We want to thank the many people who helped us avoid a catastrophic coup !
It looks like the worst may be over. Monday likely was decisive. Trump was handed another legal slapdown in his effort to disenfranchise millions of confirmed voters with evidence-free claims. Local organizing in Michigan pushed-back against wayward electorates — ending with Michigan officially certifying election results. And the General Services Administration officially announced its transition to President-elect Biden.
On that last point, many news sources missed the critical timing. Emily Murphy, the administrator, made the announcement first. She explicitly said she made it without input from the White House. Only after the GSA made its announcement, Trump tweeted that "I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done." It's the closest to a concession we may ever get.
We started Choose Democracy to be prepared if it was necessary for a national resistance to a coup. As an effort, we're not anti-Trump or pro-Biden. We teamed up across political spectrums to be pro-Democracy and stop a coup. Democracy has been severely tested, and is the worse for wear, but it never reached a breaking point that required a large-scale national mobilization.
We are thankful for the fast-paced local resistance to initial coup efforts. The most dramatic was the organizing work in Michigan after the biggest post-election scandal erupted: two Michigan electorates attempted to thieve millions of votes from majority Black Detroit. Hours of heated testimony organized by mostly black organizers in Wayne County made them switch back (well, before they unsuccessfully tried to switch back again, again).
Michigan's win by organizers was public, but it wasn't alone. From our perspective, one of the biggest stories only got glancing attention: PA's Election Integrity Commission. Before the election, a nebulous commission was proposed by the GOP. It claimed to be prepared to root out fraud. As a GOP-led commission it held the right to subpoena anyone, would start before the election, and, arguably, had the ability to seize uncounted ballots. Organizers on-the-ground — including progressive leftists and moderate Republicans — defeated this effort quietly and quickly. (We look forward to telling more details of these stories!) These and other on-the-ground efforts ahead of time may have proven decisive. Thank you for all the work you did pressuring your own local politicians before the election.
We also want to thank all the groups and people who prepared for severe escalation. We believe these efforts made an impact. As any union organizer will tell you, bosses know when a union is ready for a strike and it is added into the calculation. The hundreds of news articles showing our collective preparation to resist helped — even if we didn't have to follow through this time.
Stopping a coup by a one-off rally is like stopping an army with a pea-shooter. We are thankful to folks who strategized and prepared for more than the same-old tactics. We applaud youth who prepared for a national strike, unions prepping for rolling and general strikes, and those who prepared consumer boycotts to shut down the country.
If we are feeling charitable (and today we are), we might even be thankful that we didn't have a more effective coup effort. The fact Trump was meeting with Michigan Republican leaders this late was a sign of incompetent planning. One reason we maintained such optimism was the coup plotters failed to put together and carry out any organized plan. Jared Kushner was scrounging for a legal team on election night and its legal team never put forward a cogent argument. The political strategy of telling lies didn't translate to political organizing of any coherent approach that would result in Trump staying in office. Ultimately, Trump never seizedpower; he just said he'd stay in power.
This is consistent with Trump's ability to control narrative. He's good at claiming dramatic headlines, poor at the detailed follow-through. A coup in the US is made much harder because political power is widely distributed in local and state governments and courts — and those systems showed their independence from Presidential sway. We want to thank people in those systems who defended that independence — poll workers, election officials, electorates, and all those who kept our election system trustworthy.
We are thankful for those that stood against party line to do the right thing. Despite a polarized climate, a slew of Republicans slapped down Trump's plans. It was a Republican PA judge Matthew Brann who slammed Guliani's legal strategy, rejecting every aspect of their claim. GOP leaders in the state houses of PA and MI explicitly rejected Trump's strategy to endorse alternate state electors — and were true to their word on that. Republican leadershelped kill PA's Election Integrity Commission. Despite pressure, threats to his family, and perhaps a career-ending move, Van Langevelde, a member of Michigan's board of state canvassers and who works for Republicans in the Statehouse, followed the law and voted to certify Michigan's results. And election officials on both sides of the aisles have made clear this was a clean election.
We note this because the polarized rhetoric rarely notes how many people "from the other side" played their role appropriately. Whereas Democratic actors faced no push-back from their base for not supporting the coup, Republicans were tested and faced repercussions.
We will keep being vigilant until this election is over. We are confident Trump will continue with outrageous headline-grabbing behavior (as we drafted this letter Trump grabbed headlines for his tweet to pardon Michael Flynn and a call-in to a PA GOP event doubling down on his claims the election was rigged). We encourage people to reclaim the space Trump has occupied in their heads and not be click-baited by the outgoing commander-in-chief.
We will be offering one more webinar to celebrate and share what we've learned about protecting and strengthening our democracy going forward. Please stay tuned.
There are fundamental issues that need addressing. We witnessed a scorched-earth policy, a mass refusal to push-back on falsehoods, and a withering attack on democracy. It is not going away. The distrust and distortions have taken root in much of the country's psyche. So we thank all of you who are preparing for the fights ahead (even as Choose Democracy fully expects to close shop on January 21st, having done our job on helping stop a coup).
For this weekend, it's okay to exhale.
And so we thank you — supporters, friends, colleagues. Those of you who signed the pledge and did your part to be brave enough to prepare for the worst. This was a big lift held by many people.