Say what? Yes, the white supremacists have a plan and are executing it. The president who hates losing above everything has asked them to “stand back and stand by” in his relentless quest to win in 2020. He may be a bully, but when his fate is on the line, he is not a bluffer.
This growing peril is offset by the promise of a unique campaign we have been waging in Florida since June. Your generous support of this effort at this critical point can help erect a barrier to Trump’s anti-democratic intentions.
This spring we made a strong commitment to protect Social Security from the president’s clear disregard for older workers and retirees. The clearest path for a Social Security victory was to defeat Donald Trump early and decisively in the ultimate battleground: Florida. Why there?
It has always been unlikely, if not impossible, for Trump to win the Electoral College without Florida’s 29 Electoral College votes. In the modern era Presidential contests in that state have been won or lost every time by margins of +/- 1%. The most reliable cohort of those voters—30% in 2016—is 55 and older. The sole income for many is Social Security.
While most political campaigns spend wildly on TV and other common advertising, we chose to go where today’s older electorate goes for much of its political information: Facebook. As COVID ravages our older population, millions of Florida seniors use it to stay connected to friends, family, and life-saving information. Our campaign is in essence today’s ground game, where Trump and his Russian allies and militia followers have been organizing for years.
Ballots or bullets. While a reckless President Trump was astonishing the nation with his deceit-filled COVID odyssey, in rural northern Michigan a self-styled “militia,” the Wolverine Watchmen, decided not to stand by. They devoted their pre-election efforts to plotting to kidnap, try, and possibly execute the governor of Michigan. Did the President of the United States roar his defense of the leader of one of those states and condemn these vigilantes?
You know the answer, but you could have guessed it even if you didn’t. Far from supporting Governor Whitmer, he criticized her on Twitter for being ungrateful that “it was my Justice Department that arrested them.”
The president’s plans could not be clearer—he has all but published them. He has spent months casting doubt on mail-in voting, sabotaging the post office, and encouraging voter suppression of all sorts. Like autocrats before him, he’s turned from “fake news” to “fake elections” as his theme.
The relentless president hopes to win an early victory in Florida, which typically counts and declares results on election night. With a claim of early victory in his grasp, he will attempt to discredit all the results that follow as “voting fraud.” And should he lose, he will likely refuse to accept the results and potentially turn to his so-called base to create post-electoral chaos.
A base vs. a cult. Before turning to how you can help avert this violent fate, let’s take a hard look at that so-called base. For years pundits and normal people marveled that his supporters are unmoved by any scandal. Some call him Teflon Don, because his people remain firmly in his corner, no matter what.
The reason for this blind loyalty is simple: many of his supporters belong to a cult. It’s a modern, technically-fueled cult, but it’s a cult, nonetheless. Cults are a great American tradition, after all: people of every status and motivation have thrown in their lot with a Great Leader who promises rescue from their undesirable fates. Once onboard, all external inputs are dismissed. How do I know?
I had the great misfortune to be developing a community mediation program in San Francisco in the 1970s when the now infamous Reverend Jim Jones grew his People’s Temple with a diverse congregation of decent, hard-working, churchgoing folks who came to worship with him and ended up worshipping him.
Jones’s followers would follow him anywhere, and many did. More than a thousand went to an agricultural settlement in Guyana, children in tow. There, on his command, in the now infamous phrase, they “drank the Kool-aid.” Over nine hundred people, one third of them children, perished from a cocktail made of valium, cyanide, and a cheap version of Kool-Aid called Flavor Aid (cult leaders can be cheap till the end). Like Hitler before him, the good reverend committed suicide.
How will Trump direct his cult? Time will tell. This deeply anti-democratic leader could choose to accept the nation’s electoral verdict. But a man marinated in grievance and quick to blame cannot be expected to accept defeat gracefully. Should he choose the path of resistance, much of his cult will likely follow him to the ends of the earth. The Proud Boys, the Wolverine Watchmen, their fellow Charlottesville marchers will lead the parade with tiki torches and Nazi armbands ahead of who knows how many closet vigilantes.
We can be actors rather than victims in this unfolding drama. The best chance of turning Trump’s ambivalent “stand by” command into a firm “stand back” order depends on a landslide electoral defeat and the loss of Florida on election night.
So vote. Organize all you know to vote. And help us deepen our Florida Facebook Get out the Vote effort to the half-million seniors we have been engaging for months. This is not the time to hold back. The relatively poor Wolverine Watchmen spent thousands on tasers, blasting powder, weapons, and training to kidnap a sitting governor.
Please give as if your future, your families, and Social Security depended on it.