States Election Protection: Active Bystander Intervention and Nonviolent Communications Application – Register here
- Sun Oct 25, 6:30PM – Basic Peace Team Training: Keeping Nonviolent Discipline – Register here
- Sat Oct 31, 7:00 – 9:00PM & 10:00AM – 12:00PM (full training is both segments) – Unarmed Civilian Protection and Accompaniment Training – Register here
- Sun Nov 1, 3:00PM – Deescalation Training – (email Tom Hastings for link: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Mon Nov 2, 6:00PM – Nonviolence & Election Protection – Register here
Start reaching out to your neighbors
- Rural Organizing Project’s Defend Democracy Hotline:
- Portland United Against Hate’s Hate Incident Reporting Tool
Be two weeks ready – stock up not just for yourself, but for your neighbors
- Anything you can do right now is better than nothing, and if we sail through this situation, plenty of our neighbors can benefit from extra food security resources.
- Information on how to select and store emergency food and water is available here: https://www.ready.gov/food
- If it turns out we didn’t need to do this, then at least we’re earthquake ready / can give some of these supplies to folks in need right now.
More trainings and resources available here at the bottom of the page. If you know of other useful trainings please share them with email@example.com and we will pass them on.
4. Be ready to act quickly – and not alone
We will nonviolently take to the streets if a coup is attempted. We must protect the integrity of the democratic process.
A group of DC insiders called the Transition Integrity Project ran multiple simulations on Trump attempting to hold onto power no matter what. In every simulation they concluded that a “show of numbers in the streets may be decisive.” Regular people make the difference.
Coups are not a time to just watch and wait until “someone else” figures it out. No matter who you are you can be part of choosing democracy. Coups win by people freezing in the confusion, or just going along with what is happening.
Even when only a few people go along with the coup and act as though that’s normal, people may reluctantly accept it as inevitable. In all the research on preventing coups, there’s one common theme: people stop doing what the coup plotters tell them to do.
To start preparing, talk to at least 5 people who would go into the streets with you — the safest way to take to the streets is with people you know and trust. Talk to people you know in civil service and various roles about how they could non-comply with coup attempts. Use this time to get yourself ready to act.
Because a lot will depend on which scenario plays out, and also the nature of direct action, the place, time, and nature of mass mobilizations may not be known until days or even hours before. We will share post-election actions, strikes, and mobilizations on this email list and will also post them prominently on the 350pdx.org website.
We’ll also be sending out more actions you can take ahead of time early next week.
You can also join our 350PDX Signal chat (an encrypted text messaging app) to be connected to more of the actions happening on the ground that are less publicly advertised. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to that.
Center in calm, not fear. All this information may be overwhelming. It’s scary to believe we’re having to talk about a federal coup in the United States.
And we know that fearful people are less likely to make good decisions. Let’s aim for calm and avoid hyperbole. Be a reliable source by double-checking rumors and spreading high-quality facts. Sure, read social media… but spend some time, you know, doing real things that ground you.
Remember how you handle fear.
Play out scenarios, but don’t become captured by them.
We’re doing this to prepare, just in case.
Feel free to forward this email to anyone who you think would be interested, and ask them to sign up to our email list.
Thanks, and in solidarity,
Ashley, Chris, Chuck, Dineen, Indi, & Lucy – The 350PDX Staff