This is a rush transcript
Donald Trump: This will be the most corrupt election in the history of our country.
Protester: What do we want?
Protester: When do we want it?
Jaisal Noor: I’m Jaisal Noor for The Real News Network. Are the American people prepared to stop a coup?
Donald Trump: If I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that. And I’ll tell you what-
Chris Matthews: And what does that mean from a [crosstalk 00:00:20]-
Donald Trump: … from a common sense… I’ll tell you what it means.
Chris Matthews: Does that mean you’re going to tell your people to take to the streets?
Donald Trump: It means you have a fraudulent election. You’re sending out 80 million ballots [crosstalk 00:00:26]-
Chris Matthews: And what would you do about that?
Donald Trump: These people aren’t equipped to handle it, number one. Number two, they cheat.
Jaisal Noor: It’s becoming increasingly clear that Donald Trump may not accept the results of the Presidential Election if he loses.
Reporter: Do you commit here today for a peaceful transferal of power after the election?
Donald Trump: Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that, I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster. Get rid of the ballots, and you’ll have a very peaceful… There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.
Jaisal Noor: Well, our next guest argues that a well-organized people can stop a November coup, and they’ve done it many times before. Worth mentioning, often in countries where the US government is the one behind those coups. Now joining us to discuss this is George Lakey. His most recent book, How We Win, is a guide to non-violent, direct action campaigning. He’s a columnist for WagingNonViolence.org, which recently published the viral piece, 10 Things You Need to Know to Stop a Coup, by Daniel Hunter. Daniel couldn’t join us for this discussion, but recommended we get George in his place. Thank you so much for joining us.
George Lakey: Thanks for inviting me.
Jaisal Noor: So we’re in these unprecedented times for the United States, but we are facing a scenario that has played out in dozens of countries around the world. So there are lessons that we can learn from other struggles, and from movements within this country that have taken place historically. A lot of us have read this great piece by Daniel in Waging Nonviolence. Can you take us through some of what the nonviolent movement around the world has learned when facing these situations?
George Lakey: There’s been research done on how those coup attempts were defeated, and we have the advantage of already having so many people in motion thanks to Black Lives Matter, and the climate crisis and other issues, mass incarceration. There have been a whole series of issues that have gotten Americans moving. So, it’s not a situation of we’re a sluggish body politic that has to be awakened. We’re very much an awakened population. And so, I think we have an advantage over some of the countries that have needed to get themselves ready to take on a coup and have successfully defeated it.
Jaisal Noor: So, one of the things that Donald Trump has done, and it’s emerging as a central part of his campaign is claiming without evidence that Democrats are rigging the election against him. He’s claimed mail-in voter fraud will cost him a victory.
Donald Trump: What’s going on, take a look at West Virginia, mailmen selling the ballots. They’re being sold, they’re being dumped in rivers. This is a horrible thing for our country.
Joe Biden: There is no-
Donald Trump: This is not-
Joe Biden: There is no evidence of that.
Donald Trump: … going to end well.
Jaisal Noor: So, Trump’s FBI Director recently told Congress there’s no evidence of mass voter fraud, but that hasn’t stopped Trump from developing, “contingency plans to bypass the election result and appoint local electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority.” That’s according to a piece published last week by Barton Gellman in The Atlantic that asks, “If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?” That is the question this article ultimately asks. Talk about how people can mobilize and organize to prepare for what increasingly seems as the inevitable path this country is headed?
George Lakey: A political scientist named Stephen Zunes did a careful research job with 12 coup attempts, eight of which were defeated by the people. In order to find out, in those efforts that were successful in defeating the coup, what worked? And they came up with four ingredients for a successful defeat of a coup. Number one was widespread participation. It doesn’t work if only a small part of the population erupts, right? It needs to be a large one. The second was alliance-building, and especially alliance-building toward the center. That is, if it’s only the radicals or the extreme progressives who act, it’s not likely to work. However, if there are alliances with the center, the center can actually make the difference in defeating a coup. And then in the third ingredient that he found, very important, that there would be a discipline of nonviolence.
That is, even though there’s bound to be a certain amount of acting out by people who believe in using violence as a protest, if the preponderance of the movement is nonviolent, that seems to make a difference. And then finally, if the people who are initiators don’t support negotiation with the coup plotters, but instead flat out refuse to accept the orders of or go along with the illegitimate authority. In this case, it’s presumably Trump. If they flat out refuse, that seems to make a difference as well. And so, you’ve got those four ingredients. All of those, we’re capable of doing. I’m happy to announce, partly because we have some momentum going already, and also because in those coups that Stephen found, those eight out of 12 that were successfully defeated, the people didn’t have a previous warning.
The plotters had been behind the scenes, and then suddenly, boom. They had a section of the military on their side, whatever they had, and then they moved in order to establish a coup. And nevertheless, eight out of 12 times, the people were able successfully and nonviolently to throw out the coup plotters. We have a very reckless president. Thanks to his blabbing all the time, refusing to honor the results of the election or holds that possibility open, that means that we have all this opportunity to prepare so we can train, we can set up deterrents, procedures that make it more likely actually that the wiser heads around him will say, “Look, you’re going to go down to defeat, that’s really embarrassing, let’s just accept the results of the election.”
Jaisal Noor: And one of the key things that everyone should know is that we are almost certainly not going to get election results the night of the election.
George Lakey: Right.
Jaisal Noor: And those results may show Trump up, because Democrats are expected to vote in higher numbers through mail-in votes, absentee ballots, which Trump does himself but has railed against as fraudulent, without any evidence, as we know. So, this can carry out for days or weeks, and then the importance of calling it a coup. The importance of the language, can you talk about that as well?
George Lakey: Yes. The advantage of that is that it shows the urgency of it. If we just say, “Well, he’s fiddling with things,” people can often feel, “Well, that’s for the politicians to worry about and the courts to worry about, how things get fiddled.” If on the other hand we say, “No, no, no. This is an actual power grab. This is actually a coup attempt that’s underway, and we have to act like other people have in other countries who’ve defeated coups.” In other words, we have to confront it on a mass basis.
Jaisal Noor: So, George, what are some resources people can use and access to help them organize and be prepared in the weeks ahead?
George Lakey: It would be excellent if we could deter Donald Trump from even trying this. And one means of doing that, that has actually worked in the past with regard to a president who has attempted to do a reckless thing is to get masses of people to sign a pledge saying that they won’t go along with an abridgment of our rights, of our voting rights, that we are going to insist that every vote be counted. So, we’ve created on the website ChooseDemocracy.us, that’s ChooseDemocracy.us, we’ve created a pledge that many thousands of people are now signing.
And the idea of that is that we can show in advance that so many people are united. That actually stopped Ronald Reagan from invading Honduras, where he’d stationed US troops, invading Nicaragua at an awkward moment in the 80s. We need to deter him, if possible. But the other advantage of that website is that it offers evidence-based, and that’s an underlined, evidence-based, it offers those resources that enable people to find out the concrete things that they can do as an attempted coup may unfold. And also, it announces trainings. There are thousands of people already enrolling for trainings, because in a way, it’s like a nonviolent army we’re developing here. We will do better if we train to meet whatever comes.
Jaisal Noor: All right, George Lakey, thank you so much for joining us. A columnist for Waging Nonviolence, which recently published the viral piece, 10 Things You Need to Know to Stop a Coup. Thank you so much for joining us.
George Lakey: Thank you.
Jaisal Noor: And thank you for joining us at The Real News Network. Keep following all of our election coverage @TheRealNews on Twitter and Facebook. And you can follow me @JaisalNoor. That’s @J-A-I-S-A-L-N-O-O-R. Thank you so much for watching.
Studio: Taylor Hebden
Post-Production: Taylor Hebden