I think we can all agree that 2020 has felt like a poorly written disaster film that should have never been green-lit. And yet, curiously enough, most people seem to believe its finale will be a Marvel-esque triumph over adversity that will usher in a more prosperous and promising 2021.
But if 2020 is a movie, that makes the November election its third act. And rather than being triumphant, it’s shaping up to be the climactic turn for the worse in a classic Scorsese film.
I’m going to tell you why – and how we can prevent it.
Ever heard of the “Red Mirage?” It’s a particularly alarming election night scenario where, due to Democrats being more likely to vote by mail, election night could look like a landslide for Donald Trump. Afterward, as mail-in votes trickle in, the election could flip for Joe Biden. If this happens and Trump loses after a close race where mail-in ballots – which Trump has already maligned as being illegitimate – received after election day were the deciding factor, we could be facing the greatest Constitutional crisis since the antebellum era. And with Trump repeatedly refusing to commit to a peaceful transferal of power, there is no longer any doubt in my mind that the third act of 2020: The Movie could use a rewrite.
That’s why I started Operation #LeaveNoDoubt2020, a three-pillared campaign to counteract Donald Trump and the Red Mirage. These pillars are:
- Voting IN PERSON.
If Trump’s unsubtle rhetoric these past few months is any indication (something a script writer might call “on the nose”), his campaign’s legal strategy in the event of a contested election will be to eliminate mail-in ballots based on the slightest technicality, which could lead to a Supreme Court showdown. In states like New Jersey, in person voting is not practical given that the state is conducting an all-mail election, wherein citizens opting to vote in person would need to cast a provisional ballot, which wouldn’t be counted until after the election. But in states that are offering traditional voting, if we can reach a critical mass of in-person votes opposing Trump on election day, then any changes to the vote count afterward as a result of residual mail-in votes will only affect the magnitude, not the direction, of the election night results, making the outcome much harder to dispute.
- Reducing the volume of mail-in circulation prior to election day.
Before Postmaster General DeJoy gutted the USPS, and before Trump threatened to veto a bill aimed at providing the USPS an economic stimulus (which he admitted in a Fox News interview was to prevent widespread mail-in voting) the USPS was already worried about its ability to deliver mail-in ballots on time. Since voting in person is not a practical option for everyone, the USPS must be able to guarantee timely delivery of mail-in ballots. And since the government is unlikely to aid that effort, I’m proposing an unprecedented consumer divestment effort aimed at refraining from using the Postal Service for non-essential commerce in the weeks prior to election day. This would temporarily decrease the volume of mail in circulation, thereby allowing postal workers to better focus on delivering essential and election mail.
- Demanding accountability from news media.
If major news outlets wrongly announce a winner on election night and then flip-flop to the other candidate, it will only aid Trump’s attempts at portraying the election as a rigged contest and rile up his base, whom he’s already instructed to “stand back and stand by.” And while well-intentioned, the policies that social media companies have put in place to prevent premature declarations of victory are insufficient. The People must demand that major media outlets commit to honest and accurate coverage of the election that is based on tracking the completion of each state’s canvass, not of the results on election night, since the former is what actually determines the winner of an electoral contest anyway.
I know some may consider such a bold script change so late in production too unconventional for mass appeal. It relies on the assumption that there are Americans left who care enough about the safety of their democracy to brave a pandemic, refrain from non-essential consumerism, and hold their media accountable. But given that early in-person voting numbers are surging to record levels, I believe that assumption is well-founded. And rightfully so. After all, I don’t know of many movies where the protagonists overcame unprecedented odds without unprecedented sacrifice – at least, not any good ones.
Harvey Butler III is a 2018 graduate of Princeton University, an aspiring attorney, and a lover of storytelling. Founder of Operation #LeaveNoDoubt2020.