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Trump has made clear the likelihood that he will not accept the results of the election unless he’s the winner. (Photo: Ted Eytan/flickr/cc)

Trump has made clear the likelihood that he will not accept the results of the election unless he’s the winner. (Photo: Ted Eytan/flickr/cc)

Election 2020: The Coming Chaos

Nonviolent resistance to Trump means more than just defeating him and jettisoning him from the presidency; somehow it also means reaching his supporters and transcending the civil war they’re ready to wage.

Robert C. Koehler

Is this the future, leaking into the present moment?

“You have good genes, you know that, right? You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.”

The speaker, of course, is Donald Trump, playing, so it seems, the Nazi card at a campaign rally last week in Bemidji, Minnesota — tossing genetic superiority out to his white supporters.

And this, of course, is only part of the chaos we’re unavoidably heading toward. As the 2020 presidential election gets closer and closer, the doubts about its possible illegitimacy grow ever larger. On the same day as Trump’s Minnesota rally, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, giving Republicans a golden opportunity to shift the court’s ideological makeup for a generation and, maybe even more importantly, ensure victory for their party this fall, should contested election results wind up being decided by the court. All they have to do is shove through their nominee before the election, smirking at their own hypocrisy in the process.

And Trump has made clear the likelihood that he will not accept the results of the election unless he’s the winner.

So here we are, a month and a half away from what may be the most chaotic, uncertain election since . . . uh, 1860? Are we on the brink of a latter-day civil war? That certainly seems to be Trump’s belief, not to mention his strategy: Invent an easily feared and hated “them” and herd his supporters into a sense of “us.”

Thus he also said at the Bemidji rally: “Every family in Minnesota needs to know about sleepy Joe Biden’s extreme plan to flood your state with an influx of refugees from Somalia, from other places all over the planet.”

He might as well be standing there with a shovel, promising to dig up Jim Crow.

“What’s really going on here,” Jay Michaelson writes at the Daily Beast, “is a final power grab by a minority party, which lost the presidency by 2.9 million votes, that controls the Senate despite its senators representing 15 million fewer Americans than those of the other party, and which has committed itself to a shrinking base of nativist, mostly conservative-religious, mostly less-educated, white men.

“Republican leaders know that their days are numbered.”

And if your days are numbered, almost any action to stave off the inevitable can seem justifiable, including undoing whatever is left of the American democracy. Such undoing includes ramming a right-wing replacement of the iconic RBG through the Senate prior to the election, or even through the lame-duck Senate between election and inauguration. If that happens, and then disputed election results, possibly in numerous states, are ruled on by the Supreme Court, which would then have a 6-3 Republican majority, the outcome is inevitable.

“It’s hard to believe,” writes Miles Mogulescu, “that only weeks after being appointed by Trump and being confirmed by McConnell’s Republican Senate, the new Justice will turn around, break her side of the bargain, and cast a vote that effectively denies her patron, Donald John Trump, a second term.”

But with or without the Supreme Court under its control, Team Trump will likely do whatever it can to hold onto the presidency. Rouse as many supporters as possible, glorify the Second Amendment, remind them of their genetic superiority — set the stage for civil war. And then, most importantly, refuse to let the “fake election,” with all those mail-in votes and the obvious fraud, determine who’s president. Refuse to leave office.

Then what?

“If Trump loses the election (while claiming it to be fraudulent) and refuses to give up power, he puts us all in uncharted territory,” write Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman.

“Within a nonviolent framework, shutting the country down for as long as necessary may be the only way to force Trump out.

“Would such a departure from office be forced by Congress? The corporations? The military?

“Above all, the power to retake our democracy would have to come from the core of our nation . . . occupying the workplaces, spilling into the streets, grinding the country to a halt for as long as necessary.

“Only a nation in total resistance, grinding the wheels and streets to an absolute halt, could force this despicable tyrant to finally turn tail.

“Do we as a nation have that within us?”

Fitrakis and Wasserman certainly ask the right question. This is a nation that’s bigger than Trump, at least in the long run, but is it also a nation equal to the chaos that’s pending within the next two months? Will we accept Trump, win or lose, with a shrug, or will we refuse to do so?

This is not a simple question. Part of this nation is pro-Trump and desperately attached to its whiteness. Nonviolent resistance to Trump means more than just defeating him and jettisoning him from the presidency; somehow it also means reaching his supporters and transcending the civil war they’re ready to wage. This is not a matter of us vs. them. Everyone’s future is at stake.

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Robert C. Koehler

Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Koehler has been the recipient of multiple awards for writing and journalism from organizations including the National Newspaper Association, Suburban Newspapers of America, and the Chicago Headline Club.  He’s a regular contributor to such high-profile websites as Common Dreams and the Huffington Post. Eschewing political labels, Koehler considers himself a “peace journalist. He has been an editor at Tribune Media Services and a reporter, columnist and copy desk chief at Lerner Newspapers, a chain of neighborhood and suburban newspapers in the Chicago area. Koehler launched his column in 1999. Born in Detroit and raised in suburban Dearborn, Koehler has lived in Chicago since 1976. He earned a master’s degree in creative writing from Columbia College and has taught writing at both the college and high school levels. Koehler is a widower and single parent. He explores both conditions at great depth in his writing. His book, "Courage Grows Strong at the Wound" (2016). Contact him or visit his website at

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