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TIME: ‘Well-Funded Cabal Of Powerful People’ Saved Democracy

"They were not rigging the election; they were fortifying it. ... Democracy is not self-executing.”
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

TIME magazine has published a lengthy article lauding “an extraordinary shadow effort” of a conglomeration of entities working together to ensure that the November election would be “free and fair, credible and uncorrupted.” TIME refers to the effort as “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.”

Citing “a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes” between “left-wing activists and business titans” that assured that “forces of labor came together with the forces of capital to keep the peace and oppose Trump’s assault on democracy,” TIME adds: “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.”

“Their work touched every aspect of the election,” TIME’s Molly Ball gushes. “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.”

Insisting “Trump and his allies were running their own campaign to spoil the election,” Ball continues, “The President spent months insisting that mail ballots were a Democratic plot and the election would be ‘rigged.’”

Ball writes of Trump’s “henchmen” and accuses the Republican Party of a “legacy of suppressive tactics”: “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.”

“It is the story of an unprecedented, creative and determined campaign whose success also reveals how close the nation came to disaster,” reads the TIME piece, quoting a leader of an advocacy group claiming, “Every attempt to interfere with the proper outcome of the election was defeated. 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.”

Ball focuses on Mike Podhorzer, senior adviser to the president of the AFL-CIO, “pondering scenarios and talking to experts. It wasn’t hard to find liberals who saw Trump as a dangerous dictator … 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.”

“Protecting the election would require an effort of unprecedented scale,” Ball states. “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.”

Ball notes that the Voter Participation Center “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.”

TIME states, “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.”

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who has been nominated for Associate Attorney General by President Biden, met with the titans of social media. She said, “It took pushing, urging, conversations, brainstorming, all of that to get to a place where we ended up with more rigorous rules and enforcement. 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.”

After a summary of the post-election efforts by the members involved, the TIME report concludes, “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.”

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