During Tuesday night's debate, Donald Trump, who has gone pure fascist, once again escalated his efforts to scare people out of voting. He encouraged his followers to engage in voter intimidation under the guise of "poll watching," and told armed hate groups to "stand by." Trump also floated a number of baseless conspiracy theories about "voter fraud" that are clearly designed to discourage voting and rationalize legal efforts to stop votes from being counted.
Meanwhile, Trump's postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, is still slowing down the mail in what looks like a bid to make sure that many mail-in ballots miss election deadlines.
It's also clear that Trump, with the assistance of his principal stooge, Attorney General Bill Barr, plans to challenge vote-counting after Election Day, knowing full well that it may take a week or more to count all the mail-in ballots.
Trump can't win a free and fair election, and he knows it. So he's doing everything in his power to keep Americans from having one. As the New York Times reported on Thursday morning, Republicans, in their efforts to save Trump, are using every dirty trick in the book to stop people from voting.
Times are scary. It's understandable to feel demoralized, but it is more important than ever not to give into that feeling. Trump and Republicans want you to feel despair. Despair leads to inaction, which makes it a lot easier for Trump to pull this off.
Instead, it's time to get angry, and to use that anger to propel you into action. Trump may want to steal the election, but wanting isn't having. He can be defeated. He will likely be defeated — as long as everyone does their part to stop him.
With that in mind, here are five things you can do, starting today, to fight back and keep Trump from stealing this election.
1. Don't panic. Trump makes a lot of noise, but at heart, the man is a simpering coward and incompetent to boot, as his business record and pandemic management shows. While Trump has competent people working on his behalf, he is still the head of this effort and he is still an idiot who thought bleach injections sounded like a good idea.
"A lot of people don't have faith in the system for obvious reasons, but there is a constitutional process that will take place," regardless of what bad actors may insinuate, Sylvia Albert, the director of voting and elections at Common Cause, told Salon.
Trump is engaging in penny-ante stuff like tinkering with the mail because he can't do what the dictators he admires, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, do — which is simply fix to elections. His machinations may make voting more difficult, but he still won't be able to stop most people, if they stay focused.
As George Packer of The Atlantic notes, "For the election to succeed, we have to think and act as if it will succeed," adding, "Stealing an election remains extremely difficult, and almost impossible if the vote isn't close."
The good news is that Trump's efforts to use the courts to stop mail-in voting have been "uniformly unsuccessful," the Brennan Center explains.
Don't let Trump's chest-thumping discourage you. He isn't as powerful as he pretends to be. He is so incompetent that, like a villain in a James Bond movie, he's already revealed the details of his nefarious scheme to his opponents. Don't be afraid to vote, and don't allow other people in your life to be discouraged by fear.
2. Vote! Early and in person, if possible. "The most important thing voters can do right now is make a plan and make sure that their vote counts," Albert said, explaining that voters need to check their registration now and not wait until it's too late.
Democrats encouraged voters to apply for mail-in ballots early in the cycle, due to the pandemic. Trump has exploited that by threatening legal challenges to those ballots and slowing down the mail. So folks should consider voting early and in person, if that's an available option. If you wear a mask, voting early is relatively safe, since polling locations shouldn't be overly crowded.
For those who already applied for a mail-in ballot, this switch can feel fraught. The good news is that many states have what is called "in-person absentee voting," where people can turn in their mail-in ballots at early voting locations. A group called The Early Vote has an Instagram page up explaining, state by state, how early voting and in-person absentee voting works. Check out their page and then follow up with your local election office to see how you can vote.
The sooner you get your vote in, the safer it is!
3. Volunteer to get out the vote — and consider focusing your efforts on Florida. After voting, the most important thing you can do is help other people vote. Join a phone or text bank effort to get out the vote. If you live in a swing state, connect with local organizations that have voting turnout efforts. Or connect with a campaign you support — they all love phone bank volunteers, and it's something you can do from home with a cell phone.
One great way to help is to sign up through Vote Save America, which is run by the crew at the podcast Pod Save America. Their Adopt a State program connects volunteers to efforts in specific states to get out the vote, allowing people to focus on swing states in particular.
But I'd like to specifically recommend that you adopt Florida. Unlike other swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Florida starts certifying mail-in ballots 22 days before the election, meaning there's a strong chance that state's results will be tabulated and announced on election night. If Trump loses Florida (and the state gets called early), that will gut his entire plan to pretend he won prematurely and fight to stop counting the vote in swing states. (Realistically, if Trump loses Florida it's probably the harbinger of a Biden landslide and we can all go to bed.)
4. Volunteer to be an election protector. Volunteers are needed to make sure everyone who wants to vote gets to vote, without being intimidated. Common Cause has a nonpartisan election protection program and needs volunteers to man phone lines and work as poll watchers. Much of the work can be done from home.
Another option is to sign up with the Frontline Election Defenders, a group set up by an alliance of progressive organizations, including the Working Families Party and the Movement for Black Lives Electoral Justice Project.
If you are a military veteran, have legal training or have professional skills in de-escalation, such as social work or psychological training, let these groups know. They might have special use for your skills in the coming weeks.
5. Prepare yourself now for the post-election fight for all votes to be counted. It's tough to say what the situation will look like after Election Day. Organizers for progressive or election integrity groups are planning for a broad spectrum of possibilities, and the situation is very fluid. It might be that Trump's noise-making amounts to nothing and Joe Biden is certified the winner quickly. Or it might be that there's a fight to count votes in the swing states. What exactly will happen, much less the when and where, is simply unknowable.
With all that said, it's good to start planning right now to be ready to spring into action if protesters or volunteers are needed to protect the vote-counting after Election Day. This is especially true if you live in or near a blue city in a swing state, such as Detroit, Miami, Milwaukee or Philadelphia, that could become the center of Republican efforts to interfere with vote-counting. Or if you live in a state like Pennsylvania, where Republicans are exploring the possibility of using false accusations of "fraud" to decertify the vote count, and might need to be overwhelmed with nonviolent protests to change their minds.
The No. 1 thing you can do to prepare is connect with groups, through social media or emails lists, such as Color of Change, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, MoveOn, People's Action or the Working Families Party. Look into local social justice organizations if you live in a swing state. Mobilization of protesters will likely happen through social media, and knowing who to turn to if things get hairy will be crucial for moving fast and putting bodies where they need to be to protect the vote.
Whatever happens, the most important thing to understand is the power of nonviolent direct action. Trump and his minions want violence so they can blame the left, play the victim and, most importantly, declare that they're ones who will maintain "law and order" and are therefore justified in their efforts to steal the election. The best way to defeat that strategy is offer the public a clear contrast between the peaceful supporters of democracy and the violent right-wing goons that Trump is encouraging.
The good news is that experts believe it's still unlikely that it will come to protests in the streets. The decentralized election system is simply too hard for Trump to control, especially since he's so lazy and incompetent. His legal efforts to keep people from using mail-in ballots are failing. Mostly, what he has is a big microphone and a deep desire to scare people out of voting.
Donald Trump is trying to terrify Americans out of holding an election, and into allowing him to hold onto power by illegitimate means. But this is still a democracy — and we can keep it, as long as we stay resolved and refuse to let his ugly bluster scare us into letting it go.