By Emmanuel Olawale Esq.
On July 8, 2020, I authored an op-ed warning Americans about the authoritarian inclination president Trump and the likelihood that he might refuse to cede power or accept the result of the coming election if he loses. I received responses from some readers who deemed me an alarmist, as they insisted that the president is a defender of democracy.
Americans are in uncharted waters way above the neck level. Most have no clue about how to identify a dictatorship on the homefront. To them, it is something that happens in other countries with unpronounceable names.
Americans have never had to contend with a president who had no regard for the honor system and democratic traditions. People like me who grew up under authoritarian regimes, as I did in Nigeria, can see America entering a “one chance” van when it elected this president in 2016.
To avoid the pending electoral snafu, every American, regardless of party affiliation, must stand up for democracy to preserve the institution
“One chance” vans are vans used in Lagos, Nigeria, outfitted to look like public transit vans, a decoy to rob or kidnap unsuspecting passengers. The conductor of such a van would announce that there’s only “one chance” or one seat available, this will prompt passengers to rush to catch it. The “lucky” passenger who got the “one chance” over others will eventually get robbed, kidnapped, or killed. The “lucky” passenger never had a chance against the fake driver and conductor. She became a hostage the moment she stepped in the van.
America is a hostage in the “one chance” van of President Trump, and we are finding it difficult to slow it down or stop it.
On July 19, less than two weeks after my article was published, the president fired his first salvo against the upcoming election when he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that he would not commit to accepting the result of the 2020 election if he loses. He also disparaged the use of mail-in ballots during the pandemic. He planted the seeds of distrust for the poll, which are now germinating in some Americans’ minds.
The president launched another cluster bomb on July 30. He suggested delaying the election because of the pandemic in a tweet that dominated the news cycle. The tweet was condemned by both Democrats and Republicans as they quickly pointed out that the president had no such power to postpone elections. But he had already accomplished his mission. He had planted the landmines in his target audience’s minds; they will be detonated at the appointed time
On August 13, the president sent a missile targeting the election infrastructure, the U.S postal services, the medium for voting by mail. He told a reporter that he wouldn’t approve the Congress’ request for $25 billion to facilitate mail-in-voting.
This proposed action is a direct attempt to undermine the election, especially during a pandemic when the majority of voters depend on mail-in voting for their safety. If the post office is financially crippled, it would be unable to deliver ballots in time for November 3.
Americans should not take these presidential barrages of electoral assaults lightly because authoritarians are adept at inoculating the public against abuses of power and power grabs. The president is openly vaccinating Americans against possible election manipulation so that when it eventually happens, these announcements would chill their outrage. Most would normalize it as they have been normalizing the dysfunctions of the past four years.
Authoritarians have no respect for the rule of law. They do not yield to popular opinions and are shameless in their ambition to retain power regardless of its destructiveness. They would instead burn down the whole system than submit to it.
To avoid the pending electoral snafu, every American, regardless of party affiliation, must stand up for democracy to preserve the institution. Americans should be prepared for manufactured-chaos shortly before and during the election, most notably after the elections if the president loses. The courts should be prepared to uphold the rule of law, and Congress should create a novel process to usher out an unwilling incumbent without causing violent public unrest. It is time to get out of the “one chance” van.