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President Donald Trump, still potentially contagious with COVID-19, speaks to supporters from the balcony of the White House on Oct. 10.

Voices / Viewpoint

Better safe than sorry

If Trump refuses to hand over the reins of power as dictated by election results, what are we prepared to do about it?

Dan DeWalt, one of the founders of this newspaper, is a woodworker and teacher at Leland & Gray Union High School. He is a longtime activist for social justice, clean energy, and peace.

South Newfane

Are you ready for action? Because action might be ready for you.

President Trump may be temporarily slowed by his foolish self exposure to the coronavirus, but the Republican party’s plans to disrupt, dispute, and steal the election are continuing at full speed.

Stirring up fears by making false claims about mail-in voting and “crooked Democrats,” they are fabricating a crisis that they then hope to step in and “solve” with the help of the courts, including the Supreme Court, which is why they so desperately are trying to force through their nomination of extremist Amy Coney Barrett.

So the question we must all ask ourselves: If there is indeed a coup d’etat, which is the only proper term for the refusal to hand over the reins of power as dictated by election results, what are we prepared to do about it?

If we are not planning for that now, we had better start, because it will really be up to us.

* * *

Any illegal move to stop the counting of votes, or refusal to accept official poll results, or attempts by the Department of Justice to confiscate ballots under the guise of “fraud investigation” would not only be a breach of law and the Constitution and our country’s values, but the final betrayal by an administration that has already made it clear that Trump’s interests are the only interests that count.

If it takes standing with Putin instead of the U.S., that’s what Trump will do. If it requires the servile Mr. Barr to use the power of the U.S. attorney general’s office to threaten peaceful protesters with felony charges or shut down polling stations, so be it.

Any and all of these efforts to steal the election will depend on the populace remaining quiet and subservient. The Republicans are counting on our faith in our democratic practices and traditions to keep us from fully believing that they would really try to keep power illegally.

They have systematically attacked the integrity of our media, our election officials, and democracy itself, in order to weaken our resolve and faith that we have a system worth fighting for.

* * *

We would be so much more content to rely on the rule of law and imagine that coups and power grabs are the stuff of other nations. We would rather just get through another day getting a little work done and avoiding the virus that rages around us.

But we don’t really have the leisure of those desires, because there is a very real chance that a coup of one sort or another will be attempted in order to maintain the last gasping grasp on power that the white power-broker politicians are seeing slowly slip from their greedy fingers.

If we are shocked into stillness, if we are rendered mute, then the power grabbers will be able to focus exclusively on their machinations; having no compunction about morality or the rule of law, they will succeed.

We know that the Democrats, while highly skilled hand wringers, will have neither the capacity nor the will to stop this potential coup.

It will be up to the populace instead.

* * *

If Trump and his cronies make their move (or Biden and his cronies, if it comes to that, although it won’t come to that) they need to get a rude awakening when they learn that their power grab has been immediately met by a general strike of people across the land.

Their monied backers will lose faith when they see everyone stop paying their bills, stop shopping at Amazon, stop following the rules. They will lose their nefarious focus if they are distracted to learn that roads and bridges all across the nation have been blocked.

If their complicit constabulary has to spend all of its time dealing with arresting peaceful protesters, who are replaced by more protesters who are keeping those roads and bridges controlled (and accessible only for emergency vehicles, of course), they will not have the time and resources to help steal the election.

They will understand that the American people will not go along with election theft and, indeed, will make governing impossible as long as any such attempt is being made.

* * *

Every one of us should be talking to our neighbors to find out what capacities we have locally to disrupt business as usual if it becomes necessary. We should be organizing affinity groups to take care of one another if action is required.

We will not only need people on the streets and in the halls of power. We will also need support neighbors — folks able to take care of the children, pets, property, and other things dependent upon those who might end up being arrested. This is the time to build community solidarity.

In a weird way, the pandemic has already helped us get into a position for action. Mutual-aid organizations have popped up not just in Vermont, but all around the country. People are starting to connect with one another to find out what their neighbors need and then find a way to fulfill that need.

Well, my sisters and brothers, we all need a legally elected government, and we have the capacity to see that this need is met.

* * *

The actions we take to defend our country need not be national in scope. In fact, the most effective way that we can bring an end to business as usual is to stop it in its tracks right near home.

There are plenty of folks in the towns and cities who can mobilize and fight to protect our republic in the populated centers. Those who live in the country need go no farther than the nearest bridge on a busy road to take a stand, stop traffic, and explain to folks why it is necessary to take such a drastic action. (Responding to a coup d’etat should qualify as extenuating circumstances.)

Anyone with a phone can be part of an organized effort to make nonstop phone calls or create internet traffic that will flood the power grabbers and overwhelm their communication capacity.

It will be important to live-stream our protests and share them on social media as they happen. Real-time inspiration can create a “flash mob” movement of resistance that, if it springs up from countless small, disparate points, will be impossible to stop.

* * *

If all this thinking turns out for naught, if there is not an attempt to steal an election, we will still be better off for our efforts to prepare for it.

Any action that we take now to strengthen our ties to our neighbors, to reinvest in our ties to our government and our right to have our voices heard, will improve our quality of life at home and in our neighborhoods.

Our mutual-aid resources that we offer one another will be in demand as we face future weather events or pandemics that surely will be coming our way in one form or another in the near future.

This alone is worth the work of organizing.

Better safe than sorry. That has a nice ring to it.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #583 (Wednesday, October 14, 2020). This story appeared on page B1.

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