In the days leading up to the 2020 election, storefronts in major coastal cities like New York and Washington, D.C. were boarded up in anticipation of social unrest. Maybe the buildings in swing states where ballots are counted should have gotten the same treatment. In Detroit, Michigan, and Maricopa County, Arizona, groups of the president's loyalists gathered outside counting locations on Wednesday. In Detroit, where he was ahead at the time, they chanted "STOP THE COUNT!" and started rhythmically banging on the windows. In Maricopa County, where he was behind, they chanted "COUNT THE VOTE!" (Arizona is also one of many of these United States in which you can open carry a firearm. Some members of the group were armed.) In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, members of the president's campaign have been rallying outside, demanding entry. To be clear: there already are observers in the counting rooms, both Democrats and Republicans. Local authorities have just been enforcing limits on how many people can be inside at once.
But there is precedent for what this could soon become. In 2000, a mob of Republican operatives, coordinated in part by once and future Trump adviser Roger Stone, disrupted the recount at a location in Miami. By some accounts, this involved physical violence from the various gringos in blazers and button-down shirts. What came to be known as the Brooks Brothers Riot succeeded in stopping the count, buying the Republican campaign's legal arm some time to get the courts to hand George W. Bush the election with Bush v. Gore. Put another way, the Republican victory in 2000 involved an organized street action to disrupt the mechanisms of democracy. Sounds pretty fashy, and that was when their candidate was running on compassionate conservatism.
#TCFCENTER: From the inside, the heavy thudding of rhythmic banging against the glass after the boxes were taken down.
Chanting is echoing in the hall.
Inside: Workers are quietly, diligently counting. @NBCNews pic.twitter.com/IQZd6wKWiF
— Steve Patterson (@PattersonNBC) November 4, 2020
This time around, there's a madman at the helm, and he's been telegraphing this thing forever. They're looking for Bush v. Gore II, which may include some rolling Brooks Brothers Riots, though there are far fewer blazers around these days. The president's campaign is even in court across the same states where these proto-BBRs are popping up outside counting locations. It's not a complicated plan, particularly because the president has been so clumsily laying the groundwork for months and months, yelling that voting by mail will lead to widespread fraud. More recently he began ramping up his calls for his loyalists to be observers and watchers, the latter of which has quite a legacy in Republican politics. The president's Republican allies in state legislatures—particularly in Michigan and Pennsylvania—refused to allow ballots that came in before Election Day to be counted in advance, leading to the inevitable scenario we have now: the president was leading in some of these states on Election Night, at which point he declared victory in an attempt to steal the election.
In the hours since, he's been screaming, "STOP THE COUNT!" Except in states like Nevada and Arizona, where he's losing, and where he wants the count to continue. Votes for Donald Trump are legitimate. Votes against Donald Trump, which tend to come from areas where certain people live, are by definition illegitimate. He and his allies are, in Steve Bannon's words, "flooding the zone with shit," alternating calls for continued counts and stopping the count so that they can settle on whichever one's useful in the hours to come. Meanwhile, his online loyalists seem to have landed on, "STOP THE STEAL!" You can expect to hear that more unified hallucinatory anthem if and when these folks assemble outside counting locales in the hours to come.
These events are, in the end, just a particularly garish expression of the Republican Party's attitude towards democracy in general. They begin with a conclusion—we should be in power—and then work backward to engineer the mechanisms to make it possible, regardless of how a majority of citizens might feel about it. If that means gerrymandering themselves into entrenched power in state and federal legislatures, so be it. If that means using those gerrymandered majorities to pass laws that make it harder for people who don't tend to vote Republican to vote at all, then so be it. If that means stuffing the judiciary full of right-wingers who will rubber-stamp all this, then so be it. And if it means declaring any election in which you don't like the outcome to be illegitimate, congregating in urban centers to declare the votes counted there fraudulent, then so be it.
But it's the New Yorkers who would protest Donald Trump winning the presidency amid all this rank authoritarian behavior—and despite getting millions fewer votes than his opponent—that we're told to fear.
You Might Also Like