weeks before the 2020 election, a secret 87-page document outlined in matter-of-fact language the threat posed by Donald Trump’s still-to-come campaign of election denial. The private paper — the existence of which has not been reported before — forecast with chilling confidence the likelihood of violence during the presidential handover and proposed a far-reaching set of political reforms to thwart Trumpism in the future.
Americans remember that dark winter well. But the impetus for structural change has faded, even among Democrats who still privately seethe about the country’s broken political system — and fear an uglier meltdown could come in 2024 or beyond.
The report carried a plain title: Plan D. Reading it, I wondered if the D stood for “doomsday.”
Actually, the letter was not a cipher. Plan D was the fourth of several studies organized by an opaque advocacy group, known as the Hub, to prepare for the depredations of the Trump era. The Hub is known in Washington for its sophisticated dark-money interventions in electoral politics. During the 2020 campaign, it also gathered up strategists, lawyers and activists to draft plans for a different kind of conflict.
The document is an artifact from a dangerous time: Warning that Trump would surely not concede defeat to Joe Biden, it advised Trump’s opponents to “assume the worst” would follow. It urged them to gird for a struggle not only with the president but with “institutions controlled or influenced by the GOP, including the courts.” The document forecast “militia and white supremacist activities through the inauguration — and, very likely, accelerated activity in the early months of a Biden administration.”
Plan D is sobering reading even today. It is a catalog of the defects in America’s electoral process and political culture that made it vulnerable to a rampaging demagogue— defects that some Democrats wanted to fix with drastic measures.
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