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Good-government groups protest military force against protesters.

Laws limit military role in quelling election unrest

As a momentous election draws closer, government leaders and law enforcement agencies are preparing for a contested election and ensuing civil unrest. The FBI and Department of Justice are getting ready for election-related violence. And National Guard leaders have assembled rapid-response forces in two states to deal with potential disruptions.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley has been unequivocal that the military should play "no role" in a U.S. election. "Zero," he said. In fact, it is a federal crime to deploy troops to polling places. But what if there are protests, including when voters have already cast their ballots but the final results remain uncertain?

To be clear, if there is any election unrest, the federal government should not be the one handling it. Elections are run at the local and state levels, so those law enforcement agencies should respond. Yet there's concern the president and his allies may try to interfere with election outcomes by deploying — or threatening to deploy — military forces and turn American streets into "battle spaces."

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10 pieces of art to inspire you this election

In a year that has featured tumultuous debates about the very essence of our country, artists of all sorts have responded with an explosion of creativity.

There's been a wave of work: dramatic murals protesting the killing of Black people by police, songs celebrating President Trump and also mocking him, videos urging people to vote. There have been elaborate embroidered messages of protest and contests to design "I voted" stickers.

The outpouring of inventiveness reflects the passions evoked by a presidential election, overlaid on a health crisis with debates about racial justice and fundamental democratic principles thrown in the mix. The slideshow here is but a tiny sampling.

Democracy Matters, a nonpartisan student political reform group, sees art as key to their work and to building community.

"Art can inspire, shock, heal and express emotion," the group's website says. "It engages the senses and stimulates the mind. When art is seen as a core element of encouraging social action, its power moves from a source aesthetic appreciation to a strong political tool."

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Diane Mullin, curator at the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, has said that "art can teach us or demonstrate things about democracy."

"But art can also participate in democracy because artists are in very important ways contributors to discourse, and contributors to our society," she said said back when her museum was preparing for the 2008 Republican convention in Minneapolis and St. Paul. "So they can put forth proposals and propositions to make us think about things, to make us think about where we live, how we live."

This summer the nearby Minnesota Museum of American Art hosted an online forum of "Black Art in the Era of Protest." One key issue in the discussion was how to preserve the murals and other public displays that may end up being painted over or dismantled.

Here then is a gallery offering a glimpse of the artistic response to the election, racial injustice and the other existential questions about the state of democracy the nation is facing this year.

Bye, bye democracy

A mysterious group called Founders Sing, which has maintained its anonymity, this winter unveiled this melancholy ballad about the travails of the democratic system. More than 3.4 million have listened on YouTube — maybe because the song is set to the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie."

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"Every injustice has awakened more people from their dream of 'it's all OK.," writes F. Willis Johnson. Above, demonstrators protest the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson., Mo., in 2014.

After six years of 'mourning runs,' a pause for optimism

Johnson is a United Methodist pastor, the author of "Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community" (Abingdon Press, 2017) and a senior fellow at the Bridge Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 civic reform groups. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)

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