Dr. Naomi Wolf in conversation with Daniel G. Newman and Greg Palast – PART 4
Daily Clout thanks Nicole Powers for her tireless efforts to edit and produce this transcript.
Author and former political advisor to Al Gore and Bill Clinton, Dr Naomi Wolf talks to Daniel G. Newman (author of Unrig: How To Fix Our Broken Democracy) and Greg Palast (How Trump Stole 2020: The Hunt For America’s Vanished Voters) about the challenges voters — and the very institution of democracy in the U.S. — face in the upcoming election. Both books “hold the key to what we can actually do to save the vote, save the election, and save democracy,” says Wolf, who moderates a discussion that is essential pre-election viewing.
WATCH DR. NAOMI WOLF’S DISCUSSION WITH GREG PALAST & DANIEL G. NEWMAN HERE
GP: You’re famous for being right, so I want to hear what you have to say.
NW: It’s not fun because first people hate you. Then, years later they say, oh yeah, she predict this. You want to be wrong about things like this. But what will happen is that there will be so many challenges to the vote, as you’ve pointed out. It’s not rocket science. There will be an effort on the part of the sitting president to muddy the outcome, that’s completely predictable. And honestly, if Democrats learn from their example, it’s not going to be much better because there will be charges and counter charges, and chaos. I’m going to predict that there will be probably instigators creating violent situations in the streets. I don’t want to, but, you know, it’s foreseeable. What do we do if President Trump says, and I’m only saying this because of the studies of so many other democracies coming to a shuddering halt exactly at this point in history. We’re not the first people to be here. Other democracies have softened, weakened, hollowed out, gotten to this point, and come back from the break. But we were not back yet. At this point what happens is that the sitting president declares a state of emergency and says it’s not safe to count the vote. There’s too much violence. It’s not safe to have civil society. It’s not safe to have domestic policing. You start to see what we’ve seen already, which I think is a trial run, which are federal troops instead of National Guard, possibly even members of the U. S. military, I don’t want to like go that far. You don’t need to go that far because a fusion centers, our existing law enforcement at some levels. DHS are already highly militarized. And the president says I’m not leaving. Or something like this: We have to take a temporary emergency measure for the next six months where we’ll let you know the outcome at the end of six months, but in the meantime, it’s too dangerous to have civil society. What do we do? And I said, I said it.
GP: I’ve been thinking a lot about that this week. I said I believe that there will be violence. I’m certain of it. I want people to think about this carefully. And what we saw, for example, the Gucci Riot with Roger Stone back in 2000 where it was $1,200 an hour consultants banging on the windows and stopping the vote count. Now we get Boogaloo Boys in Hawaiian shirts with crowbars and pipes who are smashing the buildings, Molotov cocktails thrown into Post offices because our president has said there are a million ballots in these 12 Post Offices from Venezuela, stop the election from being stolen, we have to stop the election from being stolen. There will be protests in the streets on both sides. We already had the test run, as you say, I agree with you, it’s a test run of the unmarked SUVs picking up people as if we were in Peronist Argentina. And this is new, dangerous stuff. When you have an unmarked secret police. Some people are going to be like, I don’t know that they are federal troops. All I know is that they’re Right wing nuts cases, grabbing protesters. Someone’s going to get killed… So now Trump is militarizing response to protest. And what I’m worried about is that, for example, the Florida legislature, you have two Post Offices on fire, the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office is shut down because it’s too dangerous to go in because of the Boogaloo Boys and the Proud Boys. Then what happens is the rabidly Republican legislature of Florida says it’s too much mayhem, we can’t count the votes in time. We have 6 million mail-in ballots, which is what I expect for Florida, 6 million. We can’t count them in time, so we’re not going to certify the election. Republicans of Michigan say we can’t certify the election. Detroit is in flames. And Milwaukee’s in flames. We can’t certify the election. So you have three Republican legislature say it’s mayhem in the streets, it’s martial law, we’ve had curfews, we can’t count the ballots. No certification. Now, no candidate gets 270 votes in the Electoral College because they don’t send the electors, real simple. You don’t certify the election, you can’t send your electors, no one gets 270 votes. It goes under the 12th Amendment and it goes to the House. But it’s not Nancy Pelosi who makes the decision. Each state gets a single vote. Wyoming gets the same vote as New York, and Donald Trump is reelected — constitutionally — because our cities are in flames.
DN: So building on that, Greg, that terrifying scenario, it’s the newly elected Congress that gets to decide on the new president in that disputed election scenario, the newly elected House. And so, you know, if you care about the fairness of elections or you care about Joe Biden getting elected, then it’s worth looking at the map, worth looking at which are the delegations that are a few votes house seats either way, flip the delegation from Republican to Democrat or vice versa. So it’s not about the majority of the House, but it’s about those delegations. MapLight came out with this report last week called “Election in Peril“. It lists all these state delegations. So there’s a lot of effort in like how to make sure that a certain party gets the majority in the House. This is another way of looking at it that’s also really important. Because in case of a disputed presidential election, a few house seats could actually make that decision.
I will also mention this report from the Transition Integrity Project that just came out that gamed out some of these scenarios, like with violence and street protests and such. One of the things they found again was that goading the other side into violence was the winning strategy. So if it’s Trump supporters that are violent, that can end up suffering boomeranging against him in public opinion. It turns out that the losing strategy is expecting the courts and the legal system to resolve this. And in this simulation it would happen time and time again. Democrats playing Biden campaign officials saying, okay, let’s sue, let’s go to the court. And the court responses were simply ineffective and too slow. And so I think that speaks to all of us as citizens who want to see a president that actually believes in democracy is pushing the Democratic party and the Biden campaign to be bold, especially in the case of election disputes. Because you can imagine there’s a tendency to sit back, let’s let the court decide it. But it’s actually the activism of all of the constituents of the Biden campaign and the Democratic party and people who want to see that side win that are going to push them to be aggressive, and that is the winning strategy.
NW: So what I’m hearing, and I want to reinforce to everyone listening, is that a huge takeaway is psychological from this conversation, that going into this election, we have to stay calm. We have to encourage other people to stay calm. If we protest, we need to do it peacefully. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I hear that. We cannot rise to the bait of any provocation. Not only that, if you look at the history of protest, it’s peaceful, enduring protest that wins. It’s short, sharp clashes that lose. That’s really important. And we have to be patient. So patient, organized, diligent, watchful, and not get swept up in the hysteria that is doubtless going to be hyped or real or some combination?
Let me ask one final question, if I may. This is really one of the most important conversations I think I’ve ever had. And I think everyone listening can’t pay attention to a more important conversation. A lot of the strategy that you gentlemen have both laid out depends on a functioning Post Office. Our president has already floated the possibility of postponing elections, and he’s also already made it clear that he’s at war with the Post Office and is trying to put his own eyes and hands in deputies all over the management of the Post Office.
I just want to share what the Daily Clout observed in 2014 in the Scottish referendum. There were a lot of irregularities in the counting of the vote of the Scottish referendum. One of the things we found there was that no one was actually in charge, officially, of counting the vote. When there were disputed ballots, people were sent to police precincts, who sent them to local councils, who sent them to the Electoral Commission, which sounds like a government body that’s supposed to validate the vote, but they’re an agency of the British government from which Scotland would have been succeeding. So they are toothless, and they sent people back to the councils, back to the police, in a complete circle. And 400 marked ballots were messed up in the exact same way and people had no recourse. So where I’m going with this is that was tight referendum, and some of what happened was hundreds of ballots were lost from the Post Office or were dumped out of mail bags and found at the side of the road. So let me turn it over to you. Given that so much of this depends on a functioning, neutral, impartial, effective Post Office, what assurances do you have that the Post Office won’t be used to not send people ballots, not deliver them back to the counters. What protections are there?
DN: I think there are so many things that can go wrong and Greg knows that much better than I do. I think that keeping the Post Office funded is basically, fundamentally what needs to happen to make sure that the whole mail-in ballot system works. But despite like these voter suppression tactics going on for years and years, candidates do win elections in spite of these things. And I’ve never seen the U. S. more energized to get involved in voting. So I want people to know that actually your vote is meant to make a difference, and you organizing your friends and neighbors to vote is going to make an even bigger difference. And if you can, get in touch with the groups that are pressuring your state, that’ll make an even bigger difference. And so many of the elections turn on things that are close. So your vote, and the work that you do, will actually make the difference.
GP: Yes, well, one thing I should say about Daniel’s book Unrig is that you have many positive stories about how citizen action totally changed the whole political makeup of cities. Like Seattle, again, with your Democracy Vouchers. That was an amazing story. Berkeley, other places that are showing that citizens can take control.
The other thing to remember, when I was writing with Rolling Stone, Barack Obama won and my a co-writer, Bobby Kennedy called him up and said, well, what’s the story? Do you understand that we figured that you were robbed of 5.9 million votes? And Obama understood all the details. He could feed back all the details of all the votes that were stolen, but his statement was we just have to overwhelm it. Because, and this is very important, they can’t steal all the votes all the time. You can overwhelm it. You can protect your vote. You can protect your registration. But most important, you can just overwhelm them. And I’m sorry, just assume that you don’t win an election with 51%. You win with 56%.
They steal a lot of votes… Look, 925,000 provisional ballots were rejected. Ballots rejected in-precinct as unreadable, uncountable, 1.9 million. Mail-in ballots lost and rejected, 3.033 million, these are numbers from the Elections Assistance Commission, these are the government’s numbers of over 5 million ballots that someone cast or tried to cast and never got counted. Now, what do we do? We overwhelm that steal. We protect as many votes as we can. We stop the challenge cause we’re going to have 70-million plus mail-in ballots. We have to make sure that we challenge the massive challenges that we expect, but we can do it!
DN: And I would add to that, when there’s public officials in office in your state that want fair elections, then have them keep making the rules better. And so the next round, we don’t have to go through this. Voting as a state issue. Trump and Congress don’t really make the rules on voting, it happens at your state. Your state has a lot of power, and you have a lot of power to make it better.
NW: Fantastic. Well, on that note, you both have sent us out with very specific ways to be stronger now, having heard you, than we were before we heard you. We’re empowered. We’ve got the armor of democracy. And everyone, it’s not just what you’ve heard here. There’s so much more in both of these books. And again, don’t just read both of these books, buy them in multiples. And again, I almost never say that, you need dozens of these books. You need to give them to your babysitters. You need to give them to your children’s teachers. You need to give them to people you argue with at the other side of the political spectrum, your relatives.
Greg Palast’s book is How Trump Stole 2020: The Hunt For America’s Vanished Voters and Daniel G. Newman’s Unrig: How To Fix Our Broken Democracy. Beautiful books, both of them. And if you have additional questions, the websites you should go to are GregPalast.com and UnrigBook.com.
Thank you for being defenders of democracy. I feel so much better knowing that you’re in the front lines and shining a light for everyone else. Thank you both so much.
GP: What a joy to be with you again, Naomi.
DN: Thank you, Naomi.
GP: Good to meet you Daniel.
NW: Take care everybody. Onward. Take care.
READ PART 1 [The Transcription] of DR. NAOMI WOLF’S DISCUSSION WITH GREG PALAST & DANIEL G. NEWMAN HERE
READ PART 2 [The Transcription] of DR. NAOMI WOLF’S DISCUSSION WITH GREG PALAST & DANIEL G. NEWMAN HERE