Editor of the Reformer,
What follows is a letter I sent to the Brattleboro Select Board today. I would also like to share it with your readers.
To the Select Board and Town of Brattleboro:
As in many political discussions, things are somewhat different in Brattleboro. While voter suppression and intimidation are realities in many places, we don’t have to worry about those things here. Nonetheless, we remain directly affected by elections that happen in other communities and other states. Our future is dependent on their elections and elected officials. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in a presidential election where a few thousand votes in another state can determine the fate of our country and the world.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly given us cause to worry about our upcoming election. He denies that he lost the popular vote in 2016, despite his shortfall of three million votes. He claims that massive voter fraud occurred, with all evidence being to the contrary. As a general matter he shows little concern for what is true, and bends or breaks the truth at almost every opportunity. He has said he will not automatically accept the outcome of the election. In defiance of every poll, he says the only way he can lose is through massive fraud again.
In Brattleboro, despite our secure electoral processes, events fostered by elections in other places may nonetheless find a place to land. Across the country, people are preparing themselves to take action in the event that Trump tries to remain in power after losing on Nov. 3. In Vermont and Brattleboro and nationwide, groups have met online to discuss what must be done if a coup is attempted in opposition to the will of the people. On the other side, groups have armed themselves to enforce Trump’s claims of voter fraud. The recently thwarted plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer provides evidence of what some people are prepared to do. Add to that the actions of groups like the Proud Boys and Boogaloo Bois, and there is ample reason to worry.
If there is a single message in the discussion of how an attempted coup may be stopped, it lies in the unity of both people and institutions in stopping it. A few people, no matter how right they may be, won’t do the trick. Massive numbers representing a coalition of political interests are what’s needed. The center must hold, and that means the institutions that are central to our political processes must take part. Among such institutions are the Select Board and municipal government of Brattleboro.
I think everyone hopes that the outcome of next week’s election is clear cut and unambiguous, but things may not go that way. There may be an intense and protracted fight about whether or not votes are counted fairly and transparently. For that reason I am asking, and people nationwide are asking, that our elected officials and the machinery of government commit themselves to a few basic democratic principles.
In any jurisdiction where there is doubt as to the outcome, the results are not to be certified until every vote is counted.
If nonviolent protests are needed to ensure that every vote is counted, those protests will not be interfered with or suppressed by our institutions.
If violence occurs in response to the vote or subsequent protests, citizens of all political viewpoints will be protected, and those responsible will be stopped, identified, and arrested.
I know we all share the hope that none of this will take place in Brattleboro, nor for that matter, anywhere else. But we cannot be sure. Therefore I ask that the Brattleboro Select Board and the administration, departments, and agencies of the Town of Brattleboro publicly recognize the situation we are in, acknowledge the difficulties we may encounter, and commit our town to the defense of democracy whenever such a defense becomes necessary.
Brattleboro, Oct. 25