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Activists, Journalists Try to Figure What Trump's Up To

Pro-democracy groups say they don't see need for protests
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2020 7:05 PM CST

(Newser) – Because he'd said as much—joking or not—many activist groups have prepared for the possibility that President Trump wouldn't willingly leave office after losing the election. They've seen worrying signs, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's declaration that "there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration." Some groups say that sort of comment, and other words and actions by Trump and his supporters, give the appearance of a coup in the works, Vox reports. And with Trump refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden as the winner, there's been little reason to think the current president will accept the results and move to Florida in January. But the groups aren't taking any action. "Right now there’s a lot of talk from Donald Trump," said Stevie O'Hanlon, a strategist for the Sunrise Movement. "We’re looking to see whether he starts to cross those lines." Because Trump's legal efforts to overturn the results in states he lost don't seem to be going anywhere, Choose Democracy said it doesn't look like "this is the moment for activation in the streets."

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Journalists aren't quite sure what to make of this moment, either, media columnist Margaret Sullivan writes in the Washington Post. "You don’t want to fearmonger," said Noah Shachtman, editor of the Daily Beast. "You don’t want to underplay something this dangerous, either." It's not as simple as giving each side an equal say, Sullivan writes, "because the constant drumbeat that the election was somehow illegitimate does harm all by itself." Experts at the Election Coverage and Democracy Network have suggestions for journalists, which nonjournalists also might find valuable: "Use a democracy-worthy frame, not a partisan one. This means denying a platform to partisan pundits who advance false claims." There's almost no plausible semi-legal way for Trump to stay in power, but that doesn't mean the soundtrack of "election fraud" is harmless, per the New Republic, which cited the Politico poll that shows 70% of Republicans believe the election last week wasn't free and fair. (Michael Cohen says Trump might just stay in Florida after the holidays.)

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