Connect with us

Politics

Large-Scale Political Unrest Is Unlikely, But Not Impossible – The Atlantic

Published

 on


Protesters during the Bulldozer Revolution in Belgrade in 2000.Braca Nadezdic / Newsmakers / Getty

When a reporter recently asked Donald Trump if he would accept a peaceful transition of power, the president wouldn’t commit. “We’ll see what happens,” he said. In an apparent reference to mail-in ballots, he went on, “We’ll want to have—get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very—we’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” His comments seemed to confirm the worst fears of Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans who have warned for months that he might act illegally to hold on to power.

For Trumpian commentators, Democrats and the president’s other critics are only raising these concerns because they want to orchestrate a coup of their own. In a recent essay, “The Coming Coup?,” the former Trump-administration official Michael Anton warns his readers that Democrats are laying the groundwork for the “unlawful and illegitimate removal of President Trump from office.” Their tactic, he says, is to condition the public into thinking that Trump will try to steal the election so that if he wins, they can cry foul. They will then, Anton predicts, organize “a ‘color revolution,’ the exact same playbook the American deep state runs in other countries whose leadership they don’t like and is currently running in Belarus. Oust a leader—even an elected one—through agitation and call it ‘democracy.’” Anton advises Trump to prepare now to determine who will be loyal in the days after the election so that he can prevail.

Anton’s warning of a color revolution has gone viral on the Trumpian right. But his analysis rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept. I’ve been looking at the history of color revolutions to see if conditions are actually ripe for one in the U.S.

The term color revolution was coined in the early aughts to describe four political revolutions in post-Communist Europe and Central Asia, in which repressive regimes tried to hold on to power after losing an election: in Serbia (the Bulldozer Revolution, named after a protester who used a bulldozer to storm the Parliament building), Georgia (the Rose Revolution, for the flowers that protesters held during demonstrations), Ukraine (Orange, the color identified with the opposition party), and Kyrgyzstan (Tulip, the national flower). Each case involved an election in which the regime committed fraud and was found out by a combination of impartial external election observers, exit polls, and a sophisticated voting-tabulation system. After the announcement of the fraudulent results, students led enormous popular protests, demanding either new elections or a ratification of the results.

The color revolutions deeply unnerved autocrats, particularly in Russia and China, who believed the West had orchestrated them. The uprisings came from within the countries, although Western nongovernmental organizations played a supporting role over time, particularly by shedding light on nondemocratic practices and helping the students organize. Alexander Cooley, the director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, who has studied color revolutions, told me that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the U.S. government was relatively detached and ambiguous about the protests in some of these cases. In Georgia, for example, it initially did not rush to back Mikheil Saakashvili over the incumbent, Eduard Shevardnadze; while in Kyrgyzstan, it worried about the implications for an American military base there.  

By 2005, Moscow and Beijing were actively redefining the term, shifting from indigenous protests against fraudulent elections to exclusively mean externally imposed regime change. Over the next 10 years, color revolution was used to describe many mass protests against autocratic regimes: the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon in 2005, the Green Movement in Iran in 2009, the Arab Spring in 2010–12, the Snow Revolution in Russia in 2011–12, and more Orange protests in Ukraine in 2013–14. The Snow Revolution, pushing against Vladimir Putin’s rotation back into the presidency, exacerbated his paranoia about color revolutions.

Protesters try to break into Parliament during the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. (Yoray Liberman / Getty)

While the protesters—students, NGOs, political opposition—learned tactics from one another, so too did the autocrats. Over the years, the leaders developed countermeasures. They denied visas to student leaders from abroad, set up their own pro-regime election monitors, banned NGOs that were advocating for democracy, and rigged elections by using intermediate measures, such as disqualifying candidates before election day.

The United States is not an autocracy, but Trump has embraced this paranoia. As Cooley noted, fears of unrest are borrowed from the Russian hymnbook: “Fear of the street protests, never spontaneous, never motivated by a sense of injustice, activists always paid, always a nefarious agenda—it is straight from the Kremlin’s talking points.” Accusing an opponent of what he is accusing you of—in this case, stealing the election—is a tactic Putin routinely uses to muddy the waters.  

Other than this paranoia, are the conditions in place for an actual color revolution in the United States? In every respect except one extreme scenario—which, astonishingly, Trump has cultivated—the answer is no.  

The 2016 election showed that foreign interference, even rising to the level of collusion with a foreign power, will not prevent the winner from being inaugurated, nor will it topple a president during his term. It may undermine the president’s legitimacy and the country’s confidence in the democratic process, but it won’t spark a color revolution. The 2000 contest proved that disputed elections can be resolved through the courts. Even if tensions are much greater now, it is extremely unlikely that the majority of Joe Biden’s voters will try to overturn a Supreme Court decision through direct action, even if Trump’s nominee to the court is in place. If Biden refuses to concede, which he has shown no signs of doing even though some Democrats have talked about it, his decision will not prevent Trump from being re-inaugurated if he is declared the winner. If the president refuses to leave the White House despite having lost, the legal and political system will take its course and power will transfer to Biden, albeit after an atrocious transition.

The original color revolutions occurred when the perception of clear and massive electoral fraud was widespread and protesters were angry about having democratic rights taken away. The demonstrations were directed at illegitimate regimes with a history of rigged elections, endemic corruption, and repression of political opponents. Trump is the most antidemocratic president in America’s history, but his administration so far does not meet the standard of the regimes affected by color revolutions. The U.S. still has an electoral process and a legal system.

However, one extreme scenario could push the United States toward a color revolution. If Trump actually tries to prevent large numbers of mail-in ballots from being counted by confiscating them, he could irreparably damage the electoral process and prevent the courts from being able to fairly adjudicate it. After all, what are the courts to do if the confiscated ballots have been destroyed or compromised (for instance, if the boxes were opened)? In this scenario, Trump would declare victory on Election Night if he is ahead in votes cast that day, and he would order Attorney General Bill Barr or Chad Wolf, the man Trump claims runs the Department of Homeland Security, to physically stop the count the next day. The president would then pressure Republican state legislatures to ratify his preferred result. This scenario is similar to what my Atlantic colleague Barton Gellman chillingly outlines in his new cover story.  

Daniel Nexon, a political scientist at Georgetown University, told me that in the post-Communist unrest, independent election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe played a crucial role in demonstrating fraud. External monitors have a more limited role in U.S. elections—they are present but in small numbers and few people pay attention to them. Trump, however, doesn’t control the polling stations. Shenanigans in particular districts could go under the radar for a while, but mass fraud—such as the federal confiscation of mail-in ballots—would likely occur in public view. Many Americans, perhaps millions of them, would feel that they had to take to the streets.

Protesters would want the U.S. to count every vote, as demonstrators did in earlier color revolutions, but that simply may not be possible if the ballots are confiscated and compromised. Nexon said that in most of the post-Communist cases, some mechanism existed for a revote, but U.S. law has no allowance for that. Therefore, if the worst case happens and Trump actively interferes in the count, the protests would likely focus on state legislatures and governors asked to ratify results before the count was complete, and on the Supreme Court, which may be asked to adjudicate.

Dodging a color revolution or large-scale political unrest is simple—Trump should not illegally interfere with the election count. If he gives such an order, his officials should not follow it. If they do, Republican members of Congress should oppose it and the courts should quickly intervene to stop him.

To prevent Anton’s theory from gaining further traction among Republicans, Democrats must be careful not to play into the Trumpist narrative that they are looking to delegitimize the president. They must stop suggesting that he can win only by cheating. As for citizens, we can vote early, preferably in person.

The U.S. election should be beyond reproach, but the political reality is making that unlikely. However, a Rubicon is in place that separates instability after the election from a color revolution. Ultimately, Trump and Trump alone will make the decision whether or not to cross it.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Thomas Wright is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and the author of All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Politics

78 seconds that will actually make you feel good about politics – CNN

Published

 on


And because we are dealing with Donald Trump, all of that normal end-of-campaign stuff has been made much, much worse. Trump is at the say-anything-and-do-anything stage of the campaign — particularly as polling suggests he is a clear underdog in Tuesday’s election.
Amid all of the darkness and terrible-ness (not a word, but you get the point) I’m here to offer you a reminder that not everything is, in fact, totally awful. And that politics can sometimes be a noble pursuit taken on by people committed to public service.
Which brings me to an ad that Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz who posted on his Twitter feed on Thursday. It features Walz as well as his three most recent predecessors in the job, Mark Dayton, Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty — urging Minnesotans to vote.
That’s four governors from three different parties(!) making a call for call for calm and civility in this wildest of moments.
The four governors assured Minnesotans that a delay in announcing a winner is a) expected and b) proof the system is working. (Contrast that with President Trump’s repeated insistence that the election “should END on November 3rd,” like he tweeted on Friday).
“Our state is proud to have one of the safest and most secure election systems in the country,” says former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
“You can have faith that your vote will be counted,” says former Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
“With so many of us voting by mail, it may take a little longer to verify a winner,” says Walz.
“And that’s OK. It’s by design,” says Pawlenty.
“A delay just means that our system is working and that we’re counting every single ballot,” says former Reform Party governor Jesse Ventura.
Imagine that. Political leaders — both current and former — acting like, well, leaders. Educating the public rather than trying to skew reality for their own political benefit. (Worth noting: All four governors are shown walking in with their masks on, and putting them back on ant the end of the video.)
That a message like this feels so stunning and so different serves as a reminder of just how far Trump — and his decidedly unpresidential approach to the presidency — has changed our expectations from our leaders over these past four years. It was once common ground for politicians of all stripes to urge citizens to a) vote and b) know that their vote was fairly counted. Trump has chosen, for political reasons, to make war on that most basic of democratic assumptions as well as virtually every other “norm” including the guidelines set to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
“25,000, people want to be there, and they say you can only have 250 people, so they thought I’d cancel,” Trump carped on Friday about a campaign rally in, you guess it, Minnesota. “But I’m not canceling.”
Politics doesn’t have to be utterly awful and soul-crushing. It can be unified and, dare I say it, uplifting. Watch the Minnesota governors’ ad. And remember how things once were — and could be again.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

U.S. election: How COVID-19 misinformation is being weaponized in politics – Global News

Published

 on


Social media platforms are being used to downplay the threat of the coronavirus and push back on COVID-19 restrictions in the leadup to the 2020 U.S. election.

In a global pandemic, inaccurate information not only misleads but could also be a matter of life and death if people start taking unproven drugs, ignoring public health advice or refusing a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available.

Read more:
Health misinformation gets billions of views on Facebook amid coronavirus, report says

A very dangerous element of all of this misinformation is distrust in institutions, in media and in democracy,” said Luca Nicotra, a disinformation researcher with non-profit research and activism foundation Avaaz.

“And this has very clear effects, for instance on vaccination rates. We have already seen how Facebook and other social media have promoted the rise of the anti-vaccination movement all around the world.”

Story continues below advertisement

A study by his organization found that content from the top 10 websites spreading health misinformation had almost four times as many views on Facebook than websites providing evidence-based information, like public health institutions such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more:
Nearly half of Canadians can’t tell coronavirus fact from conspiracy theory, survey finds

Nicotra says this has a lot to do with Facebook’s business model.

“Facebook is not a neutral platform. So basically, every time a user logs in, its algorithm decides what you see from the thousands of posts of all the pages you like or the friends you have. It selects the one that it believes will keep you in the platform the most,” he said.

“And what Facebook knows, (CEO Mark) Zuckerberg himself has said that they know that its algorithm, if left unchecked, will promote in a user’s timeline, divisive, sensationalist content and disinformation.”

Read more:
Coronavirus conspiracies pushed by Russia, amplified by Chinese officials, experts say

Despite all evidence, strong rhetoric downplaying the risks associated with COVID-19 has been endorsed at the highest levels of the U.S government.

Story continues below advertisement

According to a study by Cornell University, President Donald Trump has been the world’s biggest driver of COVID-19 misinformation during the pandemic.

A team from the Cornell Alliance for Science looked at 38 million articles published by English-language, traditional media worldwide between Jan. 1 and May 26 of this year.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: COVID-19 and the fear fueling conspiracy theories'



15:36
Coronavirus: COVID-19 and the fear fueling conspiracy theories


Coronavirus: COVID-19 and the fear fueling conspiracy theories

And misinformation is increasingly moving offline and spilling over into the streets in the form of protests or sometimes aggressive refusals to follow social distancing restrictions.

In April, thousands of people gathered at Michigan’s state capitol to protest executive orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that shut down most of the state.

Trump openly encouraged such protests, tweeting, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

A group of men known as the Wolverine Watchmen, said to have been motivated by Whitmer’s actions to limit the spread of COVID-19, have been arrested on conspiracy charges, accused of plotting to kidnap the Michigan governor.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more:
FBI foils plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Trump has admitted to downplaying the pandemic, continuing to do so even after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 — fuelling the growing coronavirus-denial movement.

“His success in responding or reacting personally to COVID that is now being fed into those conspiracies as well, that it proves that it’s a hoax, that it’s not nearly as serious as we went on it was,” said Barbara Perry, the director of Ontario Tech University’s Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism.

And with Facebook’s algorithm trying to keep people on its platform for as long as possible, it’s no surprise that what keeps people engaged are sensational posts often full of false information.

“So Facebook’s responsibility then comes from the inaction on not constraining the algorithm (from going into) these black holes,” Nicotra said. “That, really, in the best case, radicalizes people. In the worst case, during a global pandemic like the one we are in the middle of, really, it puts people’s lives in danger.”

Read more:
Is Facebook ready for the U.S. presidential election?

Facebook has not responded to Global News’ request for comment but it has made an effort to label posts with warning notices about coronavirus misinformation — including posts by politicians.

Story continues below advertisement

But advocates say it’s not enough.

One idea set forth by Nicotra’s foundation is that when Facebook deems a post false or dangerous, it should not only add a warning on the initial post but also when someone shares it, sending them notifications that what they have shared is untrue.

There’s also a push to downgrade the algorithm, says Nicotra, so that when a post is verified false, its reach is automatically decreased.

And as we get closer and closer to the U.S. election and important COVID-19 regulations are debated, access to fact- and science-based information is more important now than ever.


emanuela.campanella@globalnews.ca

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

After 30 years in politics, Carole James retires with a new pair of boxing gloves and no regrets – CBC.ca

Published

 on


Carole James is leaving the political ring with a few victories under her belt.

As leader of the B.C. NDP in the early 2000s, she helped it grow from only two seats in Victoria to more than 30 before John Horgan took on the role. Now, as outgoing finance minister, she is retiring in the wake of an orange wave after the party won a projected historic majority this fall.

James announced in March she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and planned to focus on her family and her health.

She told CBC she has spent her last week on the job tripping down memory lane — both reflecting on her own experiences and the success of the party.

“It’s been really extraordinary,” she said.

Watch Carole James talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly in politics:

The longtime B.C. politician says try to block the bad, but don’t forget to feel the good. 1:17

The long-serving MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill is leaving the legislature with a unique parting gift from her colleagues — a pair of purple boxing gloves.

Boxing, says James, is a great exercise for people with Parkinson’s and she plans to step out of her comfort zone and give it a go. 

“Much to the surprise of my kids who I’m not sure really believe that I’m going to follow through with it,” she said.

Carole James poses with a parting gift from her colleagues, a pair of boxing gloves. (Darren Stone/Times Colonist)

But not following through doesn’t really come off as a trait of James, who led a party when she didn’t even have her own seat in the house and later, as finance minister, had the unprecedented responsibility of controlling B.C.’s budget during an economically-crippling global pandemic.

“I don’t tend to take on the easy things. I tend to take on the challenging pieces,” said James, adding it was drilled into her early in life to take responsibility and get involved.

Raised by a single mom in the very community she served as MLA, James said she spent much of her childhood at protests and at her grandparents’ home where, as foster parents, there were always kids that needed caring for.

“The expectation in my family was that you have to contribute, that it’s not a choice,” she said.

Watch the retiring MLA reflect on the things that matter most to her:

Hang on to your loved ones, says James, because they will be there when the job is not. 1:01

But now, James is choosing to spend more time on her health and with her two children and grandchildren and her husband, Albert Gerow, the former elected chief of the Burns Lake First Nation.

“I couldn’t do this job if it wasn’t for family and friends and that’s why I remind MLAs when the come in, politics will come and go, but your family and friends — you’ve got to make sure you hang on to those relationships,” said James.

She said she plans on working somewhat during her retirement and while she didn’t specify what she would be doing, she did say it would involve what she loves — problem solving and “bringing folks together across party lines.”

And when she does think back on her time working for British Columbians, it will be with fondness for her colleagues and her constituents. 

“I don’t regret a minute.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending