Lizzie Widdicombe in The New Yorker:
Ah, election season. There’s a patriotic buzz in the air. Bumper stickers and lawn signs all over the neighborhood. Now comes the time when we check the location of our polling places, make a plan to vote—and pack a “go bag” in case we need to take to the streets in sustained mass protest to protect the integrity of the vote count. That last one is not something you’d expect to be doing in the United States, but things are different in the Trump era. For months, the President has been warning that he might not concede the election in November if he loses, telling reporters who asked him to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, “There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” It sounded ominous, although it was hard to imagine how he could make good on the threat to stick around no matter what. Then, media organizations began publishing pieces outlining the myriad ways in which the President and his allies might turn a narrow loss into a win. The possibilities include familiar tactics—contesting mail-in ballots and turning the process into Bush v. Gore on steroids—and others that sound straight out of a police state. For example, Trump could summon federal agents or his supporters to stop a recount or intimidate voters. According to some experts, this would constitute an autogolpe, or “self coup”: when a President who obtained power through constitutional means holds onto it through illegitimate ones, beginning the slide into authoritarianism.
O.K., then. Time to start getting ready. But how, exactly, do we do that? In September, a group of organizers and researchers published a fifty-five-page manual called “Hold the Line: A Guide to Defending Democracy,” which has been downloaded more than eighteen thousand times. And the Indivisible Project, along with a coalition called Stand Up America, are preparing their members to take to the streets if Trump contests the election results. “I’ve been beating the drum on this particular cause since July, and I’m delighted to see so many people coming around to it,” the activist and sociologist George Lakey said recently. His own “Aha!” moment came when Trump sent federal agents in military fatigues to Portland, Oregon, to tangle with protesters. “It hit me, the way Trump is dealing with Portland, Oregon, that’s a test,” he said. He guessed that Trump was hoping to provoke a violent backlash from the protesters, so that he could lay the groundwork for not accepting the election results, under the pretense that the country had descended into violent chaos. “Trump can be underestimated by the left,” Lakey said. “He gets made fun of, but he’s shrewd.”