It’s Ezra and Leah here with our special Labor Day Weekend edition of our monthly newsletter! As a reminder, we don’t fundraise in these newsletters -- these are all about reflecting back to you what we’re seeing at the national level, and what we’re hearing from local Indivisible groups around the country. We think we’ve got some good stuff in this one, so hope you’ll settle in this weekend to dig into this. As always feel free to reach out directly on Twitter with any thoughts: @ezralevin and @leahgreenb. Let’s get to it.
What we’re reading
A group of bigwigs from across the political spectrum started meeting late last year as part of the “Transition Integrity Project.” This included Democratic and Republican former governors and members of Congress. Members of the press like David Frum. Former high-level political officials like Bill Clinton’s former Chief of Staff John Podesta. And it included former senior members of the military and national security apparatus.
The point of these meetings was to answer a simple question: how can we ensure there will be a peaceful transition after the election? To answer this question, they engaged in a “wargaming” exercise, a roleplaying “game” where participants were assigned roles and then thrown into specific scenarios in order to suss out how real-life world events might unfurl in the post-election period.
The seventy or so participants were assigned to play one of seven different roles: The Trump campaign team, the Biden campaign team, Democratic elected officials, Republican elected officials, federal bureaucrats in the national security apparatus, the press, and the public.
Assigned to faithfully play their role, these groups were then led into four different scenarios: a close Biden win, a Biden blowout, a Trump win, and an uncertain result. The full report of the project (here) became public just last month, and it’s started making the rounds for good reason. There are several takeaways from the report, but we’ll draw out three that are sticking in our minds.
1. Trump will likely attempt to cling to power if he loses. While this would be a bombshell conclusion at any other time in American history, this is now entirely predictable. Trump has all but proclaimed he intended to contest the results, and as an incumbent President, Trump has quite a few tools at his disposal.
Why this matters: The important thing is that we don’t count on some magical source of restraint materializing to prevent Trump from doing this. We should believe what he tells us, and we should prepare for it.
2. We likely won’t know who won until days or weeks after Election Day. The country will see an unprecedented level of vote-by-mail in November and it’s going to take states time to process them all. In the absence of an absolutely historic landslide for Biden, it will likely take several days if not longer to determine the vote-winner in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Why this matters: Trump is likely to claim victory on election night regardless of the results, and he’ll label mail-in ballots as a fraud. If the public believes we should know the results on Election Day, they are more likely to believe Trump’s claims of fraud after Election Day. To avoid that, we must normalize the understanding that mail-in ballots take time to count, and that the election is not decided until all the ballots are counted.
3. The outcome of the crisis may not be decided by the courts, but by “a show of numbers in the streets.” Sit with this direct quote for a second. There is enough grey area in the law, and the GOP has done enough to stack the courts, that we cannot rely on the judicial branch to rein in Trump. The ultimate success of transition may very well come down to us mobilizing a grassroots insistence to respect the results.
Why this matters: It’s up to us. Trump is likely to marshall his forces after November 3rd. We cannot count on him to leave willingly. We cannot count on some existing institution to save us. It’s up to us to prepare to mobilize.
Look, let’s be clear: if we held a free, fair, and safe election today, all of the available data suggests that Trump would lose. By a lot. And on some level, he knows this -- that’s why he’s doing everything in his power to undermine the election already. Simply put, Trump’s a loser trying to cheat his way to win. But nothing says this loser will succeed -- and we can make sure he doesn’t.
This is heavy, scary stuff. The depths to which our democracy has sunk under Trump is hard to fathom, and the danger ahead is very real. But for us, the point of the Transition Integrity Project report isn’t that things are hopeless -- the point is that we have to prepare for what’s to come. The point is that right now, in this moment for the next few precious weeks, we aren’t just living in a historic time, we’re active participants in making that history. The future is uncertain, the time is momentous, and what we do right now in this very moment matters.
So what are we going to do? Read on.
What we’re hearing from the Indivisible movement
In last month’s newsletter, we posed a simple question to the movement: as an active participant in our democracy, what do you tell friends or family who feel paralyzed by the utter chaos of our political system and want to know what they can do? We’ve read through the answers and pulled out the key themes here.
1. GET OUT THE VOTE. Sorry to yell in all caps, but this is the absolute most important thing! It’s a lot harder to steal an election that you’ve lost by a massive margin. Listen to your fellow Indivisibles:
- Sandra with SFVIndivisible in California: “Get your Mail-in Ballots NOW. Do not wait another day. Make sure you Social Distance and Wear a Mask. We need every Biden voter healthy and ready to vote.”
- Judith with Indivisible Highlands and Beyond in Delaware: “Keep talking to people about a commitment to vote on November third. Ask people when they plan to vote. Are they going to mail in their ballots? Do they know how to get a mail-in ballot.? Are they sure they are registered? Do they know how to find how where their polling place is? You should have the answers to all the questions and be ready to write them down for the person you are questioning. It is ordinary people who will win this election by getting out to the polls and knowing what to do on that important day.”
- We heard similar advice from Audrey with Chaska Indivisible in Minnesota, Carol with Reston-Herndon Indivisible in Virginia, Campbell with Seattle Indivisible, and Elizabeth with Central New Jersey Indivisible -- among so many others!!
We can get a little more specific:
2. Start talking directly to voters. Nothing is more impactful for getting out the vote than voters talking to voters -- and in the age of Covid, that largely means texting, phone banking, and writing postcards. Indivisibles across the country wrote in with their thinking on this.
- Gwen with Do the Most Good Montgomery in Maryland: “There are solid, evidenced-based ways to impact this election. Make phone calls to get out the vote and to make sure people in Swing States are registered to vote. If John Lewis can walk across that bridge, I can make phone calls -- doesn't take nearly the courage.”
- Mack from Indivisible Bucks County in Pennsylvania had thoughtful advice, noting that different activities are right for different volunteers. “It all depends on what they're comfortable doing….I could recommend them phone banking or texting, if they're outgoing. I would probably suggest that they check out Indivisible (that's the answer you wanted to hear, right? 😊)...Myself, I am writing 40 to 60 "Get Out the Vote" letters through Vote Forward to voters in Pennsylvania and have been writing since last August. I'm always happy to have people join me. Letter or postcard writing has the added benefit of supporting the Postal Service through stamp purchases.“
- We’ll add an editorial note here: phone calls are especially crucial right now because they’re the medium that allows you to have an in-depth conversation with a voter -- and to get info from them, like what candidates they’re leaning towards or what they need to vote.
3. Protect the results! In addition to building the biggest possible turnout this year, many Indivisibles gave advice on ensuring the election goes smoothly and protecting the results.
- Jennifer with Indivisible IND6 in Georgia wrote in, “I encourage every progressive-minded individual that I encounter here in Atlanta, Georgia to get signed up to work the polls in November!! Of every action I have been involved in there is nothing I have felt has been more impactful than when I worked the polls this past June.” Editorial note: You can sign up here to be a poll worker -- which helps keep more polling places open and ensures more people can vote without long lines at Power the Polls here.
- Prepare now to mobilize after the election. For folks looking to prepare for the mass mobilization we’ll need after the election, we’d recommend you join the major national effort on this at ProtectTheResults.com.
4. Above all else, DO SOMETHING. We have power in this moment. What we do matters. And we have a limited time in which to do it. Loud and clear, this is the advice Indivisibles give to those people looking to be part of the solution:
- Linakis with Indivisible Rhode Island had succinct guidance: “Do something! Reach out to others -- by phone, text, letter, Facebook, Twitter...Time's a-wasting!”
- Brian with Indivisible DFW in Texas advises that there is a ladder of engagement, and it’s fine to start low and climb up! “Every step helps. Start by taking some action that you can successfully complete. Repeat that action or take on a more extensive action.”
If there’s one underlying theme from all of the responses we got, it’s this: The future is not predetermined -- it’s being created call by call, text by text, volunteer hour after volunteer hour. And there’s no time like the present to get started making that future. That is how we will win. That is how we will save this democracy.
Until next month
We know that this is a trying time for everyone in this movement -- heck, for everyone in this country. Things are dark and dangerous right now, and so we’ve got to find ways to care for ourselves and allow us to carry on for the long haul. For us, after a hard week, we try to settle in for a movie night. We’ve been slowly working our way through old Academy Award winners that we’d never gotten around to watching before. This past month we finished the 1982 film Gandhi, and so we thought it’d be appropriate to close this newsletter with this quote:
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it -- always.” - Mahatma Gandhi
Together, we will win.
Ezra and Leah, Co-Founders of Indivisible
P.S. Leah’s doing surprisingly well at 33 weeks -- she’s feeling good and she’s reached the stage where strangers on the sidewalk congratulate her when we’re walking our dog. Ezra successfully assembled a secondhand crib and changing table. And the app says the baby is as big as a celery and as long as a wine bottle!