Donald Trump knows that he’s losing this election and will go down in defeat in November…unless the playing board is kicked over. He is a desperate man, growing more desperate each day because defeat also means the start of criminal prosecutions and possibly prison for him and his family.
Trump undermined a fair election in 2016 when he and his campaign colluded with Russia to manipulate the election (as proven in The Senate Intelligence Committee’s final report last month).
He did so again in 2018 when he declared violent caravans of South Americans were swarming towards our border to bring death and destruction to America. He startled the country by ordering our military to the border. Of course, after Election Day, Trump never even mentioned these “deadly caravans” again.
He’s now attacking the integrity of the 2020 election in ways that are far more extreme and destructive than in previous years because the stakes are far greater for him. If he lost in 2016, oh well, he’d have incredibly boosted his brand and celebrity and made more money because of it (which probably was the original goal). Losing The House in 2018 was no doubt disappointing to him but with a compliant Republican-run Senate to protect him and cover up for him, he didn’t have a great amount to worry about.
As is quite clear now, he does recognize the threat that losing power represents to him in this election which is why he has done such outrageous things as declared Vote By Mail fraudulent, kneecapped the USPS to disrupt the mail for all Americans which includes voters mailing ballots, sued states to stop them from providing Vote By Mail and even drop boxes, and coordinated with a $20 million dollar fund to send 50,000 Trumpist “observers” to polling places on Election Day and officially object to scores of Democratic voters (especially people of color) which would prevent their vote from being counted on Election Day (their ballot would become provisional and require them appearing in-person at the County Clerk’s office shortly afterwards to prove their identity or else forfeit their vote).
Add this to the usual Republican Bag of Anti-Democracy Dirty Tricks such as removing legit Dem voters from voter registration rolls, shrinking time frames for early voting, slashing the number of polling places in Democratic areas, forcing long and deterring wait times at the fewer polling places that are open, sending out fake information about changed polling places, claiming people can vote by text message, and colluding with Russia on propaganda intended to suppress turnout.
Even with all of these efforts to corrupt and diminish voting by Democrats, Trump knows it still won’t be enough to overcome what is looking like a Blue Wave election. So Trump is turbo-charging the primary weapon that energized his political rise (birtherism) and drove his victory in 2016. Racism.
Things are different now. Trump wasn’t president in 2016, he couldn’t order secret police to brutally attack peaceful Americans protesting against racial injustice or officially declare them terrorists. He now has the power of the entire United States government behind him and he is using it to try and create a gamechanger that he knows will kick the board over, hopefully to his advantage. He is trying to incite a racial war in America (to Putin’s absolute delight). Racism worked for him before and Trump’s going to dance with the Klansman who brung him.
To be clear, while Trump and his people appear to be in contact with at least some of the white, racist militias that have been exploiting the Black Lives Matter protests, many of these racist groups have long been poised to try and trigger a race war. Trump has given them his explicit approval and supports their efforts with efforts of his own to frighten white Americans that people who aren’t white are coming to take away their safety, their suburbs and all that they have.
This civilian Secret Police of Trump’s, not to be confused with his formal Secret Police that he sent to Portland, is broadly committed to a mission of stoking violence, destruction and even death in the peaceful BLM movement so fear and resentment will be associated with them and justify in enough of the public, the need for what would essentially be a war on people of color.
By demonizing peaceful protesters as dark-skinned threats bringing burning buildings and havoc to white America (even though people of all races are protesting), it’s killing two birds with one racist stone. The white nationalist militias get to have their race war and Trump gets to exploit it to terrify voters into electing him as the “Law and Order” president. Additionally, ongoing and spreading racial violence can give Trump the excuse he needs to declare that the country is under attack and invoke the Insurrection Act which allows for a military occupation of U.S. cities and martial law. If elections have the “unfortunate timing” of happening during such a time, going to the polls could be limited by curfews, and an intimidating military presence at polling places to “protect voters” could be used to harass and intimidate voters from turning out to vote.
There are two main problems though that Trump and the racist militias have in bringing this plot to fruition. First, it’s hard for them to hide their already-known motivations which complicate their attempts to portray people of color as the instigators. And most importantly, they need the presence of protesters to stage these racial conflicts.
And that is one thing that protesters have control over, the one thing they can do to rob Trump and these other racist fanatics of the visuals of the racist war they’re trying to promote.
The suggestion here is to keep protesting but take a page from the Hong Kong protesters who, before China occupied and locked down their territory, had great success in sustaining their protests against their growing-authoritarian government.
Their phrase for one main tactic was “be like water”. Instead of congregating in one location where police an military could surround them, assault them, and seize control of their protest, they were prepared to quickly flee and reassemble at a different location as police arrived.
The police and the racist militias in the U.S. rely on protesters occupying or marching at a location where they can be swarmed on and attacked. If protesters implemented the Hong Kong protester model and swiftly re-located to another location when police or militia appear and confront them, it would throw a monkey wrench into this scheme.
Also, protesters should consider that daytime protests are usually peaceful while nighttime protests are usually where the most and worst violence occurs. Pulling back from protesting at night would deprive the outside instigators of the property destruction and physical conflicts that they seek in order to damage the movement (many of those arrested and charged appear to be outside agitators including Boogaloo Bois and right-wing militia members).
Trump is following a game plan that has been used before, in Nazi Germany and other states where fascist regimes have risen or attempted to rise. Infiltrate and impersonate the opponents who are justifiably protesting, commit violent acts in their name at their protests, and justify terrible oppression and violence against them by civilian and government militias to destroy their movement and grab power.
There are only 63 days until the election (can you believe we’re almost there?). Protests should absolutely continue but knowing that they will be exploited more often and in bigger ways as we get closer to Election Day, it seems both protective of the movement and of this election, to deny Trump and the racists the war that they so badly want.
The first substantial win for protesters and the movement will be the defeat of Trump and his racist supporters and their fall from power on January 20, 2020. Then, the Biden-Harris team needs to follow through with their promises. And if they don’t do so fully, protesting to insist that they do would absolutely be warranted.
However, recognizing the short game here is critical. Trump and his racist followers are placing all their chips on transforming the perception of the Black Lives Matter movement into one of a violent, terrorist mob raping America that suburban white people need to fear and desperately grab for Trump to protect them.
Trump is unraveling, spewing ridiculous conspiracy theories, openly cheering on murderers in the police force and in militias, urging on more confrontations and violence against protesters and people of color while branding them as existential threats to white people.
It would be a mistake to underestimate just how brutal and vicious Trump could become as he realizes that he’s not going to catch up to Biden by Election Day. He already has sacrificed tens of thousands of American lives on his altar of re-election via COVID-19. How far will he go in inciting and conducting this race war to change the course that the election is on?
It’s frightening to think of what a sociopath is capable of doing in the pursuit of self-protection with the awesome power of the presidency in his hands. There are things that Americans can do. Refuse to provide any oxygen to this racist fire, resist injustice and continue to protest safely, and do all they can to make sure they vote before Election Day (when Trump’s sabotage will be most targeted). Also critical is helping to support and motivate others to request ballots and early vote so that our votes and the removal of Trump can’t be stopped.
Americans who are working and hoping for racial justice in this country need to be strategic. They need to recognize that at this point, Donald Trump seems to believe that his only prayer for avoiding a loss in this election is to incite a New Civil War.
There was a well known hippyish anti-war phrase back in the days of the Vietnam War. It is actually great advice for protesters at this moment in time as well.