No one wants election chaos, but some fear it might happen

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James Croft, the outreach director for the Ethical Society of St. Louis, told a Sunday night meeting it's important to remain vigilant and defend democracy if it's threatened after the presidential election.
James Croft, the outreach director for the Ethical Society of St. Louis, told a Sunday night meeting it's important to remain vigilant and defend democracy if it's threatened after the presidential election.

There is little doubt that history will remember 2020 for a long time — and not in a good way.

Yet, the biggest news that could still come might not be the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that is hammering the country, but if democracy might survive the simple act of a presidential election.

Before all the votes were cast, however, more than 100 members from various ethical culture societies got together online and talked about what they could do if the Nov. 3 presidential election turned into chaos.

“We are not here to endorse any candidates or tell you who to vote for,” said James Croft, the outreach director for the Ethical Society of St. Louis. “Rather, we are here to protect democracy itself.”

It’s all about the peaceful transition of power that has survived for more than two centuries, Croft said, allowing one leader to step down, and another to take his place.

Because President Trump has suggested he might not accept the results of the election if he loses, Croft is pushing for ethical society members to join others to ensure the will of the people is followed.

“A group called Protect the Results is building a coalition of voters ready to mobilize if the results of the 2020 presidential election are undermined,” Croft said. “That is if a particular candidate wins, but the other candidate refuses to concede defeat — i.e., the worst possible scenario.”

The response would be protests across the country, many of them organized by this group led by Sean Eldridge’s Stand Up America political advocacy group, and Indivisible Action.

Croft, however, pushed for other types of action as well — including on Election Day itself, ensuring there was no voter intimidation at the polls.

“This election there are widespread worries that we might face unprecedented voter intimidation and suppression at the polls themselves,” Croft warned.

Some polls have suggested former vice president Joe Biden would leave no doubt that he won the election, even early in the process.

And more than 90 million people taking part in early voting across the country tends to suggest to political observers more support for Democrats over Republicans. But until some of those results are unveiled, people should be ready for almost anything, said Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture leader Jone Johnson Lewis.

She cited Jane Addams, an early 20th century suffragist, who said that the “cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.”

“A basic and core value of our ethical culture movement is that we are to treat every person as having worth,” Lewis said.

“Authoritarianism and other undemocratic ways of organizing power are always instruments that use some people for the benefit of others.

“Only democracy — from electing government officials, to petitioning them, to protesting when needed — can move us closer to the public forms of actualizing that worth for every person.”

The hope at the end of the day is that such preparations are all for naught. Still, Croft believes it’s the duty of every American to be ready to defend the foundation on which the country was built.

“Regardless of our political views, this is a sacred duty,” Croft said. “We owe it to ourselves and to our fellow citizens to follow through on the commitments we have made today.

“You have to follow through. Because if we do that — if we show up — we have the power to choose our own future.”

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