Other than finding headlines for tonight, I have stayed away from reading the news for the last day. But even without doing so, I know that it is unrelentingly bad. Everyone I talk with is upset. And we don’t know what to do other than write letters and postcards, send texts or make phone calls, encouraging people to vote. We donate as much as we can in response to the hundreds of emails that flood our inboxes every day. Under present circumstances, it doesn’t feel like that’s enough but I don’t know what would be.
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, Washington
The first thing I heard yesterday morning when I turned on the CBS News Report that leads into Chris Cuomo getting after it on the SiriusXM POTUS channel, was that Mitt Romney had declared he will support Trump’s SCOTUS nominee. Mornings have never been my best time so I wasn’t feeling any too good already, but after that news, I felt sick to my stomach and lay back down. I spent the next hour listening to Chris C until the 10 o’clock news break when I couldn’t take it anymore and switched to Tom Petty’s Buried Treasure, also on Sirius. I can rely on Tom Petty (even though he’s dead, which is a little bizarre) to play solid rock and R&B selections.
I haven’t listened to the news or even glanced at my news feed for more than a few seconds since yesterday morning. But I can’t avoid the emails in my inbox and I felt compelled to open the one from Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, with the subject line: A story that couldn’t wait. Goldberg writes:
We’ve decided to move up the online publication date for The Atlantic’s next cover story, by our staff writer Barton Gellman. There is a pervasive and justifiable fear that Donald Trump will reject the election results if he loses to Joe Biden. But as Gellman documents in his authoritative and chilling story, the situation is far more dire than anyone, Biden included, might imagine.
“The worst case,” Gellman writes, “is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him.” Merely by refusing to concede, Trump could keep the electoral result in doubt through the 79-day period between Election Day and the day the next president is to be inaugurated. Gellman’s reporting shows that Republicans are already discussing plans to bypass the popular vote and directly appoint electors to the Electoral College. This could lead the country to a precipice: Two men could show up to be sworn in on Inauguration Day. “One of them,” Gellman writes, “would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.”
Gellman’s report is a warning about the fragility of our entire system of governance. “An election cannot be stolen unless the American people, at some level, acquiesce,” he writes.
So what do we do now? How do we demonstrate our lack of acquiescence and are there enough of us who will do so? Four years ago, in these same final weeks before the election, the dread in my body and spirit grew. The night of the election was one of the worst nights of many of our lives. I don’t want to predict an even worse night this November but there is no way to banish the dread. Feeling impotent is debilitating, and the combination of the pandemic and the politics and the racial injustice feel like they’re sucking the life out of this country. Rise up, say Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bruce Springsteen. Yes. I just don’t know what that looks like when I’m trapped at home.