A Very Fine Debate

We tuned in last night for cues about what to expect after Election Day

Good morning. The last ballots of the 2020 presidential election will be cast in 34 days.

The Latest

This is a newsletter about the transition — so last night I watched the debate, drink in hand, to see the candidates suggest what the weeks after November 3 might bring.

With his trademark subtlety — well, lack thereof — the President made plain his intent to sow distrust in the election results. Asked by moderator Chris Wallace to say how he planned to assure people that this year’s elections are free and fair, Trump said instead:

The most factual statement in the sequence above might be the last one: this will not end well, if Trump has anything to say about it. How we know: because Trump once again invoked the prospect of federal courts intervening in the vote count:

In another telling exchange, Wallace asked Trump if he could condemn white supremacists and far-right groups associated with violence at this summer’s largely peaceful protests. It would be charitable to describe Trump’s response by saying he offered no such condemnation:

Journalists who scanned right-wing haunts in the aftermath of the debate reported that the Proud Boys, along with members of forums such as The Donald, heard Trump’s “stand by” loud and clear:

So, to recap: the president told far-right extremists tied to past incidences of violence to “stand by,” encouraged supporters to “go into the polls,” and insisted that the election would be “a fraud like they’ve never seen.” Small wonder that Karen Attiah, the Washington Post editor to whom the late Jamal Khashoggi used to report, reacted as if she could feel the hairs standing on her neck.

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Tracking the Conversation

What You Can Do

Speaking of poll watching, bear this in mind: unauthorized militia activity at polling places breaks the law in all 50 states. Read the Georgetown Law Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection’s state-specific fact sheets to learn how to respond to election-related militia activity in your community.

Your Moment of Zen

I listened to the new Fleet Foxes record, ‘Shore,’ as a post-debate mind cleanser, and I have to say it was just the antidote the night called for.


American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the issues and ideas that will define the Presidential transition period from Nov. 3, 2020, through (we hope) Jan. 21, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Have questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.

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