Democrats must now win the popular vote by three, four or even five percentage points to be assured of winning the Electoral College. They must achieve that margin in the face of a strenuous Republican effort to ensure that many Democratic ballots are not counted. And even if they overcome both of those obstacles, Mr. Trump may still not concede.
That’s why Du Bois’s appeal to the world remains so relevant. By impeding Black voters, the United States still violates the democratic principles it has helped enshrine into international law. After observing America’s 2018 midterm elections, a team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe cataloged a long list of undemocratic practices, from the disenfranchisement of former prisoners to the District of Columbia’s lack of congressional representation to discriminatory voter identification laws, and concluded that, in critical ways, American elections “contravene O.S.C.E. commitments and international standards with regard to universal and equal suffrage.”
What Mr. Trump is doing this year, the election-monitoring expert Judith Kelley, the dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, recently told The Boston Globe, is the kind of activity that international election observers “would go to countries and write up huge reports about and say, ‘Red flag! Red flag!’”
Democrats should spend the coming weeks working to ensure that this year’s O.S.C.E. observer mission — despite being banned from many states, especially in the Deep South — can do exactly that. Then, if Mr. Trump and his allies halt the counting of ballots, or disregard them altogether, Democrats should use the O.S.C.E’s report as evidence in an appeal to the same body where Ms. Tikhanovskaya made hers: the U.N. Human Rights Council.
They should also lodge a complaint with the Organization of American States, a regional organization that has pledged “to respond rapidly and collectively in defense of democracy,” and which in 2009 used that mandate to suspend Honduras after its government carried out a coup.
To professed political realists, this may sound laughably naïve. In practice, international do-gooders at the United Nations and Organization of American States are virtually powerless against the most powerful government on earth.
But that’s not the point. While appealing to international bodies may not change the election’s result, it could change the Democratic Party itself. Today, many prominent Democrats remain enthralled by the very myths about American exceptionalism that Black activists have long challenged.