Count the Damn Votes

Tonight’s election returns might seem dispiriting, but that’s exactly what the Right wants — for us to preemptively concede. Our demand should be simple: just count the damn votes.

Volunteers gather media cards and other precinct materials across the street from the Robeson County Board of Elections on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 in Lumberton, North Carolina. (Melissa Sue Gerrits / Getty Images)

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. As Election Night has stretched on, anxiety climbing ever higher, those of us rooting and organizing for a Trump loss felt the far-right hook land — and promptly forgot the plan. The corporate media has put up maps bathed in red and started to talk about Democrats needing to “come back.” Some on the Left, eager to indict the Democrats for their many indictable offenses, have jumped on the train, (rightly) decrying the party’s failure to provide a substantive agenda or program for the working class.

But what if getting punched is the plan? We have known for weeks of the “red mirage,” caused by massive mail-in and early voting that are, in many states, counted or even received long after midnight on Election Day. Unions have organized for this very situation, mass mobilizations have been planned, and the Republican Party has made their moves, with lawsuits and statements from the Pennsylvania GOP and some counties outright flouting the law to delay their counts. Trump has openly pushed for a Supreme Court injunction to stop the full count.

The key piece of this plan is that it relies on the manufactured consent of the people. We made noise for weeks that we would not deliver this consent to Donald Trump and the GOP, that we would not accept partial results that favor the GOP. That relies on mass pressure and targeted actions, economic pressure, and youth strikes, forcing the Democratic Party to grow the spine they couldn’t find in 2000, forcing capital to take sides between mass disruption and a GOP judicial soft coup.

The simple message now is to count every vote. Yes, abolish the Electoral College; yes, indict the weak and corporate Democratic Party; yes, fight systemic, racist voter suppression. But our project now does not hinge on any of those. Simply count the votes. Uphold basic ideas of small-d democracy, whatever shadows of it are still lingering under our constitution.

If we concede, whether literally or spiritually or passively or whatever, then Trump doesn’t need to attempt a soft coup — we will have handed it to him. Trump has lost the popular vote, and, when all the ballots are counted, he has probably lost the Electoral College. Our job is simply to make those ballots count, and to live to fight another day.