The president of the United States has deliberately plunged us into a constitutional crisis that could destroy the republic — and we, here in Massachusetts, are not ready.
For months, Donald Trump has admitted to voter suppression, lied about mail-in ballots, fanned distrust among his supporters and repeatedly refused to commit to the peaceful transfer of power. He hasn't let up on his denunciation of the electoral system, even as he fights COVID-19.
During his first debate with former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump relentlessly denounced our electoral process as rigged and untrustworthy. “This is going to be a fraud like you have never seen,” he said. He called on his supporters to swarm polling places and intimidate voters. And he signaled to his well-armed white-supremacist supporters that they should “stand by.”
Most ominously, at the end of the debate, he shouted — twice — that “this is going to end badly!” Translation: I must be declared the winner — or the country will suffer. We must take his shocking statements seriously and begin to prepare. Starting today.
We should be pleased that tens of thousands of people, including many of our state attorneys general, are preparing to fight the legal battle ahead. But the key question that we must ask — and answer: What is our strategy? What are we, the people of Massachusetts, going to do?
We can say with precision when the crisis will explode: at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. We must be ready.
Here, for starters, are six steps to save America. We need more.
1. We must publicly change our expectations. “Election Day” no longer exists. People are already casting votes before Nov. 3, and they will be counting votes afterward. Trump is pushing for the election to be called that night, and we can expect the White House to put immense pressure on Fox News and others to do just that. The people of Massachusetts must reject such pressures with a united and iron will.
But the key question that we must ask ... ? What are we, the people of Massachusetts, going to do?
2. We must “count every vote." Multiple courts have already extended various state deadlines to allow for the mail-in ballots to arrive and be tallied. Here in Massachusetts, we must show how to conduct an election properly by counting every absentee, mail-in and military vote.
3. We must urgently prepare, community by community. Even as we continue to organize voters, we must take the weeks of relative calm to reach agreement on how to prevent a potential coup. After Nov. 3, we may be far too rattled by reports of riots and chaos around the country to make wise decisions. That’s why the members of every community and organization — our religious institutions, professional associations, our youth leaders and grassroots groups, just to mention a few — must hold special meetings in the next weeks to prepare.
4. We must put country over party. Leaders and activists within the Democratic Party in Massachusetts — of which I am a state committee member — may be busy seeking to win every contest, but they also must also start preparing for the crisis ahead. The Republican Party in this state must do the same. Governor Baker, we all believe that you are a loyal American citizen, eager to preserve our shared heritage and values. At this pivotal moment, we need more than words from you. As the most prominent Republican in the state, what specific actions will you take to resist the would-be dictator who leads your party and threatens our nation?
Our republic is far from perfect, but we must not allow it to die a humiliating death right in front of us ...
5. We must be ready to flood the streets. We know how to do this. But first, we need to work through many key questions: What will we be marching for? Who will be our allies? How will we be trained and remain disciplined enough to prevent the escalation of violence? We may not be able to reason together if chaos erupts immediately after the election — which is why we must start now.
How? Our religious institutions should start widespread training for non-violent disobedience. Our leaders should remind the police, the national guard and members of the armed services that they have sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, not a particular president. Unions should discuss coordinated job actions. If other states start choosing new electors in order to skip counting voters — as Pennsylvania's Republican leaders have recently discussed -- we must consider unprecedented forms of resistance and protest, such as a general strike throughout New England.
6. We must be prepared for anything. The recent news that the president and first lady have been infected with COVID-19 could make the election even more volatile. Those close to Trump — including some White House staffers — reportedly worry that his mental state might be diminished by taking dexamethasone, which can cause euphoria, mood instability, rage and psychosis. What might he do if his vengeful and impulsive personality is further destabilized by a touch of COVID-induced delirium?
Every April, while my children were in public school in Somerville, they watched an actor dressed as Paul Revere ride up Broadway, retracing the patriot’s original route. It was always a festive occasion, with free ice cream, patriotic speeches and the opportunity to pet the horse. But it was not an exercise in nostalgia. It was a lesson in civic duty.
When democracy was threatened by tyranny in the 18th century, the duty to resist could not be sloughed off on to others. It had to be embraced by the people of that moment.
Today this duty belongs to us. This is our moment. Our republic is far from perfect, but we must not allow it to die a humiliating death right in front of us, an outcome that would annihilate our dreams and our future.
The people of Massachusetts led the nation with courage in the past. In the face of the looming assault on our republic, will we have the foresight, judgment and bravery to do it again?