We are seeing a push for people to be vaccinated for a virus that kills less that one percent for those who do not have a comprised immune system. The numbers are hidden of course and that raises the question of why the censorship. This link will lead you to censored videos of doctors speaking on the subject of the COVID19 Vaccine.
President Joe Biden recently announced his “wartime” strategy to confront COVID-19. His weapon: vaccines. The battle plan builds on former President Donald Trump’s arsenal of 400 million vaccines, with a purchase of an additional 200 million more shots so all Americans can get both their recommended doses faster.
To date, more than 60 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the United States and more than 10 million people have received their first of two doses.
Priority favors health care workers and those most at risk from infection, but people at the back of the vaccine line worry their turn for a jab won’t come fast enough. Biden’s purchase aims to alleviate supply concerns by providing enough doses for all 300 million Americans by the end of summer 2021.
But how many doses may go unclaimed? Health officials urge everyone to get vaccinated for COVID-19, but some are not so sure they want it.
This wary cohort is a sizable segment of the population. According to the latest COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 51 percent of Americans are either hesitant or opposed to the vaccine. Most of this group is taking a wait-and-see approach and watching for any problems that emerge in those who get the shot first.
One in five U.S. adults draw a deeper line in the sand, saying they will either “definitely not” get the new vaccine, or they will concede “only if required” for work, school, or other activities.
In California and Ohio, about half of frontline workers in hospitals and nursing homes are refusing the vaccine. And the U.S. Department of Defense reports that many service members are also refusing the shot, but won’t say how many are opting out.
Even some seniors are either on the fence about the shot or simply refuse it altogether. A survey of people 65 and older found that 16 percent of seniors are unsure they want it, and 6 percent say they definitely won’t get it.
For those eager to get their shot, the people who reject it are puzzling, because the push to take the vaccine is so well-publicized and the pitch so compelling. This government-endorsed medical intervention promises protection from a virus linked to millions of deaths, and health officials warn that restrictive social measures could last forever without it.
However, the reasons for refusing the vaccine have compelling features of their own.
New Kind of Shot
The Kaiser survey breaks down those for and against the COVID-19 vaccine by race, age, and political identity. These demographic divisions invite speculation and reveal some curious patterns. But for other groups, the line is crystal clear. For example, those suspicious of vaccines in general will obviously be suspicious of this one.
But the shot designed for the COVID-19 virus (also known as SARS-CoV2) has features that give even those who are otherwise supportive of vaccines cause for concern.
Traditional vaccines work by injecting a weak version of a pathogen to trigger an immune response. The goal is to prime the body to protect itself should it ever face a full-blown infection in the future. The formulation and application of this procedure has evolved dramatically over the past few decades, but the basic principle has been around for a few hundred years.
By contrast, the shots developed to protect against COVID-19 takes a form our ancestors would never have imagined. This new technology influences our immune mechanism at the genetic level. Because these vaccines act on our messenger RNA, they are known as mRNA vaccines.
Before COVID-19, scientists were already researching mRNA vaccines for other diseases in clinical trials. But emergency measures inspired by the pandemic sped up the approval process for candidates designed to protect against SARS-CoV2. Trials were run last year to monitor short-term health effects, but since the public rollout began only a month ago, the long-term impact remains a mystery.
This mRNA vaccine technology is designed to mimic natural viral infections in a way that the immune system recognizes, without the dangers of exposing the body to a genuine infection. In the case of SARS-CoV2 vaccine, it programs your cells to mimic the signature spike protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus, thereby programming your immune system to defend itself against this familiar form whenever it comes in contact with the real virus.
That’s what the shot is designed to do, anyway. However, some worry that this still experiential technology may have unintended consequences. One common concern is that mRNA vaccines could alter your DNA. However, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this is false.
“The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease,” states the CDC.
Another common point of confusion the health agency addresses is the question of who should take the shot, and who can go without. The CDC says just because someone may have developed an immunity to the virus, doesn’t mean they are adequately protected. People who have tested positive for SARS-CoV2 and recovered are still urged to get the vaccine.
“At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long,” states the CDC.
To drive this point home, in December 2020, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issued a report claiming that Pfizer’s study of its mRNA vaccine proved that it was highly effective for people who’d already had COVID-19.
But Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) discovered that the CDC was promoting false information. When Massie examined the Pfizer trial, he found that it clearly didn’t demonstrate a benefit for those with evidence of prior SARS-CoV2 infection as the health agency reported.
The congressman confronted the CDC in a private call, and the agency’s principal deputy director, Dr. Anne Schuchat acknowledged the mistake, and apologized for the delay in fixing it. However, as of this report, the CDC’s claim remains unchanged.
In a series of tweets, Massie says that the public needs to know that the CDC is misrepresenting the results of the Pfizer trial. Adding that the very meaning of science “has been perverted for this virus.”
“Baseless claims with no quantification are being made by the government, repeated by the media, and accepted by public,” Massie wrote on Twitter.
As our understanding of mRNA vaccines continues to evolve, the CDC’s claim that the shot doesn’t influence DNA may prove wrong as well.
An article published in the January edition of Nature Genetics finds that DNA stability will change if RNA is chemically modified.
Lead researcher Arne Klungland explained to Phys.org that several research groups are now working together to study what effect this can have on the DNA molecule.
“We already know that R-loop areas are associated with sequences of DNA containing active genes and that this can lead to chromosomal breakage and the loss of genetic information,” Klungland said.
Weighing the Risks
There would be no controversy if vaccines were shown to be 100 percent risk free, but even the most dedicated vaccine supporter has to admit that this medical intervention can do harm. The debate is about how much risk vaccines pose compared to the benefit they deliver.
In several surveys identifying the number of people who are suspicious of the COVID-19 vaccine, the most common concern is side effects. Drugmaker trials showed that reactions do occur, but they were typically mild. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration report from December 2020 on the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the most common adverse reactions were injection site reactions, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.
Experts add that these reactions, particularly after the second shot, are a good sign, signaling that immune protection is kicking in.
However, since the public roll out of the shot, there has also been evidence of severe and unanticipated symptoms that may be associated with the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), out of nearly 10,000 reports linked to the COVID-19 shot as of Jan. 29, VAERS has recorded 501 deaths, 1066 hospitalizations, 147 cases of anaphylaxis, and 128 cases of Bell’s palsy.
VAERS is the primary mechanism for reporting adverse vaccine reactions in the United States, but keep in mind that their numbers may only reveal a small portion of the real story. A 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that “fewer than one percent of vaccine injuries” are reported to VAERS.
More than 80 percent of people who test positive for COVID-19 have no symptoms, and most of the remaining group has mild symptoms. COVID-19 has an over 99 percent survival rate for people from zero to 70 without any treatment.
But as health experts remind us, not getting vaccinated carries risks, too. The disease can have serious, life-threatening complications, particularly for those who have two or more comorbidities, especially obesity and diabetes. And if you get sick, you could compromise the health of friends, family, or anyone else you may come in contact with.
So it’s a gamble, but officials say the odds are in the vaccine’s favor. According to the CDC, clinical trials of all vaccines must first show they are safe and effective before they can be authorized or approved for use, including the ones for COVID.
“The known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine,” states the CDC.
However, the risk that remains is all yours. The federal government has granted COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers immunity from liability if serious reactions occur. Likewise, government regulators and private companies that make the SARS-CoV2 vaccine mandatory for employees are also protected from litigation in the event of harm.
Considering the Unknowns
While health officials are generally in lockstep support with the new vaccine, many independent doctors say the risk it carries is still too great. One of these doctors is board-certified emergency physician and founder of America’s Front Line Doctors (AFLD), Dr. Simone Gold. In a recent lecture discussing “The Truth About the COVID-19 Vaccine,” Gold says the medical establishment ignores serious concerns that hang over this “experimental biological intervention.” One of these concerns include the lack of independently published animal studies for a product that has been rushed to market.
Gold criticizes the “tremendous failure” that has been observed in creating previous coronavirus vaccines but the SARS-CoV1 vaccine relies on a different anagram. Those shots utilized recombinant modified vaccinia Ankara (rMVA), which is not the same as the mRNA technology used in Pfizer’s and Moderna’s products designed to protect against SARS-CoV2.
In terms of speed, the new COVID-19 vaccine is a miracle, and is one of the points of concern raised by critics.
In a Q & A for Johns Hopkins Medicine, Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., senior director of infection prevention, and Gabor Kelen, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, say that such concerns miss an important point.
“The mRNA technology used to develop the COVID-19 vaccines has been years in development to prepare for outbreaks of infectious viruses. Thus, the manufacturing process was ready very early in the pandemic.”
COVID-19 vaccines created with mRNA technology allows for “a faster approach than the traditional way vaccines are made,” they write.
When it comes to whether somebody should get the shot, Johns Hopkins encouraged people to talk to their doctor and consult other health care organizations, but said the decision is ultimately up to each person.
“You alone make the decision about whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made comments last year about COVID-19 vaccines that clash with policies that his platform has implemented, leaked video shows.
Zuckerberg said in July 2020: “I do just want to make sure that I share some caution on this [vaccine] because we just don’t know the long-term side effects of basically modifying people’s DNA and RNA … basically the ability to produce those antibodies and whether that causes other mutations or other risks downstream. So, there’s work on both paths of vaccine development.”
Zuckerberg took a different stance when appearing in a virtual forum in November 2020 with Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading government scientist.
“Just to clear up one point, my understanding is that these vaccines do not modify your DNA or RNA. So that’s just an important point to clarify,” Zuckerberg said, prompting Fauci to say: “No, first of all, DNA is inherent in your own nuclear cell. Sticking in anything foreign will ultimately get cleared.”
Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The footage was published by Project Veritas, a journalism watchdog. It was allegedly from Facebook’s internal weekly question-and-answer session.
Zuckerberg’s Facebook has imposed harsh guidelines on what people can post about COVID-19, and banned or restricted a number of users for violating the policies.
Facebook earlier in February said it would take down any posts with claims about vaccines deemed false by health groups or its so-called fact-checkers.
Facebook stated in a blog post, “Today, following consultations with leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), we are expanding the list of false claims we will remove to include additional debunked claims about the coronavirus and vaccines.”
The list includes “claims that the COVID-19 vaccine changes people’s DNA.”
Administrators for some groups will be required to greenlight all posts if the groups have been labeled problematic in terms of posts that have been made.
“Claims about COVID-19 or vaccines that do not violate these policies will still be eligible for review by our third-party fact-checkers, and if they are rated false, they will be labeled and demoted,” the company stated.
Footage showing Zuckerberg commenting privately on various issues has been made public before by Project Veritas. In one clip, he praised President Joe Biden’s early executive orders “on areas that we as a company care quite deeply about and have for some time.”
“Areas like immigration, preserving DACA, ending restrictions on travel from Muslim-majority countries, as well as other executive orders on climate and advancing racial justice and equity. I think these were all important and positive steps,” he said.
Facebook banned former President Donald Trump in January while Trump was still in office. Trump remains blocked from the platform.
Dozens of Aussie medical boards and AHPRA have judicially removed doctors’ right of refusal and right of professional judgement for an individual patient’s needs, or professional doubts about the government’s propaganda regarding its effectiveness.
Quotes from the joint statement published by AHRPA:
“In informing their patient or client of a conscientious objection to COVID-19 vaccination, practitioners must be careful not to discourage their patient or client from seeking vaccination. Practitioners authorized to prescribe and/or administer the vaccine but who have a conscientious objection must ensure appropriate referral options are provided for vaccination.”
“While some health practitioners may have a conscientious objection to COVID-19 vaccination, all practitioners, including students on placement, must comply with local employer, health service or health department policies, procedures and guidelines relating to COVID-19 vaccination.”
“Any promotion of anti-vaccination statements or health advice which contradicts the best available scientific evidence or seeks to actively undermine the national immunisation campaign (including via social media) is not supported by National Boards and may be in breach of the codes of conduct and subject to investigation and possible regulatory action.
“National Boards have developed social media guidance to help registered health practitioners understand and meet their obligations when using social media. The guidance explains that registered health practitioners must make sure that their social media activity is consistent with the regulatory framework for their profession and does not contradict or counter public health campaigns or messaging, such as the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.
“Health practitioners are reminded that it is an offence under the National Law to advertise a regulated health service (including via social media) in a way that is false, misleading or deceptive. Advertising that includes false, misleading or deceptive claims about COVID-19, including anti-vaccination material, may result in prosecution by Ahpra [sic].”
The establishment is now panicking, they need a way to figure out how to stop people from moving from one system to another. They will try everything and anything, watch for [FF] with cryptos. The people are now shifting, slowly but surely, what we are witnessing is the destruction of the old economic system and the birth of a new one. Trump gave a speech at CPAC. The clock has been activated, it’s time to restart everything. Trump dropped messages during the speech, letting the people know that they are in control. Specific targets are locked on and the people will begin to find out the truth. This is just the beginning. Trump is showing the people the truth, they are now understanding that the [DS] policies do not benefit the people. Trump is now placing everything into position.
The economy is now taking off, we are experiencing a “V” recovery. Trump’s economic plan is working. What happens when you know the playbook of the [CB], what advantages exists. The patriots are now allowing the [CB] to do what they do best, destroy themselves. The [DS]/MSM is now doing exactly what the Patriots want. The mission is about to begin, the plan is moving forward. The last 4 years was about changing everything, waking people up, putting a plan in place to protect the country. The storm is coming and it will hit the [DS//MSM when they least expect it. [HRC] sends out comms, is something big about to happen.
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, attends a video-conference meeting as U.S. President Joe Biden appear on a screen ahead of a 2021 Munich Security Conference at the Elysee palace in Paris on Feb. 19, 2021. (Benoit Tessier/Pool via AP)
The U.S. officially rejoined the Paris climate accord on Friday about one month after President Joe Biden signed more than a dozen executive orders on his first day in office, including to rejoin the global pact.
“We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change,” Biden told European leaders during a video conference on Friday. “This is a global existential crisis, and all of us will suffer if we fail.”
For the United States—or any country—to reenter the agreement, a process of 30 days is required to file the paperwork to the United Nations, a period that ended on Friday.
Former President Donald Trump first announced in 2017 his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, calling the United Nations framework to tackle climate change “a total disaster” for the U.S. economy that was too lenient towards communist China and its greenhouse gas emissions.
“The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers—who I love—and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production,” Trump stated in 2017.
The Trump administration officially announced its withdrawal from the agreement in 2019.
Biden repeatedly promised to reenter the pact during his campaign and made it one of his first major moves as president. He has promised to chart a path toward net-zero U.S. emissions by 2050.
“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.”
The aim of the accord is to limit the global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. To achieve this long-term goal, according to the U.N., countries “aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century.”
The Biden administration also says it will set a tougher new target for U.S. emissions cuts by the time Biden hosts a planned Earth Day global summit for world leaders on April 22.
According to multiple experts and top officials, rejoining the global pact as it stands now will have devastating economic consequences for the United States, with little actual environmental benefit.
Sen. John Barrasso, a top Republican on the Senate energy panel criticized Biden for the move, tweeting: “Returning to the Paris climate agreement will raise Americans’ energy costs and won’t solve climate change. The Biden administration will set unworkable targets for the United States while China and Russia can continue with business as usual.″
Returning to the Paris climate agreement will raise Americans’ energy costs and won’t solve climate change. The Biden administration will set unworkable targets for the United States while China and Russia can continue with business as usual.
Nicolas Loris, the deputy director of the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, said the agreement will have a heavy toll on American families and businesses.
“It will be very costly for Americans families and business because 80 percent of our energy needs are met through carbon-emitting conventional fuels,” Loris told The Epoch Times. “Regulating them and subsidizing alternatives is going to harm American families and taxpayers.
“Because there is really no teeth to the Paris climate accord, developing countries are getting a free pass in terms of their emissions,” he said. “It’s likely that the Paris climate accord is not going to reach its intended goal.”
John Kerry: ‘We Have Nine Years’ Until Climate Crisis — ‘There’s No Room for B.S. Anymore’
John Kerry has a message for Joe Biden regarding the inevitable climate crisis
by Maggie Mitchell
The administration’s climate envoy joined CBS “This Morning” to talk about the current situation. According to Kerry, the weather we are dealing with at the moment could easily be the “new normal.” He told reporter Ben Tracy that we need to cut global carbon emissions to prevent any further damage.
“It is directly related to the warming, even though your instinct is to say, wait a minute, this is the new ice age, but it’s not,” Kerry said. “It is coming from global warming, and it threatens all the normal weather patterns.”
He added, “Even if we did everything that we said we were going to do when we signed up in Paris, we would see a rise in the Earth’s temperature to somewhere around 3.7 degrees or more, which is catastrophic.”
Kerry continued, “we have nine years left” to “avert the worst consequences” of the climate crisis. He explained the decision for our country to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord is because “there’s no room for B.S. anymore.”
“[T]he scientists told us three years ago we had 12 years to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis. We are now three years gone, so we have nine years left,” he warned.
“There’s no room for B.S. anymore,” Kerry told the reporter. “There’s no faking it on this one.”
The death of John Kennedy is viewed through another angle in this conspiracy-themed film defending the theory that George Herbert Walker Bush was a key player in all aspects of the assassination of American president John F. Kennedy.
Juan O. Savin (P) is working closely with key people documenting the treason and conspiracy surrounding the massive election fraud committed by the Deep State and its agents inclusive of both Democratic and Republican governors, and media co-conspirators notably Associated Press and the New York Times. In this short video, under 20 minutes, he addresses foreign interference by the United Kingdom, available forensics, the compromise of the courts, confused legislators, and what may or may not happen from 6 January. Most significantly he states that the President is ready to used Martial Law and the Insurrection Act — the #1 Wood in the President’s golf bag, and that inauguration may be delayed. He has previously stated that it is an impossibility for Biden-Harris to ever be inaugurated.
We have a long road ahead and I don’t think Washington, D.C., can really be cleaned up. It can’t be fixed because it’s already FIXED—as a rigged game. My advice to President (That has a pleasant and reverent ring to it, right?) Trump is that he hire all his contractor buddies and have them get together as much fencing materials and heavy equipment as they can possibly muster. Then bring it all to DC. Under the protection of Marine guards utilizing close-in air support, they should proceed to surround D.C. with multiple layers of chain-link fence and concertina wire, like we did at the city of Fallujah in Iraq. Simultaneously, we need to have all available military, and armored national guard units, surround the city at the beltway.
His next move is to have military aircraft bomb the area with pamphlets, just as warnings are blasted out on megaphones in every needed language, advising those in DC to immediately get out of the city. Exit checkpoints can be manned by military guards utilizing metal detectors. They should strip search and identify, as well as process and interrogate, every seditious and
treasonous conspirator they find. We are not letting any incriminating evidence, national security secrets, or treasures get out! Kid by the side of the Road
Crimes against humanity refer to specific crimes committed in the context of a large-scale attack targeting civilians, regardless of their nationality. These crimes include murder, torture, sexual violence, enslavement, persecution, enforced disappearance, etc.
Crimes against humanity have often been committed as part of State policies, but they can also be perpetrated by non-State armed groups or paramilitary forces. Unlike war crimes, crime against humanity can also be committed in peacetime, and contrary to genocide, they are not necessarily committed against a specific national, ethnical, racial or religious group.
CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
Crimes against humanity appeared for the first time in a treaty in the 1945 Nuremberg Charter at the end of the Second World War, albeit with a different definition than today.
Unlike other human rights violations, war crimes do not engage State responsibility but individual criminal responsibility. This means that individuals can be tried and found personally responsible for these crimes.
Prohibited acts include:
Deportation or forcible transfer of population
Persecution against an identifiable group
Enforced disappearance of persons
The crime of apartheid
Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health
The power of Love overcomes all. In this moving video you will hear first hand the world we live in. It is time to open to open your minds and heart and realize the world is not as it seems and the physical and metaphyseal worlds are inseparable. Enjoy the video.
A weird thing happened right after the Nov. 3 election: nothing.
The nation was braced for chaos. Liberal groups had vowed to take to the streets, planning hundreds of protests across the country. Right-wing militias were girding for battle. In a poll before Election Day, 75% of Americans voiced concern about violence.
Instead, an eerie quiet descended. As President Trump refused to concede, the response was not mass action but crickets. When media organizations called the race for Joe Biden on Nov. 7, jubilation broke out instead, as people thronged cities across the U.S. to celebrate the democratic process that resulted in Trump’s ouster.
A second odd thing happened amid Trump’s attempts to reverse the result: corporate America turned on him. Hundreds of major business leaders, many of whom had backed Trump’s candidacy and supported his policies, called on him to concede. To the President, something felt amiss. “It was all very, very strange,” Trump said on Dec. 2. “Within days after the election, we witnessed an orchestrated effort to anoint the winner, even while many key states were still being counted.”
In a way, Trump was right.
There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes, one that both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs. Both surprises were the result of an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans. The pact was formalized in a terse, little-noticed joint statement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO published on Election Day. Both sides would come to see it as a sort of implicit bargain–inspired by the summer’s massive, sometimes destructive racial-justice protests–in which the forces of labor came together with the forces of capital to keep the peace and oppose Trump’s assault on democracy.
The handshake between business and labor was just one component of a vast, cross-partisan campaign to protect the election–an extraordinary shadow effort dedicated not to winning the vote but to ensuring it would be free and fair, credible and uncorrupted. For more than a year, a loosely organized coalition of operatives scrambled to shore up America’s institutions as they came under simultaneous attack from a remorseless pandemic and an autocratically inclined President. Though much of this activity took place on the left, it was separate from the Biden campaign and crossed ideological lines, with crucial contributions by nonpartisan and conservative actors. The scenario the shadow campaigners were desperate to stop was not a Trump victory. It was an election so calamitous that no result could be discerned at all, a failure of the central act of democratic self-governance that has been a hallmark of America since its founding.
Their work touched every aspect of the election. They got states to change voting systems and laws and helped secure hundreds of millions in public and private funding. They fended off voter-suppression lawsuits, recruited armies of poll workers and got millions of people to vote by mail for the first time. They successfully pressured social media companies to take a harder line against disinformation and used data-driven strategies to fight viral smears. They executed national public-awareness campaigns that helped Americans understand how the vote count would unfold over days or weeks, preventing Trump’s conspiracy theories and false claims of victory from getting more traction. After Election Day, they monitored every pressure point to ensure that Trump could not overturn the result. “The untold story of the election is the thousands of people of both parties who accomplished the triumph of American democracy at its very foundation,” says Norm Eisen, a prominent lawyer and former Obama Administration official who recruited Republicans and Democrats to the board of the Voter Protection Program.
For Trump and his allies were running their own campaign to spoil the election. The President spent months insisting that mail ballots were a Democratic plot and the election would be “rigged.” His henchmen at the state level sought to block their use, while his lawyers brought dozens of spurious suits to make it more difficult to vote–an intensification of the GOP’s legacy of suppressive tactics. Before the election, Trump plotted to block a legitimate vote count. And he spent the months following Nov. 3 trying to steal the election he’d lost–with lawsuits and conspiracy theories, pressure on state and local officials, and finally summoning his army of supporters to the Jan. 6 rally that ended in deadly violence at the Capitol.
The democracy campaigners watched with alarm. “Every week, we felt like we were in a struggle to try to pull off this election without the country going through a real dangerous moment of unraveling,” says former GOP Representative Zach Wamp, a Trump supporter who helped coordinate a bipartisan election-protection council. “We can look back and say this thing went pretty well, but it was not at all clear in September and October that that was going to be the case.”
Biden fans in Philadelphia after the race was called on Nov. 7 Michelle Gustafson for TIME
This is the inside story of the conspiracy to save the 2020 election, based on access to the group’s inner workings, never-before-seen documents and interviews with dozens of those involved from across the political spectrum. It is the story of an unprecedented, creative and determined campaign whose success also reveals how close the nation came to disaster. “Every attempt to interfere with the proper outcome of the election was defeated,” says Ian Bassin, co-founder of Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan rule-of-law advocacy group. “But it’s massively important for the country to understand that it didn’t happen accidentally. The system didn’t work magically. Democracy is not self-executing.”
That’s why the participants want the secret history of the 2020 election told, even though it sounds like a paranoid fever dream–a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information. They were not rigging the election; they were fortifying it. And they believe the public needs to understand the system’s fragility in order to ensure that democracy in America endures.
Sometime in the fall of 2019, Mike Podhorzer became convinced the election was headed for disaster–and determined to protect it.
This was not his usual purview. For nearly a quarter-century, Podhorzer, senior adviser to the president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest union federation, has marshaled the latest tactics and data to help its favored candidates win elections. Unassuming and professorial, he isn’t the sort of hair-gelled “political strategist” who shows up on cable news. Among Democratic insiders, he’s known as the wizard behind some of the biggest advances in political technology in recent decades. A group of liberal strategists he brought together in the early 2000s led to the creation of the Analyst Institute, a secretive firm that applies scientific methods to political campaigns. He was also involved in the founding of Catalist, the flagship progressive data company.
The endless chatter in Washington about “political strategy,” Podhorzer believes, has little to do with how change really gets made. “My basic take on politics is that it’s all pretty obvious if you don’t overthink it or swallow the prevailing frameworks whole,” he once wrote. “After that, just relentlessly identify your assumptions and challenge them.” Podhorzer applies that approach to everything: when he coached his now adult son’s Little League team in the D.C. suburbs, he trained the boys not to swing at most pitches–a tactic that infuriated both their and their opponents’ parents, but won the team a series of championships.
Trump’s election in 2016–credited in part to his unusual strength among the sort of blue collar white voters who once dominated the AFL-CIO–prompted Podhorzer to question his assumptions about voter behavior. He began circulating weekly number-crunching memos to a small circle of allies and hosting strategy sessions in D.C. But when he began to worry about the election itself, he didn’t want to seem paranoid. It was only after months of research that he introduced his concerns in his newsletter in October 2019. The usual tools of data, analytics and polling would not be sufficient in a situation where the President himself was trying to disrupt the election, he wrote. “Most of our planning takes us through Election Day,” he noted. “But, we are not prepared for the two most likely outcomes”–Trump losing and refusing to concede, and Trump winning the Electoral College (despite losing the popular vote) by corrupting the voting process in key states. “We desperately need to systematically ‘red-team’ this election so that we can anticipate and plan for the worst we know will be coming our way.”
It turned out Podhorzer wasn’t the only one thinking in these terms. He began to hear from others eager to join forces. The Fight Back Table, a coalition of “resistance” organizations, had begun scenario-planning around the potential for a contested election, gathering liberal activists at the local and national level into what they called the Democracy Defense Coalition. Voting-rights and civil rights organizations were raising alarms. A group of former elected officials was researching emergency powers they feared Trump might exploit. Protect Democracy was assembling a bipartisan election-crisis task force. “It turned out that once you said it out loud, people agreed,” Podhorzer says, “and it started building momentum.”
He spent months pondering scenarios and talking to experts. It wasn’t hard to find liberals who saw Trump as a dangerous dictator, but Podhorzer was careful to steer clear of hysteria. What he wanted to know was not how American democracy was dying but how it might be kept alive. The chief difference between the U.S. and countries that lost their grip on democracy, he concluded, was that America’s decentralized election system couldn’t be rigged in one fell swoop. That presented an opportunity to shore it up.
On March 3, Podhorzer drafted a three-page confidential memo titled “Threats to the 2020 Election.” “Trump has made it clear that this will not be a fair election, and that he will reject anything but his own re-election as ‘fake’ and rigged,” he wrote. “On Nov. 3, should the media report otherwise, he will use the right-wing information system to establish his narrative and incite his supporters to protest.” The memo laid out four categories of challenges: attacks on voters, attacks on election administration, attacks on Trump’s political opponents and “efforts to reverse the results of the election.”
Then COVID-19 erupted at the height of the primary-election season. Normal methods of voting were no longer safe for voters or the mostly elderly volunteers who normally staff polling places. But political disagreements, intensified by Trump’s crusade against mail voting, prevented some states from making it easier to vote absentee and for jurisdictions to count those votes in a timely manner. Chaos ensued. Ohio shut down in-person voting for its primary, leading to minuscule turnout. A poll-worker shortage in Milwaukee–where Wisconsin’s heavily Democratic Black population is concentrated–left just five open polling places, down from 182. In New York, vote counting took more than a month.
Suddenly, the potential for a November meltdown was obvious. In his apartment in the D.C. suburbs, Podhorzer began working from his laptop at his kitchen table, holding back-to-back Zoom meetings for hours a day with his network of contacts across the progressive universe: the labor movement; the institutional left, like Planned Parenthood and Greenpeace; resistance groups like Indivisible and MoveOn; progressive data geeks and strategists, representatives of donors and foundations, state-level grassroots organizers, racial-justice activists and others.
In April, Podhorzer began hosting a weekly 2½-hour Zoom. It was structured around a series of rapid-fire five-minute presentations on everything from which ads were working to messaging to legal strategy. The invitation-only gatherings soon attracted hundreds, creating a rare shared base of knowledge for the fractious progressive movement. “At the risk of talking trash about the left, there’s not a lot of good information sharing,” says Anat Shenker-Osorio, a close Podhorzer friend whose poll-tested messaging guidance shaped the group’s approach. “There’s a lot of not-invented-here syndrome, where people won’t consider a good idea if they didn’t come up with it.”
The meetings became the galactic center for a constellation of operatives across the left who shared overlapping goals but didn’t usually work in concert. The group had no name, no leaders and no hierarchy, but it kept the disparate actors in sync. “Pod played a critical behind-the-scenes role in keeping different pieces of the movement infrastructure in communication and aligned,” says Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party. “You have the litigation space, the organizing space, the political people just focused on the W, and their strategies aren’t always aligned. He allowed this ecosystem to work together.”
Protecting the election would require an effort of unprecedented scale. As 2020 progressed, it stretched to Congress, Silicon Valley and the nation’s statehouses. It drew energy from the summer’s racial-justice protests, many of whose leaders were a key part of the liberal alliance. And eventually it reached across the aisle, into the world of Trump-skeptical Republicans appalled by his attacks on democracy.
SECURING THE VOTE
The first task was overhauling America’s balky election infrastructure–in the middle of a pandemic. For the thousands of local, mostly nonpartisan officials who administer elections, the most urgent need was money. They needed protective equipment like masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. They needed to pay for postcards letting people know they could vote absentee–or, in some states, to mail ballots to every voter. They needed additional staff and scanners to process ballots.
In March, activists appealed to Congress to steer COVID relief money to election administration. Led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, more than 150 organizations signed a letter to every member of Congress seeking $2 billion in election funding. It was somewhat successful: the CARES Act, passed later that month, contained $400 million in grants to state election administrators. But the next tranche of relief funding didn’t add to that number. It wasn’t going to be enough.
Private philanthropy stepped into the breach. An assortment of foundations contributed tens of millions in election-administration funding. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative chipped in $300 million. “It was a failure at the federal level that 2,500 local election officials were forced to apply for philanthropic grants to fill their needs,” says Amber McReynolds, a former Denver election official who heads the nonpartisan National Vote at Home Institute.
McReynolds’ two-year-old organization became a clearinghouse for a nation struggling to adapt. The institute gave secretaries of state from both parties technical advice on everything from which vendors to use to how to locate drop boxes. Local officials are the most trusted sources of election information, but few can afford a press secretary, so the institute distributed communications tool kits. In a presentation to Podhorzer’s group, McReynolds detailed the importance of absentee ballots for shortening lines at polling places and preventing an election crisis.
The institute’s work helped 37 states and D.C. bolster mail voting. But it wouldn’t be worth much if people didn’t take advantage. Part of the challenge was logistical: each state has different rules for when and how ballots should be requested and returned. The Voter Participation Center, which in a normal year would have deployed canvassers door-to-door to get out the vote, instead conducted focus groups in April and May to find out what would get people to vote by mail. In August and September, it sent ballot applications to 15 million people in key states, 4.6 million of whom returned them. In mailings and digital ads, the group urged people not to wait for Election Day. “All the work we have done for 17 years was built for this moment of bringing democracy to people’s doorsteps,” says Tom Lopach, the center’s CEO.
The effort had to overcome heightened skepticism in some communities. Many Black voters preferred to exercise their franchise in person or didn’t trust the mail. National civil rights groups worked with local organizations to get the word out that this was the best way to ensure one’s vote was counted. In Philadelphia, for example, advocates distributed “voting safety kits” containing masks, hand sanitizer and informational brochures. “We had to get the message out that this is safe, reliable, and you can trust it,” says Hannah Fried of All Voting Is Local.
At the same time, Democratic lawyers battled a historic tide of pre-election litigation. The pandemic intensified the parties’ usual tangling in the courts. But the lawyers noticed something else as well. “The litigation brought by the Trump campaign, of a piece with the broader campaign to sow doubt about mail voting, was making novel claims and using theories no court has ever accepted,” says Wendy Weiser, a voting-rights expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. “They read more like lawsuits designed to send a message rather than achieve a legal outcome.”
In the end, nearly half the electorate cast ballots by mail in 2020, practically a revolution in how people vote. About a quarter voted early in person. Only a quarter of voters cast their ballots the traditional way: in person on Election Day.
THE DISINFORMATION DEFENSE
Bad actors spreading false information is nothing new. For decades, campaigns have grappled with everything from anonymous calls claiming the election has been rescheduled to fliers spreading nasty smears about candidates’ families. But Trump’s lies and conspiracy theories, the viral force of social media and the involvement of foreign meddlers made disinformation a broader, deeper threat to the 2020 vote.
Laura Quinn, a veteran progressive operative who co-founded Catalist, began studying this problem a few years ago. She piloted a nameless, secret project, which she has never before publicly discussed, that tracked disinformation online and tried to figure out how to combat it. One component was tracking dangerous lies that might otherwise spread unnoticed. Researchers then provided information to campaigners or the media to track down the sources and expose them.
The most important takeaway from Quinn’s research, however, was that engaging with toxic content only made it worse. “When you get attacked, the instinct is to push back, call it out, say, ‘This isn’t true,’” Quinn says. “But the more engagement something gets, the more the platforms boost it. The algorithm reads that as, ‘Oh, this is popular; people want more of it.’”
The solution, she concluded, was to pressure platforms to enforce their rules, both by removing content or accounts that spread disinformation and by more aggressively policing it in the first place. “The platforms have policies against certain types of malign behavior, but they haven’t been enforcing them,” she says.
Quinn’s research gave ammunition to advocates pushing social media platforms to take a harder line. In November 2019, Mark Zuckerberg invited nine civil rights leaders to dinner at his home, where they warned him about the danger of the election-related falsehoods that were already spreading unchecked. “It took pushing, urging, conversations, brainstorming, all of that to get to a place where we ended up with more rigorous rules and enforcement,” says Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who attended the dinner and also met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and others. (Gupta has been nominated for Associate Attorney General by President Biden.) “It was a struggle, but we got to the point where they understood the problem. Was it enough? Probably not. Was it later than we wanted? Yes. But it was really important, given the level of official disinformation, that they had those rules in place and were tagging things and taking them down.”
SPREADING THE WORD
Beyond battling bad information, there was a need to explain a rapidly changing election process. It was crucial for voters to understand that despite what Trump was saying, mail-in votes weren’t susceptible to fraud and that it would be normal if some states weren’t finished counting votes on election night.
Dick Gephardt, the Democratic former House leader turned high-powered lobbyist, spearheaded one coalition. “We wanted to get a really bipartisan group of former elected officials, Cabinet secretaries, military leaders and so on, aimed mainly at messaging to the public but also speaking to local officials–the secretaries of state, attorneys general, governors who would be in the eye of the storm–to let them know we wanted to help,” says Gephardt, who worked his contacts in the private sector to put $20 million behind the effort.
Wamp, the former GOP Congressman, worked through the nonpartisan reform group Issue One to rally Republicans. “We thought we should bring some bipartisan element of unity around what constitutes a free and fair election,” Wamp says. The 22 Democrats and 22 Republicans on the National Council on Election Integrity met on Zoom at least once a week. They ran ads in six states, made statements, wrote articles and alerted local officials to potential problems. “We had rabid Trump supporters who agreed to serve on the council based on the idea that this is honest,” Wamp says. This is going to be just as important, he told them, to convince the liberals when Trump wins. “Whichever way it cuts, we’re going to stick together.”
The Voting Rights Lab and IntoAction created state-specific memes and graphics, spread by email, text, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, urging that every vote be counted. Together, they were viewed more than 1 billion times. Protect Democracy’s election task force issued reports and held media briefings with high-profile experts across the political spectrum, resulting in widespread coverage of potential election issues and fact-checking of Trump’s false claims. The organization’s tracking polls found the message was being heard: the percentage of the public that didn’t expect to know the winner on election night gradually rose until by late October, it was over 70%. A majority also believed that a prolonged count wasn’t a sign of problems. “We knew exactly what Trump was going to do: he was going to try to use the fact that Democrats voted by mail and Republicans voted in person to make it look like he was ahead, claim victory, say the mail-in votes were fraudulent and try to get them thrown out,” says Protect Democracy’s Bassin. Setting public expectations ahead of time helped undercut those lies.
Amber McReynolds, Zach Wamp and Maurice Mitchell
Rachel Woolf for TIME; Erik Schelzig—AP/Shutterstock; Holly Pickett—The New York Times/Redux
The alliance took a common set of themes from the research Shenker-Osorio presented at Podhorzer’s Zooms. Studies have shown that when people don’t think their vote will count or fear casting it will be a hassle, they’re far less likely to participate. Throughout election season, members of Podhorzer’s group minimized incidents of voter intimidation and tamped down rising liberal hysteria about Trump’s expected refusal to concede. They didn’t want to amplify false claims by engaging them, or put people off voting by suggesting a rigged game. “When you say, ‘These claims of fraud are spurious,’ what people hear is ‘fraud,’” Shenker-Osorio says. “What we saw in our pre-election research was that anything that reaffirmed Trump’s power or cast him as an authoritarian diminished people’s desire to vote.”
Podhorzer, meanwhile, was warning everyone he knew that polls were underestimating Trump’s support. The data he shared with media organizations who would be calling the election was “tremendously useful” to understand what was happening as the votes rolled in, according to a member of a major network’s political unit who spoke with Podhorzer before Election Day. Most analysts had recognized there would be a “blue shift” in key battlegrounds– the surge of votes breaking toward Democrats, driven by tallies of mail-in ballots– but they hadn’t comprehended how much better Trump was likely to do on Election Day. “Being able to document how big the absentee wave would be and the variance by state was essential,” the analyst says.
The racial-justice uprising sparked by George Floyd’s killing in May was not primarily a political movement. The organizers who helped lead it wanted to harness its momentum for the election without allowing it to be co-opted by politicians. Many of those organizers were part of Podhorzer’s network, from the activists in battleground states who partnered with the Democracy Defense Coalition to organizations with leading roles in the Movement for Black Lives.
The best way to ensure people’s voices were heard, they decided, was to protect their ability to vote. “We started thinking about a program that would complement the traditional election-protection area but also didn’t rely on calling the police,” says Nelini Stamp, the Working Families Party’s national organizing director. They created a force of “election defenders” who, unlike traditional poll watchers, were trained in de-escalation techniques. During early voting and on Election Day, they surrounded lines of voters in urban areas with a “joy to the polls” effort that turned the act of casting a ballot into a street party. Black organizers also recruited thousands of poll workers to ensure polling places would stay open in their communities.
The summer uprising had shown that people power could have a massive impact. Activists began preparing to reprise the demonstrations if Trump tried to steal the election. “Americans plan widespread protests if Trump interferes with election,” Reuters reported in October, one of many such stories. More than 150 liberal groups, from the Women’s March to the Sierra Club to Color of Change, from Democrats.com to the Democratic Socialists of America, joined the “Protect the Results” coalition. The group’s now defunct website had a map listing 400 planned postelection demonstrations, to be activated via text message as soon as Nov. 4. To stop the coup they feared, the left was ready to flood the streets.
About a week before Election Day, Podhorzer received an unexpected message: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wanted to talk.
The AFL-CIO and the Chamber have a long history of antagonism. Though neither organization is explicitly partisan, the influential business lobby has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Republican campaigns, just as the nation’s unions funnel hundreds of millions to Democrats. On one side is labor, on the other management, locked in an eternal struggle for power and resources.
But behind the scenes, the business community was engaged in its own anxious discussions about how the election and its aftermath might unfold. The summer’s racial-justice protests had sent a signal to business owners too: the potential for economy-disrupting civil disorder. “With tensions running high, there was a lot of concern about unrest around the election, or a breakdown in our normal way we handle contentious elections,” says Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer. These worries had led the Chamber to release a pre-election statement with the Business Roundtable, a Washington-based CEOs’ group, as well as associations of manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, calling for patience and confidence as votes were counted.
But Bradley wanted to send a broader, more bipartisan message. He reached out to Podhorzer, through an intermediary both men declined to name. Agreeing that their unlikely alliance would be powerful, they began to discuss a joint statement pledging their organizations’ shared commitment to a fair and peaceful election. They chose their words carefully and scheduled the statement’s release for maximum impact. As it was being finalized, Christian leaders signaled their interest in joining, further broadening its reach.
The statement was released on Election Day, under the names of Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, and the heads of the National Association of Evangelicals and the National African American Clergy Network. “It is imperative that election officials be given the space and time to count every vote in accordance with applicable laws,” it stated. “We call on the media, the candidates and the American people to exercise patience with the process and trust in our system, even if it requires more time than usual.” The groups added, “Although we may not always agree on desired outcomes up and down the ballot, we are united in our call for the American democratic process to proceed without violence, intimidation or any other tactic that makes us weaker as a nation.”
SHOWING UP, STANDING DOWN
Election night began with many Democrats despairing. Trump was running ahead of pre-election polling, winning Florida, Ohio and Texas easily and keeping Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania too close to call. But Podhorzer was unperturbed when I spoke to him that night: the returns were exactly in line with his modeling. He had been warning for weeks that Trump voters’ turnout was surging. As the numbers dribbled out, he could tell that as long as all the votes were counted, Trump would lose.
The liberal alliance gathered for an 11 p.m. Zoom call. Hundreds joined; many were freaking out. “It was really important for me and the team in that moment to help ground people in what we had already known was true,” says Angela Peoples, director for the Democracy Defense Coalition. Podhorzer presented data to show the group that victory was in hand.
While he was talking, Fox News surprised everyone by calling Arizona for Biden. The public-awareness campaign had worked: TV anchors were bending over backward to counsel caution and frame the vote count accurately. The question then became what to do next.
The conversation that followed was a difficult one, led by the activists charged with the protest strategy. “We wanted to be mindful of when was the right time to call for moving masses of people into the street,” Peoples says. As much as they were eager to mount a show of strength, mobilizing immediately could backfire and put people at risk. Protests that devolved into violent clashes would give Trump a pretext to send in federal agents or troops as he had over the summer. And rather than elevate Trump’s complaints by continuing to fight him, the alliance wanted to send the message that the people had spoken.
So the word went out: stand down. Protect the Results announced that it would “not be activating the entire national mobilization network today, but remains ready to activate if necessary.” On Twitter, outraged progressives wondered what was going on. Why wasn’t anyone trying to stop Trump’s coup? Where were all the protests?
Podhorzer credits the activists for their restraint. “They had spent so much time getting ready to hit the streets on Wednesday. But they did it,” he says. “Wednesday through Friday, there was not a single Antifa vs. Proud Boys incident like everyone was expecting. And when that didn’t materialize, I don’t think the Trump campaign had a backup plan.”
Activists reoriented the Protect the Results protests toward a weekend of celebration. “Counter their disinfo with our confidence & get ready to celebrate,” read the messaging guidance Shenker-Osorio presented to the liberal alliance on Friday, Nov. 6. “Declare and fortify our win. Vibe: confident, forward-looking, unified–NOT passive, anxious.” The voters, not the candidates, would be the protagonists of the story.
The planned day of celebration happened to coincide with the election being called on Nov. 7. Activists dancing in the streets of Philadelphia blasted Beyoncé over an attempted Trump campaign press conference; the Trumpers’ next confab was scheduled for Four Seasons Total Landscaping outside the city center, which activists believe was not a coincidence. “The people of Philadelphia owned the streets of Philadelphia,” crows the Working Families Party’s Mitchell. “We made them look ridiculous by contrasting our joyous celebration of democracy with their clown show.”
The votes had been counted. Trump had lost. But the battle wasn’t over.
THE FIVE STEPS TO VICTORY
In Podhorzer’s presentations, winning the vote was only the first step to winning the election. After that came winning the count, winning the certification, winning the Electoral College and winning the transition–steps that are normally formalities but that he knew Trump would see as opportunities for disruption. Nowhere would that be more evident than in Michigan, where Trump’s pressure on local Republicans came perilously close to working–and where liberal and conservative pro-democracy forces joined to counter it.
It was around 10 p.m. on election night in Detroit when a flurry of texts lit up the phone of Art Reyes III. A busload of Republican election observers had arrived at the TCF Center, where votes were being tallied. They were crowding the vote-counting tables, refusing to wear masks, heckling the mostly Black workers. Reyes, a Flint native who leads We the People Michigan, was expecting this. For months, conservative groups had been sowing suspicion about urban vote fraud. “The language was, ‘They’re going to steal the election; there will be fraud in Detroit,’ long before any vote was cast,” Reyes says.
Trump supporters seek to disrupt the vote count at Detroit’s TCF Center on Nov. 4
Elaine Cromie—Getty Images
He made his way to the arena and sent word to his network. Within 45 minutes, dozens of reinforcements had arrived. As they entered the arena to provide a counterweight to the GOP observers inside, Reyes took down their cell-phone numbers and added them to a massive text chain. Racial-justice activists from Detroit Will Breathe worked alongside suburban women from Fems for Dems and local elected officials. Reyes left at 3 a.m., handing the text chain over to a disability activist.
As they mapped out the steps in the election-certification process, activists settled on a strategy of foregrounding the people’s right to decide, demanding their voices be heard and calling attention to the racial implications of disenfranchising Black Detroiters. They flooded the Wayne County canvassing board’s Nov. 17 certification meeting with on-message testimony; despite a Trump tweet, the Republican board members certified Detroit’s votes.
Election boards were one pressure point; another was GOP-controlled legislatures, who Trump believed could declare the election void and appoint their own electors. And so the President invited the GOP leaders of the Michigan legislature, House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey, to Washington on Nov. 20.
It was a perilous moment. If Chatfield and Shirkey agreed to do Trump’s bidding, Republicans in other states might be similarly bullied. “I was concerned things were going to get weird,” says Jeff Timmer, a former Michigan GOP executive director turned anti-Trump activist. Norm Eisen describes it as “the scariest moment” of the entire election.
The democracy defenders launched a full-court press. Protect Democracy’s local contacts researched the lawmakers’ personal and political motives. Issue One ran television ads in Lansing. The Chamber’s Bradley kept close tabs on the process. Wamp, the former Republican Congressman, called his former colleague Mike Rogers, who wrote an op-ed for the Detroit newspapers urging officials to honor the will of the voters. Three former Michigan governors–Republicans John Engler and Rick Snyder and Democrat Jennifer Granholm–jointly called for Michigan’s electoral votes to be cast free of pressure from the White House. Engler, a former head of the Business Roundtable, made phone calls to influential donors and fellow GOP elder statesmen who could press the lawmakers privately.
The pro-democracy forces were up against a Trumpified Michigan GOP controlled by allies of Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chair, and Betsy DeVos, the former Education Secretary and a member of a billionaire family of GOP donors. On a call with his team on Nov. 18, Bassin vented that his side’s pressure was no match for what Trump could offer. “Of course he’s going to try to offer them something,” Bassin recalls thinking. “Head of the Space Force! Ambassador to wherever! We can’t compete with that by offering carrots. We need a stick.”
If Trump were to offer something in exchange for a personal favor, that would likely constitute bribery, Bassin reasoned. He phoned Richard Primus, a law professor at the University of Michigan, to see if Primus agreed and would make the argument publicly. Primus said he thought the meeting itself was inappropriate, and got to work on an op-ed for Politico warning that the state attorney general–a Democrat–would have no choice but to investigate. When the piece posted on Nov. 19, the attorney general’s communications director tweeted it. Protect Democracy soon got word that the lawmakers planned to bring lawyers to the meeting with Trump the next day.
Reyes’ activists scanned flight schedules and flocked to the airports on both ends of Shirkey’s journey to D.C., to underscore that the lawmakers were being scrutinized. After the meeting, the pair announced they’d pressed the President to deliver COVID relief for their constituents and informed him they saw no role in the election process. Then they went for a drink at the Trump hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. A street artist projected their images onto the outside of the building along with the words THE WORLD IS WATCHING.
That left one last step: the state canvassing board, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. One Republican, a Trumper employed by the DeVos family’s political nonprofit, was not expected to vote for certification. The other Republican on the board was a little-known lawyer named Aaron Van Langevelde. He sent no signals about what he planned to do, leaving everyone on edge.
When the meeting began, Reyes’s activists flooded the livestream and filled Twitter with their hashtag, #alleyesonmi. A board accustomed to attendance in the single digits suddenly faced an audience of thousands. In hours of testimony, the activists emphasized their message of respecting voters’ wishes and affirming democracy rather than scolding the officials. Van Langevelde quickly signaled he would follow precedent. The vote was 3-0 to certify; the other Republican abstained.
After that, the dominoes fell. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and the rest of the states certified their electors. Republican officials in Arizona and Georgia stood up to Trump’s bullying. And the Electoral College voted on schedule on Dec. 14.
HOW CLOSE WE CAME
There was one last milestone on Podhorzer’s mind: Jan. 6. On the day Congress would meet to tally the electoral count, Trump summoned his supporters to D.C. for a rally.
Much to their surprise, the thousands who answered his call were met by virtually no counterdemonstrators. To preserve safety and ensure they couldn’t be blamed for any mayhem, the activist left was “strenuously discouraging counter activity,” Podhorzer texted me the morning of Jan. 6, with a crossed-fingers emoji.
Incited by the President, Trump Supporters Violently Storm the Capitol
Trump addressed the crowd that afternoon, peddling the lie that lawmakers or Vice President Mike Pence could reject states’ electoral votes. He told them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” Then he returned to the White House as they sacked the building. As lawmakers fled for their lives and his own supporters were shot and trampled, Trump praised the rioters as “very special.”
It was his final attack on democracy, and once again, it failed. By standing down, the democracy campaigners outfoxed their foes. “We won by the skin of our teeth, honestly, and that’s an important point for folks to sit with,” says the Democracy Defense Coalition’s Peoples. “There’s an impulse for some to say voters decided and democracy won. But it’s a mistake to think that this election cycle was a show of strength for democracy. It shows how vulnerable democracy is.”
The members of the alliance to protect the election have gone their separate ways. The Democracy Defense Coalition has been disbanded, though the Fight Back Table lives on. Protect Democracy and the good-government advocates have turned their attention to pressing reforms in Congress. Left-wing activists are pressuring the newly empowered Democrats to remember the voters who put them there, while civil rights groups are on guard against further attacks on voting. Business leaders denounced the Jan. 6 attack, and some say they will no longer donate to lawmakers who refused to certify Biden’s victory. Podhorzer and his allies are still holding their Zoom strategy sessions, gauging voters’ views and developing new messages. And Trump is in Florida, facing his second impeachment, deprived of the Twitter and Facebook accounts he used to push the nation to its breaking point.
As I was reporting this article in November and December, I heard different claims about who should get the credit for thwarting Trump’s plot. Liberals argued the role of bottom-up people power shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly the contributions of people of color and local grassroots activists. Others stressed the heroism of GOP officials like Van Langevelde and Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, who stood up to Trump at considerable cost. The truth is that neither likely could have succeeded without the other. “It’s astounding how close we came, how fragile all this really is,” says Timmer, the former Michigan GOP executive director. “It’s like when Wile E. Coyote runs off the cliff–if you don’t look down, you don’t fall. Our democracy only survives if we all believe and don’t look down.”
Democracy won in the end. The will of the people prevailed. But it’s crazy, in retrospect, that this is what it took to put on an election in the United States of America.
–With reporting by LESLIE DICKSTEIN, MARIAH ESPADA and SIMMONE SHAH
Correction appended, Feb. 5: The original version of this story misstated the name of Norm Eisen’s organization. It is the Voter Protection Program, not the Voter Protection Project. The original version of this story also misstated Jeff Timmer’s former position with the Michigan Republican Party. He was the executive director, not the chairman.
This appears in the February 15, 2021 issue of TIME.
There is a spiritual battle happening not just in America but around the world. It is a spiritual awakening, the battle of good and evil, the battle for your body, mind and soul. We have been asleep for a long time and did not realize it was even happening. People are waking up from their long slumber and are starting to realize we have been programmed since birth as Dr. Bruce Lipton explains. Our education, media, financial, political and religious systems play an integral part of who we are and become. They divided us by political affiliation, by religion, the media has lied to us, the education system has indoctrinated our children, the financial system keeps us in debt and we have given up our power to heal ourselves to the medical community. We have been guided daily through a world wide messaging system, covid19 pandemic, vaccinations, GMO foods, pesticides and chemicals, as well as the air we breathe. It is a worldwide system of control that is keeping us sick, with in the pretense of keeping us healthy and making it a better world. There is geoengineering under the pretense of global warming. We now realize that the global elites controls these systems in order to control us and our soul, not just in America but the world. They keep us separated by using the COVID19 as a fear tactic, wear the mask, stay social distanced everywhere you go.
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Realize how your thoughts, emotions and actions not only affect you but those around you. Instead of being fearful, be courageous, using love as your weapon. Know that God is pure Divine energy encompassing all, including a spark within each and everyone of us. Love is the dominant vibration and our purpose is to learn how to balance love with wisdom.
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