The U.S. as a Third World Country—Time for an Election Monitor | Opinion

Going back as far as May 2020, I have written about how former President Donald Trump was going to put in place a scheme to try to overturn legitimate election results, and attempt to throw the election into the House of Representatives where he would have been re-elected. The Bob Woodward and Robert Costa book Peril brought to light just how developed the game plan was to create contested Electoral College slates that were intended to undermine congressional certification of the election—and thereby, effectively result in a coup. But for a few critical individuals who stood in the way of this plan, it might well have succeeded.

While the battle cry of the Trump led Republican Party today is that "the election was stolen," in fact what a large number of Republican state legislatures are doing across the country is putting in place a perfected apparatus to make sure in 2024 it is easier for Trump, if he decides to run, to be the one stealing an election. Beyond the various voter suppression tactics in a number of laws that have been adopted in key swing states, there are provisions in these laws that enable state legislatures to overtly insert themselves in the counting and certification process to make sure they can push out of the way certain officials that stood in the way of the 2020 attempt to steal the election.

My colleagues and I at Keep Our Republic—an organization dedicated to maintaining our democratic ideals particularly as they relate to elections—were able to surmise, without any public evidence to go on at the time, and well before the Big Lie strategy became apparent, that Trump was going to create a totally false election narrative and employ tactics to overturn a Joe Biden Electoral College victory. Now the Republican effort to put in place a fully developed steal the election strategy is being done in open public view. The intention of these actions to once again create all the pieces around which an election can be stolen could not be more clear.

It is frightening to think that the oldest and most robust democracy in the world—the United States—could actually be the victim of a potential coup. However, now that it is clear that this is exactly what is being planned, what can be done about it?

The most obvious answer is for the voting rights and election integrity bills the Democrats have introduced be passed by Congress and signed by the president. The problem with this answer is that it requires Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to agree to an exemption to the filibuster for this kind of pro-democracy/civil rights legislation. Majority leader Chuck Schumer has given Manchin the assignment—based on Manchin putting forward the proposition that the proposals he helped craft should garner bipartisan support—to recruit 10 Republican senators to back the legislation. This clearly will not happen. It is also clear that Manchin and Sinema are very unlikely to want to be the decisive votes which change Senate procedure on the filibuster in a significant manner. Thus, this path to dealing with the potential of a coup seems like it is one with very long odds.

There is a path open to CEOs, outside of the legislative process, who have come out in strong support of federal election integrity legislation. This would involve companies allowing their pandemic driven remote workers to move to swing states, while continuing to receive their current salaries. It has become very clear that those still working remotely over the last year and a half can productively do their jobs without being at company offices. Many of these remote workers would welcome being able to move to swing states for various reason—from lower cost of living to better climate—and since there is an overwhelming Democratic tilt to these corporate workers, they would significantly change the demographics of the electorate in those states. For the time being though, no CEOs have really stepped up to the plate on this initiative.

It seems like the United States is looking increasingly like a third world country that will be in need of third world type election monitoring to assure that there is a public spotlight on potential attempts to corrupt the election process. As ridiculous as it sounds to suggest, maybe the United Nations should monitor the elections as it has been called on to do in the past for various African and other nations. Yet, hold on, the United Nations actually no longer offers election monitoring services, and of course, the U.N. is not the most highly esteemed body anyway among the American electorate.

People vote at election booths
People vote at election booths. JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Nonetheless, there is a huge need to have some kind of body that can hold a well-trained spotlight on the 2024 elections to create public accountability across states—to deal with Republican efforts this time around that are going to be crafted to sound far more credible and refined than the crazy theories of Venezuelan intelligence operatives breaching American voting machines put forward by Trump attorneys after the 2020 election. Given that a number of Supreme Court justices seem to hold views that state legislatures under the Constitution may be vested with ultimate decision authority on the appointment of Electoral College electors, the courts may well not be the protection against an effort to sabotage a legitimate Electoral College result like they were last time.

I propose a bipartisan presidential commission be created that is intended to do what U.N. election monitoring used to do—make it much harder for either side in an election to undermine the integrity of the democratic process by having citizens of high integrity furnished with investigative powers and a major public communications forum. The commission should be put in place well in advance, so unlike the attempt to create a bipartisan commission on the Jan. 6 riot, Republicans can't claim that it is being put in place to lay partisan blame at their feet following some event.

However, given the unprecedented threat to our democracy being hatched right in front of our eyes, I suggest that this presidential commission be constructed in an unprecedented way. In order to give the commission a true perception of bipartisanship with the broadest possible trust and credibility of the American electorate, half the commission members should be appointed by a Republican with national standing, but one who is by no means a devout Trumpian. There is only one Republican I can really think of given this would be a presidential commission—and that is former President George W. Bush.

President Bush has remained very muted when it comes to much of the insanity that the current Trump Republican Party has engaged in. He is not held in high regard by the Trump base but he has also not been actively engaged in taking it on either. It is clear the most stalwart Republicans may buy the nonsense that if Trump runs and loses in 2024 it is because the election was stolen; however, it gets a lot harder for much of the country to be in any way taken in by the Republican chaos brigade if a former Republican president has handpicked the commission participants monitoring the election.

Moreover, the Democratic appointees should not be chosen by Biden. Having been the person that ran against Trump in 2020, and may well run against him again in 2024, another Democrat also somewhat removed from the current day to day partisan warring needs to make those appointments. Again, in keeping with this being a presidential commission, that should be former President Jimmy Carter. Carter actually has substantial personal experience as an election monitor, and the Carter Center has actually provided monitoring services in 113 countries over the last 30 years. The executive order putting the commission in place must be signed by Biden, but a Bush/Carter nominated panel will have a clarion voice to help galvanize public sentiment against execution of a coup plan gaining traction.

As Robert Kagan made clear in his powerful essay on the subject, the constitutional crisis is already here and it is playing out in front of us. The Democrats do not have the votes it would seem to stop it. The private sector does not have the will to prevent it. Are we just going to let this unfold and hope for the best?

At least with this proposal there is something that can be done to put highly respected citizens of both parties, along with non-political people of the highest integrity and reputation, appointed on a bipartisan basis by Carter and Bush, in place. Putting the gravitas of two presidents from two different parties behind an effort enabling an election monitoring commission can hopefully begin to focus the country and the world on making sure that there is so much light shined on our next presidential election, that at least some protection is created against the United States descending into third world totalitarian status.

Tom Rogers is an editor-at-large for Newsweek, the founder of CNBC and a CNBC contributor. He also established MSNBC, is the former CEO of TiVo, currently executive chair of Engine Media and is former senior counsel to a congressional committee.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.