Diana Johnstone considers the fun and games surrounding the possibility of a disputed U.S. election result and concludes that the future is being planned elsewhere, for instance at the next meeting in Davos.
By Diana Johnstone
Special to Consortium News
A small number of very rich men are quite sure they know what is best for the future of the world and have enough wealth and influence to believe they can make it happen. They can be called oligarchs, but the term is inadequate. They are a special category, the shapers of the Global Governance destined to replace bourgeois democracy. I can name two: one who is famous, notorious even, but very old, and another who is a generation younger, not yet so well known or so rich but probably even more influential.
The Global Governors
The old one is of course George Soros, who needs no introduction. He has no doubt that the world should be one big Open Society — in a word, globalization — in which borders and nation states dissolve into a kaleidoscopic mix of cultural identities in which major decisions are taken by brilliant financial oligarchs like himself.
The younger one is Nicolas Berggruen, the dashing 59-year-old Paris-born son of a leading art collector. Berggruen enjoys double U.S.-German citizenship and membership in the Council on Foreign Relations, the NYU Commission on Global Citizenship, the Brookings International Advisory Council, the Leadership Council at Harvard’s Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership, the World Economic Forum – and on and on. He helped get Emmanuel Macron elected president of France and has friendly relations with Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Union Commission.
The billionaire has his own “think and action tank,” the Berggruen Institute, to promote his interests which center on “global governance.” He is particularly interested in technological ways to shape and guide the world of the future. The future for Berggruen belongs to digitalization and above all transhumanism. In a short video, he muses over whether or not the digital age makes us “less human.”
We are all connected and “less free” but we are all “part of something bigger — communities, families, friends” … The digital world “looks less human but it’s still being created by us.” (And who is “us” exactly?) Berggruen’s model of the future family may be seen in his own choice: two motherless children manufactured with donated ovules and born by two surrogate wombs.
Like European-born Soros and Berggruen, the United States is above all the current command and control center of the Western world still aspiring to be the nucleus of a global empire. U.S. elections are important to these world visionaries in staying the course of world transformation. For both of them, President Donald Trump can only be an intolerable glitch in the screen. This must be corrected in 2020. The entire liberal elite is in overwhelming agreement.
The Transition Integrity Project
So, it has been easy to arouse near panic in the Washington Establishment and beyond over the notion that Trump might not be dislodged by the November 2020 election. Fear is being spread less that Trump might win the election (too unthinkable to think) than that he will lose the election but refuse to budge. This possibility received a big boost from a unique social event organized by Professor Rosa Brooks of Georgetown University, a leading champion of women’s participation in the National Security State, and historian Nils Gilman, a head researcher at the Berggruen Institute.
This well-connected pair easily enlisted dozens of power pointers to take part in what The Boston Globe called “a Washington version of Dungeons and Dragons,” on the model of Pentagon planners who form teams to imagine what the U.S. and Russia might do in a nuclear war confrontation. They named their fun and games the Transition Integrity Project (TIP), clearly suggesting that the “integrity” of the anticipated transition from Trump to Biden was their main concern.
Only a few of the 67 participants have been identified: anti-Trump Republican Michael Steele, former President Bill Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, David Frum (ghost writer of President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech), and neoconservative political analyst William Kristol.
On Aug. 3, the Transition Integrity Project issued its report, entitled “Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition.” This report gave the results of the make-believe gaming scenarios, which provided imaginary support to the growing liberal Democratic hypothesis that Trump is determined to steal the November election.
“Like many authoritarian leaders, President Trump has begun to lay the groundwork for potentially ignoring or disrupting the voting process, by claiming, for instance, that any mail-in ballots will be fraudulent and that his opponents will seek to have non-citizens vote through fraud.” It was taken for granted throughout that Trump’s fears and accusations are fake whereas his opponents’ fears and accusations are soundly based.
The Transition Integrity Project report made a feeble attempt to appear neutral: “TIP takes no position on how Americans should cast their votes, or on the likely winner of the upcoming election; either party could prevail at the polls in November without resorting to ‘dirty tricks’” — a neutrality consistently violated by the entire exercise.
The exercise comprised four scenarios: (1) an ambiguous voting result, (2) clear victory by the Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, (3) clear Trump win, (4) narrow Biden win. The game was played by teams, primarily “Team Biden” and “Team Trump,” but it is pretty clear that none of the players were pro-Trump, including the players on “Team Trump.” But the games claimed to show how Trump supporters would react in these circumstances.
- “Team Trump was consistently more ruthless than Team Biden — more willing to ignore existing democratic norms, to make use of disinformation, to deploy federal agencies to promote Trump’s personal and electoral interests, and to engage in intimidation campaigns.”
But “Team Biden” was much nicer:
- “Team Biden generally felt constrained by a commitment to norms and a desire to tamp down violence and reduce instability.”
- “Team Biden often had the majority of the public on its side, and the ability to mobilize resentment about the structural disenfranchisement in the way we conduct presidential elections.”
Russiagate intruded into the gaming in an odd and even ludicrous way: “There was quite a bit of speculation that Trump might […] attempt to rally nationalist feelings to himself, or placate foreign leaders to whom he may feel beholden, such as Vladimir Putin.” Huh?
Nobody Dares Lose
A particularly alarming and disturbingly credible assumption of the Transition Integrity Project game is that in this election, neither side is prepared to accept defeat. The scenario exercises “revealed that for many Democrats and key Democratic constituencies, this election represents an existential crisis, the last chance to stop a rapid and potentially irreversible U.S. decline into authoritarianism and unbridled nativism.” So, as much as Trump, many Democrats are ready to stop at nothing to win this election – for the best of reasons, of course.
Trump is depicted as equally desperate to win in order to avoid being treated as a criminal. An underlying assumption of this story-telling is that once out of office, Trump will be arrested and tried for unspecified crimes. This would indeed be an incentive for him not to lose.
At this point, it is necessary to recall that democratic election of national leaders depends on a degree of mutual trust that is being lost in America. The United States regularly insists that all foreign countries should elect their leaders by “fair and free elections.” But there are many countries where, at some time of their historical development, this method is not advisable because one party, or tribe, fears for its very life if a rival party, or tribe, should take power.
In such states, peace depends on the rule of a king, a mediator, a dictator. The United States can currently be seen to be regressing to just such a degree of mutual hatred and distrust.
It seems to me that if the Democratic Establishment gave priority to a peaceful election and transition, against the possibility that Trump might reject the results, the smart and reasonable thing to do would be to reassure him on the two counts which they suggest might incite him to balk: postal vote fraud accusations and the threat of criminal charges against him.
As to the latter: “Participants in the scenario exercises universally believed that self-preservation for President Trump and his family will be Trump’s first and possibly only priority if he is forced to concede electoral defeat.” So, it is a bit odd that the Transition Integrity Project goes on to report that: “During several of the TIP exercises, Team Biden attempted to enter into negotiations with Team Trump about a pardon and graceful transition, but those overtures were consistently rejected.”
Since there were no Trump supporters on either team, these game results merely reflect the intention of the Democratic Establishment to assume that Trump will be charged with “state crimes,” as yet unspecified. No compromise deal is desired.
As for postal balloting, it should be conceivable that Trump’s misgivings are justified. Trump is not against absentee ballots, which require identification of the voter, comparable to going to the polls, but is suspicious of mass mailings of ballots back and forth.
In an age when anyone can photocopy any document, when mails are slow and when there are many ways in which ballots might be destroyed, such misgivings are not far-fetched. Indeed, in the course of Game No. 1, “a rogue individual destroyed a large number of ballots believed to have supported Biden.” Why could the gamers imagine Biden ballots being destroyed, but rule out destruction of ballots supporting Trump?
For the sake of domestic peace, why not try to find a compromise? Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has introduced legislation to generalize postal balloting. Why not, instead, extend polling time, opening polls not only on the second Tuesday in November but on the preceding Saturday and Sunday? This would provide time to allow voters afraid of Covid-19 to keep distances from each other, as they do when they go to the supermarket. It would reduce the number of absentee ballots, the time needed for counting and above all the suspicions attached to postal voting. But the more wary Trump is of postal voting, the more Democrats insist on making it universal.
It becomes clearer and clearer that hatred of Trump has reached such a pitch, that for the Democratic Establishment and its hangers-on, defeating Trump at the polls is not enough. They are practically inciting him to contest the election. Then they can have something more exciting and decisive: a genuine regime change.
Preparing for Regime Change
The classic regime change scenario involves a contested election, mass street demonstrations including civil disobedience and finally, military intervention.
So, to start with, the gamers posit an authoritarian leader who won’t step down. That’s Trump.
Next, “a show of numbers in the streets – and actions in the streets – may be decisive factors in determining what the public perceives as a just and legitimate outcome.” In an interview
stressing “the flaws in our electoral system,” Transition Integrity Project organizer Gilman said that what we need “is for people to be prepared to take to the streets in nonviolent protest” if appeals to officials do not suffice.
“We’ve learned over the last couple of months, since the Movement for Black Lives protest really took off again in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, that taking to the streets and showing commitment to a democratic process beyond just the ballot box is a really important part of driving change.” The demonstrations must be nonviolent, Gilman stressed.
As the Transition Integrity Project report put it, “the scale of recent demonstrations has increased the stakes for the Democratic Party to build strong ties with grassroots organizations and be responsive to the movement’s demands.” Certain of these grassroots organizations – MoveOn and Black Lives Matter – have enjoyed financial support from Soros, as the Democratic Party clearly tries to co-opt the protests.
According to the scenarios, such protests could arise not only in case Trump refused to recognize a Biden win, but also, in Game No. 3, in case of a “comfortable Electoral College victory for President Trump (286-to-252) but also a significant popular vote win (52 percent for Trump, 47 percent for Biden). The game play ended in a constitutional crisis, with threats of secession, and the potential for either a decline into authoritarianism or a radically revamped set of democratic rules that ensure the popular will prevails (abolishment of the Electoral College…)”
The Biden campaign retracted its initial concession, capitalizing “on the public’s outrage that for the third time in 20 years a candidate lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College.” The Biden campaign encouraged California, Oregon and Washington to secede “unless Congressional Republicans agreed to a set of structural reforms to fix our democratic system to ensure majority rule.” Congress supported Biden. “It was unclear what the military would do in this situation”.
In reality, Democrats know that they have managed to keep the Permanent State, including the military and intelligence agencies, on their side throughout Trump’s presidency. Where are the forces that could carry out a pro-Trump coup d’état?
“During the exercises,” the report notes, “winning ‘the narrative’ emerged as a potentially decisive factor. Either side can expand or contract the ‘margin of contestation’ if they succeed in substantially changing how key decision makers and the public view the ‘facts,’ the risks of action or inaction, or external events such as civil unrest.”
Winning the narrative appears to be a main purpose of the Transition Integrity Project, and it was quickly seconded in its efforts by top Democrats.
“Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is,” Hillary Clinton said in an interview on Aug. 25.
A couple of days later, Al Gore, the former vice president and unsuccessful 2000 Democratic presidential candidate, chimed in. Trump, he said in a particularly loaded image, is “attempting to put his knee on the neck of democracy” by criticizing mail-in ballots. “He seems to have no compunctions at all about trying to rip apart the social fabric and the political equilibrium of the American people, and he’s strategically planting doubts in advance.”
People ask whether Trump will leave office next Jan. 20. “Well,” said Gore, “it doesn’t matter because it’s not up to him. Because at noon on January 20th, if a new president is elected… the police force, the Secret Service, the military, all of the executive branch officers, will respond to the command and the direction of the new president.”
The Bottom Line
Meanwhile, Americans can listen to the extravagant rhetoric of the two enemy camps, calling on them to choose between “authoritarian white supremacy” and “radical Marxist socialism” while offering absolutely nothing in terms of coherent public policy of benefit to the American people and the world. The politicians cling to ineffective office, while the future is being planned elsewhere.
Policy will be designed by the Global Governors, for instance at the next meeting in Davos of the World Economic Forum which, according to its founder and chairman Klaus Schwab, will lay out the “Great Reset” agenda for the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is destined to reshape all our lives. Nicolas Berggruen will be there with his ideas. So will other billionaires.
They will not be “conspiring,” but rather laying plans for what they consider best for the world. There is no political system enabling us to influence or even fully understand the projects they will sponsor. Surely these projects deserve to be sharply debated. But the politicians supposedly representing us are somewhere else, fighting furiously with each other over contrived issues.
The Electoral College is not the most fatal flaw in American democracy. Rather, it’s the monopoly of political discourse by a two-party system fueled essentially by personal ambition, taking its cues from lobbies, the military industrial complex, Wall Street and the Global Governors.
Diana Johnstone lives in Paris. Her latest book is Circle in the Darkness: Memoirs of a World Watcher (Clarity Press, 2020).