To stop a coup — take the Choose Democracy pledge, and be prepared for action!
Benicians Mary Susan Gast, Kathy Kerridge and Pat Toth-Smith have done great work recently alerting us to Daniel Hunter’s article* on the very real possibility that there may be an illegal power grab after the election on November 3. Please scroll down to read the short piece by Choose Democracy, and click to sign the Choose Democracy pledge. Here in Benicia, let’s prepare for the (unlikely, we hope) prospect of a coup.
We have reason to worry that this fall we may see an undemocratic power grab—a coup. [Check “coup-o-meter” for current events indicating a coup is more or less likely.]
We also know that the people can defend democracy. Non-violent mass protests have stopped coups in other places and we have to be ready to do the same here.
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.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden assumed reporters wanted to ask him about the lack of charges in the Breonna Taylor killing when he landed in Wilmington on Wednesday night after a trip to North Carolina. They were more curious about his reaction to President Trump’s point-blank refusal to commit to leaving office if the voters reject him in November. “What country are we in?” Biden asked, explaining that he was “being facetious” — and then explaining it again because it’s hard to communicate facetiousness with a face mask on. “Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say about it. But it doesn’t surprise me.”
Reporter: “Could you talk a little bit about President Trump’s comments today that he did not commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election?”
Biden’s campaign had already put out a more pointed statement: “The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”
In another tacit admission that he believes American equates to whiteness, President Trump has ordered the cease and desist of any government funding for anti-racism federal training programs because they are “anti-American propaganda.”
The edict was delivered by Russel Vought, director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget in a chilling — and telling — memo on Friday, in which he expressed Trump’s outrage that sessions about critical race theory and white privilege were taking place in federal agencies.
“These types of “trainings” not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce,” Vought wrote. “We cannot accept our employees receiving training that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.”
It’s another clear statement of what the Trump administration’s values are at a time when racial injustice in the United States continues to fuel the summary execution of Black people by police with impunity, as well as national protests and conversations about how this country’s deep history of anti-Blackness still shows up in all kinds of institutions.
Describing attempts to change this unjust state of affairs as “divisive,” Trump has ordered all federal agencies in the executive branch to take immediate measures ensuring their white employees don’t have to consider the idea that they have privilege in America.
From the memo:
All agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil. In addition, all agencies should begin to identify all available avenues within the law to cancel any such contracts and/or to divert Federal dollars away from these un-American propaganda training sessions.
The memo started off by making reference to press reports that said the trainings push the apparently absurd idea that “white people benefit from racism,” but Trump was likely inspired to make this move by one report from Fox News’ head white supremacist, Tucker Carlson.
On Wednesday, Carlson dedicated a segment on his show to talking about the tyranny of critical race theory training in federal institutions, which his guest called on Trump to “immediately abolish.”
President Trump took off on Air Force One on Tuesday morning on his way to Kenosha, Wis. He landed on Planet Zog.
In real life, protests (some peaceful, some violent) erupted after police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back. A Trump-supporting militia member allegedly gunned down three of the protesters, killing two of them.
But in the imaginary Kenosha that Trump created Tuesday afternoon at an invitation-only “roundtable” — in a high school cafeteria serving as a government “command center” — things were quite different.
There was no pandemic in this Kenosha; at his suggestion, everybody in the roundtable took off their face masks. There was no right-wing violence. (I heard no mention of the killings by the Trump-backing extremist.) There was no such thing as police brutality (Trump quickly swept aside any such notion). And there were hardly any Black people (only two of the 23 in the room).
It quickly became clear that the pair, a pastor and his wife, were to be seen rather than heard. James Ward, who said he is the pastor to Blake’s mother, was asked by Trump to offer a prayer, then offered to discuss “the real pain that hurts Black Americans.” Trump wasn’t interested.
When Trump opened the roundtable to questions, a reporter asked the pastor whether he believed that there is systemic racism in law enforcement.
Before Ward could answer, Trump broke in to say there were only “some bad apples” among police, of which “I have the endorsement of so many, maybe everybody.”
The reporter tried again. “Could the pastor answer my question, please?”
Trump called on another questioner.
Then, shutting down the session, Trump turned to the muted pastor he had just used as a prop. “Fantastic job,” he said.
As the election gets closer and closer, Trump appears to be getting further and further from reality. Tuesday’s stagecraft in Kenosha was Trump’s most audacious attempt to rearrange reality since … well, since the night before. On Monday, he informed Fox News’s Laura Ingraham that Joe Biden is the victim of mind control by “people that you’ve never heard of, people that are in the dark shadows.” They are, he said, the same “people that are controlling the streets.” Trump further reported the existence of a plane, “almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms.” He said they “were on the plane to do big damage.”
Pressed for details, Trump said he could divulge no more. “I’ll tell you sometime, but it’s under investigation.” As NBC reported, Trump’s fantastical tale closely matched a two-month-old conspiracy theory making the rounds on Facebook.
By the time he arrived at Joint Base Andrews for his trip to Wisconsin, Trump had already developed more details about his new conspiracy theory. This time, “the entire plane filled up with the looters, the anarchists, the rioters.” And Trump said he has a firsthand account from a person on the plane. “Maybe they’ll speak to you and maybe they won’t,” he said. (They didn’t.)
Arriving in Kenosha, Trump toured a camera shop that had been damaged. There, he chose to speak about Portland, Ore. — about 2,000 miles away. Portland “has been terrible for a long time, for many decades, actually.” Portland is frequently ranked among the “most livable cities” in America.
Trump didn’t meet with the Blake family, instead moving on to the high school cafeteria, draped with blue curtains and decorated with flags.
“I feel so safe,” Trump remarked, after a tour in which he was protected by armored personnel carriers, military trucks and police in camouflage carrying automatic rifles.
He received thanks from a participant for “sending the National Guard.” (That was actually the work of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who, like Kenosha’s mayor, urged Trump not to visit.)
Trump reported that “there was love on the street, I can tell you, of Wisconsin when we were coming in … so many African Americans.” According to the “pool” reporters traveling in the president’s motorcade, he had been greeted by friends and foes alike, including one “large group protesting the president, their middle fingers pointed at motorcade.”
The two African Americans in the roundtable did their best to bring Trump around to reality. James Ward prayed for a restoration of “empathy and compassion.” Sharon Ward noted that “it’s important to have Black people at the table” and called it “a good opportunity for us really to solve the problem.”
But Trump would not be moved. Asked about nonviolent protests and structural racism, he answered with “anarchists,” “looters,” “rioters” and “agitators.” He said Democrats like riots and want to close prisons and end immigration enforcement. “The wall will be finished very shortly,” he added.