Chose Democracy

Democracy is fragile. While a coup is beginning to look less likely as the media uniformly declares Biden the winner of the election, we are continuing to watch the situation closely. We know that the people can defend our democracy. Nonviolent mass protests have stopped coups in other places, and we will be ready to do the same here if things change.

Elections work because the public agrees to honor the results. Similarly, coups work only if the public honors them. When the public refuses to accept the coup as legitimate, coups fall apart. Refusal looks like millions of people using nonviolent tools to delegitimize the coup by demonstrating, resisting orders, and shutting down the country until democracy prevails.

We believe in supporting the winner of a free and fair election, but we will oppose any attempts to twist the process beyond recognition.

That’s why we are committing now to choose democracy: by voting, making sure all the votes are counted, and preparing to take the streets in the case of a coup.

Together, we choose democracy.

The Coup-o-Meter is maintained by IsThisACoup.com. Visit the site for details on recent events that have contributed to the current state of the Coup-o-Meter.

Updates from the Choose Democracy mailing list

November 26th (Thanksgiving):

Today is a day to honor and give thanks. 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 seized power; 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 trust-worthy.

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 leaders helped 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.

 

November 18th:

Since we sent the update yesterday a couple of things have happened — some reassuring, others concerning enough that we’re sending an immediate update. Election officials breaking their vows to certify is serious. It’s unprecedented. And, it didn’t work. We’re not entirely sure what ripples it will have, but we want to keep you informed in these tumultuous times.

The first is Trump fired a Homeland Security official — one who kept publicly saying there’s no evidence of fraud. The official was known for meticulous prevention of foreign and domestic interference in the elections and created an excellent website debunking Trump’s claims of fraud with well-reasoned facts. Trump is growing less tolerant of folks not showing personal loyalty, so expect more firings.

The second is Pennsylvania’s state supreme court rejected another legal challenge (and excoriated another). The Trump campaign claimed their observers were impeded in Philadelphia. The court soundly rejected that claim.

The third happened last night. For about four hours, one small part of the US election system bent to Trump’s narrative for the first time. This concerning flurry of events ended with an otherwise normal certification of election results.

The events as we understand it are:

In Detroit Michigan, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers met to certify the election results. A court ruling pushed the meeting to be last-minute — so it started at 4:47pm, very late for an anticipated 5pm announcement of a normally routine act in the election process.

Organizers on the ground had reason to believe that the Republican canvassers might make an unprecedented move and not vote to certify. The Republican chairwoman of the Board of Canvassers has ethics complaints against her and a history of extreme partisanship. Because it was an outside possibility, Metro Detroit Action Council (spearheaded by groups like Michigan Liberation) had organized a car caravan ahead of the canvassers’ meeting and a call-in campaign to State Representatives and the Wayne County Commissioner.

Before the public comment period began, the two Republicans on the four-person Wayne County Board of Canvassers refused to vote to certify the results. Journalist Nancy Kaffer tweeted, “This is unprecedented in my 20 years covering government here.”

The Michigan Republican Party initially claimed their pressure made the difference, also naming the Republican National Committee and the Trump Campaign. In their statement no evidence was given of their claims of fraud. A detailed review of the votes in question from the Detroit Free Press reveal the inconsistencies to be minor and well within the margin of human error, consistent with other counties and previous elections.

With the canvass board appearing unable to certify, the votes would go to the State Board of Canvassers. Organizers still felt confident the votes would get counted at the state level, but worried about the narrative and precedent.

But then the public comment period began. The Zoom room was overwhelmed with people trying to speak. Voices added up.

If this result had stood, millions of votes would have temporarily not been certified, specifically targeting Detroit. Rev. Wendell Anthony of the Detroit NAACP spoke, “You have extracted a Black city out of a county and said the only one that I have fault against is the city of Detroit, where 80% of the people who reside here are African Americans. Shame on you.”

The testimony was passionate and went on and on.

By 9:17pm Michigan’s Secretary of State was live on CNN when the news broke that the decision had been undone. The Republicans reversed course and the board unanimously certified the results.

There are some specifics about this case that may make it a fluke — the particular history of the chairwoman and some of the particulars of place. But since there’s a chance it is a crack in the wall, we encourage vigilance and readying for rapid response, as needed.

The actions laid out by Detroits’ organizers provide a good model where this may be an issue:

  1. As we said before, contact your local election officials. If you hear rumors of defecting canvassers or legislators, build pressure on them now. Target them and pressure upwards to elected officials.
  2. Stay alert and get 5 people ready to join you in action. Large county swing states have built local coalitions and groups ready to respond, such as We Make Michigan. Their toolkit is replicable in other locations.
  3. Be prepared for rapid response. We have not heard full reporting on what changed the Canvassers’ positions, but it’s pretty clear one tactic was meaningful: calling in to the local canvass board.

Last night we scrambled to prepare an action alert to boost actions in Michigan. But then we were relieved by the final result.

Look at our PS for ways to plug-in with Michigan’s efforts. There’s another virtual meeting of the Board of Canvassers today.

At this moment, we are not actively hearing rumors of this happening in other places around the nation. We continue to urge vigilance.

The poisonous narrative is infectious. Democracy is fighting back.

1 Sign up for updates.

While a coup is beginning to seem less & less likely, we will let you know right away if we see things which raise alarm or require action. Standard messaging rates apply.

 

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2 Want to take action? Here are ways to get involved.

While a coup seems less likely today than it did before the election, it’s still important that we make our voices heard & keep pressure on elected officials to respect & defend democracy. Check out these actions and see which one makes sense for you:


Organize a local group and ask your politicians to commit to counting every vote

Gather a group of your friends, neighbors, or coworkers, pick a local government official, and use the guide below, make a plan to pressure them to publicly commit to ensuring that all votes are counted & the results are respected.

Use the Hold the Line guide to start a pressure campaign.

People arm-in-arm with talk bubbles saying "count vote"

Call or write a letter to local elections officials demanding a fair process

Protect Our Elections will help you send a pre-written letter or make a call to your local elections officials asking them to do their duty and protect democracy.

Email or call your local elections officials using a script from Protect Our Elections.

Phone and letter

Want to learn more now? Read or watch the 10 things you need to know to stop a coup. Or find articles and case studies in our Resource section.