Securing Democracy in a Conflicted Election: Resources for Educators


The U.S.A. is on the verge of a historically volatile election, in which certain political leaders have intentionally cast misleading seeds of doubt about the legitimacy of election outcomes. Furthering the risks to democracy are direct and strategic efforts to intimidate voters; threats to deploy the military should the election be contested by protestors in the streets; a rising spread of right-wing militias aimed at securing political victories through violence; and a president whom has continually stated that he may not accept election outcomes and refuse to leave office. Many political analysts and peace researchers are predicting conflicted results, a potential coup, and a high potential for post-election violence.

So, what can be done to preserve democracy and protect election outcomes? How might we respond to fear-mongering, a potential coup, intimidation efforts, and violence with nonviolence? The Global Campaign for Peace Education is compiling a list of resources to support educators in their efforts to teach about the current political moment, prepare students to constructively and nonviolently respond to threats, and to foster a more robust and sustainable democracy for the future.

This collection – a work in progress – includes analysis, historical case studies, links to pro-democracy movements, and nonviolence training opportunities. We will continue to add to this collection as we discover new resources. We also welcome your contributions. Please consider posting your suggestions in the comments section below or via email.

Updated: November 2, 2020

Political and Peace Research Analysis

Fears Trump Could Lose Election, Refuse To Step Down Inspire Thousands To Learn Peaceful Resistance

By Robin Young & Serena McMahon
WBUR – Here and Now

Thousands have been mobilizing under the national umbrella group Protect The Results to nonviolently resist what they see as a possible coup.

Three New Ways Civil Society Is Protecting the U.S. Election

By Ashley Quarcoo
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (October 28, 2020)

In the final frenzied days before the U.S. election, many voters are nervous about the risk of violence and whether the results will be considered legitimate. A diverse group of civil society organizations is restoring trust in the process.

How to face right-wing violence while defending the election — a conversation with George Lakey 

By Bryan Farrell 
Waging Nonviolence (October 15, 2020)

As Americans prepare to stop a coup, concerns for safety are rising. Longtime trainer George Lakey offers lessons on overcoming fear and minimizing violence.

How to Achieve Robust Discipline to Succeed: A Guide for Pro-Democracy Movements

By Maciej Bartkowski
ICNC Minds of the Movement Blog (October 29, 2020)

Dictatorships project unwavering discipline when they exercise—or aspire to exercise—enduring control over their societies. In response, movements must work on honing and harnessing their own discipline. Being more disciplined than their opponents gives movements an edge in winning.

Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition

By the Transition Integrity Project (TIP) (August 2020)

In June 2020 the Transition Integrity Project (TIP) convened a bipartisan group of over 100 current and former senior government and campaign leaders and other experts in a series of 2020 election crisis scenario planning exercises.

Is the U.S. Prepared to Resist a Coup?

By Stephen Zunes
The Progressive (October 26, 2020)

If Trump refuses to step down, we must be ready to not cooperate.

What’s the game plan if Trump really does try to steal the election? 7 tactics to stop a coup

By Daniel Hunter
Waging Nonviolence (October 21, 2020)

As coup prevention has gained mainstream attention, here’s a series of tactics with a plan to defend our democracy.

Here is a proven formula for protecting the vote while keeping the peace

By Maria J. Stephan
Waging Nonviolence (October 17, 2020)

To prevent a stolen election we must win decisively at the polls and use disciplined nonviolent mass action to defend the legitimate results.

What will it take to defend the election? Here’s one winning strategy

By George Lakey
Waging Nonviolence (September 10, 2020)

A knee-jerk protest won’t stop a Trump power grab. It’s going to take several clear, do-able strategies that together enable us to win.

10 things you need to know to stop a coup

By Daniel Hunter
Waging Nonviolence (September 18, 2020)

While keeping people focused on a strong, robust election process is a must, we also need to prepare for a coup.

Guides, Movements, and Training Opportunities

Hold the Line: A Guide to Defending Democracy

By Hardy Merriman, Ankur Asthana, Marium Navid, & Kifah Shah

Everyone has a role to play in defending our democracy. The Hold the Line guide is a step-by-step handbook on how to prepare and what to do in case attempts are made to subvert the election results.

Disputed Election Mass Mobilization Guide

By The Disruption Project

Unfortunately it is likely that some folks may try to steal the election and we might need to engage in mass scaled disruptive action. Here is the guide to how we might make that happen.

Protect the Results

Protect the Results is a growing coalition of partners committed to upholding the rule of law and safeguarding the final, legitimate results of the 2020 election. In the event that Donald Trump loses the election and refuses to concede or undermines the results, the Protect the Results partner network will activate their members and take coordinated action to protect our democracy.

Choose Democracy

Democracy is fragile. We have reason to worry that this fall we may see an undemocratic power grab — a coup. We also know that the people can defend our democracy. Nonviolent mass protests have stopped coups in other places, and we may have to do the same in this country.

Elections work because the public agrees to honor the results. Similarly, coups work only if the public honors them. When the public refuses to accept the coup as legitimate, coups fall apart. Refusal looks like millions of people using nonviolent tools to delegitimize the coup by demonstrating, resisting orders, and shutting down the country until democracy prevails.

That’s why we are committing now to choose democracy: by voting, making sure all the votes are counted, and preparing to take the streets in the case of a coup.

Together, we choose democracy.

Trust Network

The Trust Network is a broad network/platform designed to prevent violent conflict before, during and after the U.S. 2020 elections.  The TRUST Network’s goal is to prevent and mitigate violence stimulated by underlying social issues – before the 2020 elections, during the vote, and in the aftermath, as we rebuild our unity. While the conditions are alarming in the lead up to the elections, it is also abundantly clear that no matter who wins, the need for community cohesion has never been greater.

In order to identify and de-escalate threats or instances of violence as they arise, we are building an Early Warning Early Response mechanism developed specifically for the United States.

Key to this effort is the participation of American local peacebuilding organizations and individuals who know their communities from the inside.

Training Opportunity: How to Beat an Election-Related Power Grab

Join one of Choose Democracy’s national workshops led by George Lakey.  There’s a chance that a desperate Trump will respond to a narrow victory by Biden by declaring the election fraudulent, urging his base to support his continued Presidency. This training will share the most important things to know and practice in order to be ready for that possibility.

Training Opportunities offered by the DC Peace Team (online)

The DC Peace Team offers a number of upcoming online trainings, including:

  • 2020 U.S. Election Protection: Bystander Intervention and Nonviolent Communication
  • Restorative Community Circle: Insanity to Integrity
  • Nonviolent Community Safety for Election Scenarios.
  • Unarmed Civilian Protection and Accompaniment
  • Meditation and Nonviolence
  • Active Bystander Intervention

Historical Analysis & Case Studies

Case Studies Compiled by Choose Democracy

When it comes to learning about coups, we don’t have to start from scratch. Choose Democracy has identified some case studies of mass movements who have stopped coups. Study up!

Civil Resistance Against Coups: A Comparative and Historical Perspective

By Stephen Zunes
ICNC Monograph Series (December 2017)

Nations are not helpless if the military decides to stage a coup. On dozens of occasions in recent decades, even in the face of intimidated political leaders and international indifference, civil society has risen up to challenge putschists through large-scale nonviolent direct action and noncooperation.

For Members of Security Forces: A Guide to Supporting Pro-Democracy Movements

By Maciej Bartkowski
ICNC Minds of the Movement Blog (September 29, 2020)

When citizens wage civil resistance for democracy against authoritarian rule, how can members of law enforcement, interior security, intelligence services, and the military in the country help?

Resisting Stolen Elections: Lessons from the Philippines, Serbia, Ukraine, and Gambia

By Stephen Zunes
ICNC Minds of the Movement Blog (October 23, 2020)

Discussion has grown for months about how the upcoming U.S. election results could be contested and possibly subverted.

No one knows for certain what will happen, but there are precedents we can learn from about how attempts to overturn election results have been stopped. Four cases in recent decades—one in Southeast Asia, one in Africa and the other two in Eastern Europe—involved an incumbent president or party attempting to steal an election only to have it reversed through large-scale nonviolent direct action. This article looks at these cases, and identifies key lessons.

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1 thought on “Securing Democracy in a Conflicted Election: Resources for Educators”

  1. Thanks for the information though I am not in the United State, but I think all peace builders are always and should always be connected to each other because elections happens everywhere. However, every election is not expected to be peaceful but should be peaceful. When it is election time, citizens should always have tow things at the back of their minds, One, expect a winner and a loser, two, expect war of peace. In order to attain peace in every election, citizens should avoid incitement during voting, they should be mindful of their actions and words and most importantly should be watchful and standby to protect their states from coup and this can only be achieved with ‘Education before Election’.

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