Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Nov 19: Trump and his team continue their drum beat, pressuring Republicans to challenge vote counts in key states. Giuliani says at shoddily orchestrated public events that Trump’s rivals orchestrated a fraud scheme “specifically focused on big cities” that are run by “Democrat bosses” and have a “long history of corruption.” He falsely claims that mail-in ballots, which Democrats advocated so voters could avoid the risk of coronavirus infection at polls, “are particularly prone to fraud,” and that in some states votes could have been cast by “a dead person” or “Mickey Mouse.” Unemployment claims rise again. 

Nov 20: Michigan and Georgia confirm the Biden/Harris election victory. Pfizer submits an application to the FDA for a EUA for its vaccine. Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged with killing two people during Kenosha, Wisconsin, protests over the summer, is released Friday after posting bail. A gunman opens fire at The Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Nov 21: A Federal judge throws out Trump’s lawsuit in Pennsylvania. Regeneron receives the EUA to use its antibody cocktail. The Trump campaign requests a formal recount in Georgia.

Nov 22: Coronavirus hospitalizations hit another new high.

Nov 23: Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers certifies the state’s election results over the objections of Trump supporters, who still have brought no evidence of widespread fraud. Learning no lessons from China’s handling of Chunyun in January, millions of Americans travel for Thanksgiving, despite the already record high infection rate.

From the Cutting Room Floor ...

The weekend was full of news about bogus election challenges brought by the Trump campaign. While judges, some of them appointed by this very president, disqualified each of them one by one, it barely slowed down the veritable industry of disinformation emanating from Trump and his enablers. And while on the one hand none of it feels substantive, the lame duck session is proving to be less cathartic than many hoped, with real impacts to people’s lives.

After firing Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, who stood against Trump’s call for violence against protesters in June and advocated for removing names of Confederate military men from US military bases, the president then fired Christopher Krebs, whom the president had appointed director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) almost exactly two years ago.[1] Krebs’ major mistake was to state publicly that our elections continue to be secure.[2] The CISA’s “Rumor Control” website juxtaposed 21 false claims or conspiracy theories regarding the manipulation of our elections, listed as “Rumor,” alongside the “Reality” regarding either how these events did not take place, did not actually disrupt the election, or how their effect, even if true, would be negligible.[3] In what can only be described as astonishing and historically unprecedented, the President of the United States and his agents have repeated or insinuated at least eight of these false rumors just in the past two weeks, including “Votes are being cast on behalf of dead people, and these votes are being counted” and “Poll workers gave specific writing instruments, such as Sharpies, only to specific voters to cause their ballots to be rejected.”[4] It’s true that Trump repeatedly signaled he would not accept the results of this election. But the ham-fisted way in which his syndicate is attempting to undermine the election underscores once again both the malevolence and the incompetence we’ve grown accustomed to seeing these past four years.

Meanwhile, Trump supporters, animated by the maelstrom of disinformation from the president and right-wing media, surrounded capitals in battleground states like Arizona and Georgia this weekend. Some chanted to stop the vote counts (long since completed), others chanted to continue to count votes (again—done, over). Still others were content to shout other things and wave flags. Inside, election officials methodically certified results for Biden and Harris. It would all appear to be, quite simply, protest theater—a flaccid pantomime of the BLM marches this summer. All of it, that is, if it wasn’t for what appears to be happening in Wayne County, Michigan.

Last week, two Republican officials in Wayne County sought to rescind their vote to certify election results showing Biden and Harris had prevailed by over 332,000 votes.[5] Initially, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, had agreed to certify. Then they retracted their consent to certify. An open meeting followed. For two hours, community members pointed out over Zoom, sometimes angrily, that Palmer and Hartmann’s willingness to certify votes from the rest of Wayne County, while finding fault only with largely Black precincts in majority-minority Detroit, smacked of the tactics of white supremacist governments in Deep South in pre-civil rights era. Or, perhaps, the “Southern Strategy” of walking back the civil rights movement that launched first Nixon, then Ronald Reagan into the White House.[6] Thankfully, after the two Black Democratic members of the committee said they would work with the Secretary of State to figure out why vote totals were off by around 400 votes (out of over 800,000 cast in and around Detroit), the two white Republicans agreed to certify the county’s election tally. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. “I felt it incumbent upon myself to fight as hard as I could to make sure that every vote in the city of Detroit specifically was heard because we have fought long and hard and tirelessly to ensure that people of color have the right to have their voice heard,” said Allen Wilson, one of the two Democrats on the board. “I was not comfortable sitting at the table today with knowing that the African American vote was potentially going to get disenfranchised.”[7]

But then, that night, Trump called Palmer personally. After the call, she and Hartmann flip-flopped, saying they wanted to rescind their vote to certify, despite the fact there is no provision for this in Michigan law.[8] And Trump pursued a different tactic at the same time. He invited Michigan legislators to the White House for a tête-à-tête. His hope, presumably, is that Republican canvassers at the local and county level will kick up enough dust to allow Republican legislators at the state level to to appoint a different group of electors, who will be Trump loyalists.[9] Jeffrey Davis warned America about this possibility in March; Barton Gellman did it again more frighteningly in September.[10] When they returned from the White House, however, a spokesperson for Michigan State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican and the man most likely to be won over by Trump’s power, stated flatly, “Michigan law does not include a provision for the Legislature to directly select electors or to award electors to anyone other than the person who received the most votes.”[11] Thus, the certified Wayne County vote worked its way up the chain to the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, which is the group meeting this afternoon. “All eyes on Michigan,” calls out Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), a member of “The Squad.”[12]

There would be no fanfare. The momentousness of the moment will soon slip away in the sands of time. Still, the eyes of history indeed were upon Michigan as the four members of the Board of State Canvassers convened in a nondescript room sitting socially distanced at folding tables in Lansing and broadcast on Facebook live and YouTube. The two Republicans, Norman Shinkle and vice chair Aaron Van Langevelde seated to the left, chairwoman Jeannette Bradshaw and Julie Matuzak, the Democratic representatives to the right. By 1:30pm (ET) or so, they turned to their Zoom feed with the main individuals who needed to speak with them about the tendentious issues.

Most of the time is occupied by Wayne County and Detroit clerks, poll workers, former colleagues in the Board of Canvassers, and assorted attorneys. Monica Palmer appears on the Zoom call and seems exasperated even before she begins, telling them she’s already sent her affidavit. She’s been threatened, her family’s been threatened, she says. Shinkle is clearly agitated in solidarity. Palmer says, regretfully, that if she’d “had her wits” a little more, she would not have agreed to certify the second time. There’s no evidence, but still. Suspicions.

Comments flood in for hours, while between 28,000 and 35,000 of us stream the event. Most that make the public comment time on Zoom attest to the professionalism, courtesy, and persistence of the poll workers—the simple, quotidian quiet competence of regular folks who did their jobs before and after November 3rd, 2020, just because this is what it means to be an American. It’s what’s been hidden for four years. This is what democracy looks like, I whisper to myself, once again. Democracy looks like board meetings, everyone in masks, wrestling through Zoom calls being dropped and unintentionally muted, everyone trying to let others have a voice, even if they disagree with it. It looks like ordinary people trying to make sure other ordinary people get to say who they want to lead them. That is why the hundreds of thousands of votes for Biden and Harris are valid. It’s not magic sprinkled from Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton 230+ years ago. Our system exists on the goodwill of thousands upon thousands of poll workers, like the ones I served next to three weeks ago, who believe this is the right way to go about doing them.

Charles Spies, attorney for a failed Senate candidate attempts to dull the simple beauty of that faith, to kick up that dust to allow the Trump minions to chew away at the integrity of the vote. Michigan Law 168.142, he proclaims to the State Board of Canvassers, allows them to adjourn without making a decision. Of course, the board sees the play he’s making. The delay will give Trump a glimmer of hope. Republican board member Aaron Van Langevelde presses Spies a few times on ML168.142, the law that describes the process to create the board they were in right then. “I find no language like what you’re suggesting in the law,” says Van Langevelde. “We have the ability to adjourn, but we can’t create a reason for adjournment out of thin air.” Spies’ mouth hung open. Van Langevelde had done his homework and was going to obey the law; partisan affiliation be damned.

It wasn’t much. It won’t be covered by media. It probably won’t make it into any history book like some Tennis Court Oath. But it is a minute glimpse of the actual apparatus upon which the possibility to have a democracy stands. By the end of the day, the Michigan Board of Canvassers certifies the vote 3-0 with Republican Norm Shinkle sitting this one out. Almost simultaneously, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy gave up her fight, allowing the Biden/Harris transition team to coordinate with federal agencies in advance of the inauguration. Trump is down on the proverbial mat and the count is beginning.[13]

Today’s lesson is: do your job, without fanfare, even when your team loses because of it. God bless America. Cue Hamilton anthem or choirs of angels, your choice.



[1] Rachel Bucchino, “Why Did Donald Trump Fire Mark Esper?,” Text, The National Interest (The Center for the National Interest, November 10, 2020),; Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, “Mark Esper: Defense Secretary Is Prepared for Possibility Trump May Fire Him, Officials Say – CNNPolitics,” CNN, November 5, 2020,

[2] Eric Geller and Natasha Bertrand, “Top Cyber Official Expecting to Be Fired as White House Frustrations Hit Agency Protecting Elections,” Politico, November 12, 2020,

[3] “Rumor Control | CISA,” Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, October 28, 2020,

[4] Harriet Alexander, “Another One Back from the Dead! Widow, 94, Who Trump Said Was ‘dead Voter’ Says She Voted for Biden | Daily Mail Online,” Daily Mail, November 14, 2020,; Frances Mulraney, “Federal Agencies Say Election ‘the Most Secure in American History,’” Mail Online, November 13, 2020,; Tina Nguyen and Mark Scott, “How ‘SharpieGate’ Went from Online Chatter to Trumpworld Strategy in Arizona,” POLITICO, November 5, 2020,

[5] County Clerk, “Election Summary Report, November 3, 2020 – General Election” (Wayne County, Michigan: Wayne County Clerk), accessed November 22, 2020,!electionsum_11032020.pdf.

[6] Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, “Republicans Rewrite an Old Playbook on Disenfranchising Black Americans,” The New York Times, November 23, 2020, sec. U.S.,

[7] Kayla Ruble, Tom Hamburger, and David A. Fahrenthold, “For Three Hours, an Obscure County Board in Michigan Was at the Center of U.S. Politics,” Washington Post, November 18, 2020,

[8] Corey Williams and John Flesher, “Trump Influence Seen in Deadlock of Michigan Election Board,” AP NEWS, November 18, 2020,

[9] Alexander, Peter, Dareh Gregorian, Monica Alba, and Heidi Przybyla. “Trump Invites Michigan GOP Lawmakers to White House after Calling Officials in Key County.” NBC News, November 19, 2020.

[10] Jeffrey Davis, “How Donald Trump Could Steal the Election,” The Atlantic, March 29, 2020,; Story by Barton Gellman, “The Election That Could Break America,” The Atlantic, September 23, 2020,

[11] Oosting, Jonathan. “GOP Leaders: We’ll Abide by Popular Vote, Won’t Give Michigan to Trump.” Bridge Michigan, November 13, 2020.

[12] Rashida Tlaib, “All Eyes on Michigan,” Daily Kos, November 20, 2020,

[13] David Eggert, Zeke Miller, and Colleen Long, “Michigan Certifies Biden Win; Another Defeat for Trump,” AP NEWS, November 23, 2020,

Read more

Moraga, Cherrie. The Last Straw – COVID & La Polítca from a Xicana/Latina Indigenous Perspective, 2020.

“Live: Michigan Board of State Canvassers Certification Meeting,” MLIVE, November 23, 2020,

Rod Meloni, “A closer look at Wayne County canvassers Monica Palmer and William Hartmann,” Click on Detroit WDIV NBC 4, November 19, 2020,

“Monica Palmer addresses Wayne County Board of Canvassers vote,” Detroit Free Press, November 20, 2020,

“President Trump Invites Michigan GOP Leaders To White House,” CBS Detroit November 19, 2020,

Rod Meloni, “Michigan GOP lawmakers meet with President Trump at White House,” Click on Detroit WDIV NBC 4, November 20, 2020,

Hip Hughes, “What was the Southern Strategy?,” April 6, 2017,


Eggert, David, Zeke Miller, and Colleen Long. “Michigan Certifies Biden Win; Another Defeat for Trump.” AP News, November 23, 2020.

Kahn, Chris. “Half of Republicans Say Biden Won Because of a ‘Rigged’ Election: Reuters/Ipsos Poll.” Reuters, November 18, 2020.

Nguyen, Tina, and Mark Scott. “How ‘SharpieGate’ Went from Online Chatter to Trumpworld Strategy in Arizona.” Politico, November 5, 2020.

“Rumor Control | CISA.” Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, October 28, 2020.

Geller, Eric, and Natasha Bertrand. “Top Cyber Official Expecting to Be Fired as White House Frustrations Hit Agency Protecting Elections.” POLITICO, November 12, 2020.

Schladen, Marty. “Activists Say Enhanced Protest Punishments Will Lead to More Police Misconduct.” Ohio Capital Journal, November 23, 2020.

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