FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - November 3, 2020 - 12:00am

It’s Election Day in America.

This one neither looks nor feels like any other we have known before. It is not just the pandemic or the economic recession that makes this historic exercise very different. For the first time ever, there is real fear of violence breaking out while votes are being cast or while they are being counted.

This should not be happening in a mature democracy such as the US is. But it is.

In many US cities, shopkeepers are boarding up their storefronts in anticipation of street violence happening this week. In the Democratic strongholds in southern Florida, voters are complaining of truckloads of pro-Trump partisans riding up and down neighborhoods, basically intimidating voters.

In New York and New Jersey last Sunday, pro-Trump motorcades choked traffic movement along key bridges. Many are anxious this could be a signal of more to come.

Over the weekend, in Texas, a Biden campaign bus was surrounded along the highway by dozens of pro-Trump pickup trucks and nearly forced off the road. Neither Joe Biden nor his running mate Kamala Harris was in the bus. Those on board the assaulted bus were understandably shocked by this instance of blatant intimidation.

The police eventually came to rescue the bus from the marauders. The FBI is now investigating the incident. Instead of condemning the obvious act of harassment, Trump put out the lie that his partisans were out to “protect” the bus.

For weeks, Trump has been trying to delegitimize the elections even before they happen. He claimed without any basis that mail-in voting would lead to fraud. His appointee to the US Postal Service was called to the US Congress to explain changes in the agency that appeared to slow down rather than speed up the mail.

A virtual army of lawyers hired by the Republican Party has been challenging electoral policies in individual states intended to enhance voter participation. Pro-Trump governors have been actively pushing ordinances to make voting more difficult for ethnic minorities. Among these is the ordinance in Texas requiring drop boxes to be limited to only one per county. In the same state, Republican lawyers have asked the courts to invalidate ballots handed in through the drive-in voting centers.

The voter suppression carried out by Trump partisans call to mind the Jim Crow ordinances enforced over a century ago to limit the electoral participation of Blacks and Native Americans. It is no secret the core of Trump’s voting base is composed of white Americans without college degrees. The less the minorities vote, the more determinant Trump’s base voters will be.

Among the more absurd of these racist ordinances are those that required Black voters to correctly guess the number of jellybeans there are in a large jar before being allowed to vote. It was such a crude attempt to disenfranchise minorities.

Trump’s incendiary rhetoric in the closing days of the campaign do not help ease the rising anxieties about what could happen in the wake of voting. He demands that the counting be completed on election night. Insiders in the Trump campaign have made it known that their candidate could move “aggressively” on election night to declare himself the winner even before all the votes are counted.

More than Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, Americans are anxious about how the heavily armed rightwing militias might behave on election night. The FBI had labeled some of these groups “domestic terrorists.” One group was busted last month for a plot to kidnap (and possibly kill) the governor of Wisconsin – the same lady Trump repeatedly insulted for months.

Earlier, militia members marched on the state’s capitol heavily armed, protesting health protocols. Trump tweeted approvingly of such behavior. He never condemned the group involved in the plot to kidnap the governor.

The root of all the anxiety now prevailing is Trump himself. No one trusts his emotional maturity and psychological ability to behave as civilly as he should in the face of impending electoral defeat.

To make things worse, there is no one in Trump’s orbit deemed willing or able to restrain the president from his own destructive impulses. The man could still be worse than we ever imagined.

Never before has democracy in America appeared more corroded than it is now. With an avalanche of unfounded claims, outright lies and racist rhetoric, the US appears headed to its darkest night.


Because all communications are down, we still know very little about the extent of damage inflicted on the island province of Catanduanes. The island took a direct hit, when the typhoon was at its fiercest.

Over satellite phone, one witness on the ground described the devastation wrought by Typhoon Rolly as 70 percent of Typhoon Yolanda. That can only mean conditions on the ground are quite severe. Yolanda, which hit Samar and Leyte most severely, was the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall.

Although the nearby provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur took a severe toll, it appears Catanduanes is in most need of relief. As the weather improves, we hope relief and rescue volunteers could make it to the island soon.

Catanduanes sits on the Pacific coast, along the most usual path of typhoons entering the country. Nothing, however, prepared the island for a Category 5 typhoon. This is the sort of severe weather phenomenon we might expect to become more usual because of climate change.

The province will definitely need the help of national government to rebuild after this calamity. With more severe weather anticipated, we need to build back immensely better.

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