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Counting Down the End of Trump's Term, Day By Agonizing Day

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I've always wondered what it must be like to live in a country trying to fight off a would-be or actual dictator--a place like Honduras in 2009 or Egypt in 2013, or Belarus in 2021... or the American colonies in 1776.

Now that I am living in the U.S. in the fall of 2020, I am beginning to understand what it's like to live in a country gripped by fears and rumors that the country's leadership might attempt to use force and/or extra-legal means to defy constitutionally mandated election results. I can imagine some readers arguing that I am getting carried away--we just carried out a peaceful election, the new president-elect is preparing to assume office January 20, and the military has shown no signs of wanting to insert itself in carrying out the election results. Still and all, the secretary of state has stated firmly for all the world to hear that he looks forward to a "second Trump administration." And the president has repeatedly tweeted his denial of the results, such as this one November 16: "The Radical Left Democrats, working with their partner, the Fake News Media, are trying to STEAL this Election. We won't let them!"

I find myself obsessively searching for reassurance, for someone to tell me that everything is going to be all right, that Joe Biden will be inaugurated President on January 20, and our democratic norms and institutions will remain in place.

Failing to find anything approaching certainty, I have resorted to comparing the tea leaves in news bites as they come out. Is the firing of Mark Esper as Secretary of Defense immediately after the election a signal that Trump is preparing to call out troops to enforce a crackdown on protesters of a coup? Esper, after all, had last spring voiced his discomfort with using troops to crack down on Black Lives Matter protests in Washington. Are the U.S. senators siding with Trump in his refusal to recognize Joe Biden as president-elect in sympathy with the president, or simply trying to humor him until he gives in and recognizes reality? Will Trump encourage street violence between his supporters and opponents?

I read NYTimes reporter Maggie Haberman, who quotes people close to Trump who say he knows it's over, and he's just trying to keep his supporters engaged. Then I read a Politico article, "Don't Bet Against Me" in which Trump is portrayed as determined to use every trick in the books to remain in office.

I've tried to prepare myself for the possibility that Americans may need to protest an attempted coup. I joined with 1,500 other worried citizens last month in an online workshop offered by the organization Choose Democracy on preparing for a coup. The key point I took from the two-hour session is that preventing a coup is possible, but citizens need to organize quickly and commit to nonviolence in the face of the wannabe dictator's moves toward grabbing power.

None of that has fully relieved the sense of foreboding I've carried through the election season. (Full disclosure: I have been on edge about Trump usurping dictatorial powers since his election in 2016, as I previously wrote.) As the clock ticks down toward January 20, I now feel confident of one thing: I know how citizens in other countries facing a possible forceful grab for power must feel: completely terrified.

It's clear that those among Trump supporters who cheer on his refusal to concede the election have little appreciation for the legal and practical no-man's land into which they are wandering. A coup is by its nature treasonous and often violent, and in many countries the politically connected can get themselves arrested and even executed for broaching the subject or taking sides. Yet a former Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, blithely tweeted Nov. 14: "The military is with the President."

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David E. Gumpert is author of "Gouster Girl," a historical novel about white flight in 1960s Chicago, told through the eyes of a white teenager involved in an interracial romance. He is co-author of "Inge: A Girl's Journey Through Nazi Europe," (more...)

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2 people are discussing this page, with 2 comments  Post Comment

David Gumpert

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I continue to be amazed by the number of people sucked into the Trump narrative of fraudulent voting. The only way I can think to respond is to take a look back at other narratives Trump has launched, beginning with the one in 2014 that Barack Obama wasn't really born in the U.S., and thus was illegally serving as president (this was the narrative that helped launch his political career). Then there was the one about Hillary Clinton being guilty of all kinds of crimes-he said in one of their debates that if he was president he would "lock her up," and he led chants of "lock her up." There was also a narrative about the Democratic party server with all kinds of secrets that had been taken to Ukraine-Rudy Giuliani was sent to find it, and Trump offered the president of the Ukraine American weapons if he would help find it. Last, but not least (this definitely isn't an all-inclusive list) was Trump's contention that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in 2016, which explained (to him) why Hillary won the popular vote by 2.5 million votes. He even formed a presidential commission to investigate.

What happened? Obama's birth certificate showed what he had repeatedly asserted-that he was born in Hawaii. Hillary was investigated every which way, but not a single legal charge was ever filed against her, despite the fact Trump had control of the federal law enforcement apparatus. Last I heard, Giuliani is still searching around Ukraine-no sign of the server. And the presidential commission investigating vote fraud from the 2016 election? Trump disbanded it after 11 months after it failed to come up with anything of substance.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 17, 2020 at 3:11:23 AM

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Robert Adler

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A very thoughtful and on-target discussion. My worries and feelings are much the same. It's what many of us have expected of Trump for a long time, so that's no surprise. What's extremely worrisome is the silence, complicity or actual support by most Republican leaders.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 17, 2020 at 4:33:49 PM

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