Could Trump Steal the Election? How Should the Left Respond?

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, July 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

On September 12, Trump tweeted to urge supporters to vote twice (by mail and in person). At the same time, he is trying to undermine mail-in voting through lies, cuts to the Postal Service, and lawsuits against counting mail-in votes before election day. This is on top of the usual right-wing voter suppression involving purging voter rolls, shutting down polling locations, barring former prisoners from voting, and establishing new last-minute requirements for voter registration. Even without Trump’s attacks, widespread mail-in voting infrastructure doesn’t exist to meet higher demand under a pandemic. Poll worker shortages in the thousands could close polling locations in key battleground states. This undemocratic disenfranchisement hits the poor and people of color most heavily.

Due to health and safety concerns from the pandemic, only 26% of Biden voters said they’ll vote in person on election day, while 66% of Trump supporters said they’d vote this way (NBC / WSJ poll). This means that the results we see on election night could be extremely misleading, showing Trump in a far stronger position than he will end up in when all the votes are counted. Both parties are preparing for messy elections results.

A dangerous situation could emerge: election night results could show Trump in the lead, and he could falsely try to declare victory with only a small portion of votes counted. Some progressive groups are preparing for this potential scenario with plans for mass protests and civil disobedience, which is a good step. Actions like this should be organized independently of the Democratic Party leadership, who failed to wage a fight against George W. Bush stealing the election in 2000. Instead, we should rely on the potential power of working people to disrupt “business as usual.”

Socialist Alternative is against the logic of lesser-evilism, and we organize against both Trump’s right-wing agenda and the corporate-driven Democratic Party establishment with mass action and a working-class program. At the same time, we staunchly defend democratic voting rights. If Trump tries to steal this election, then socialists should mobilize workers, young people, and the oppressed to fight back with every tool we have to drive this right-wing menace out of the White House. Of course, the ruling class rejected Trump’s earlier threat to simply cancel the elections. They do not want a Trump dictatorship, but this does not exclude various ways for Trump and the Republicans to steal the election. This is all the more true with the changes likely coming in the Supreme Court following the death of Ruth Bader-Ginsberg.

The best way for us to stop “grand theft election” is with millions of working people taking mass strike action, backed up by well-organized mass demonstrations in every city. Again, the experience of 2000 shows that the Democrats would rather lose than build a mass movement to defend the vote. Instead, organized labor should be at the forefront of protecting protesters against the potential for right-wing vigilante violence in a movement against election theft. With economic crisis, mass unemployment, a global pandemic, racist police murders, and unprecedented wildfires, a mass movement should demand much more than just Trump leaving the White House. 

A strike of millions would show the billionaire class that people wouldn’t take a stolen election lying down. It would also help us flex the strength of united working people, and could be a launching pad for a revived movement against racism and all inequality. If Trump tries to steal the election, then a successful mass strike with clear fighting demands that defeats the right-wing could help lay the basis for a new working-class party to confront both right-wing populism and the Democrats, who both serve the interests of the billionaire class.