The Detroit Post
Monday, 25 October, 2021

Can Trump Stage A Coup

Maria Johnson
• Monday, 02 November, 2020
• 7 min read

Joe Biden won the presidential election, a fact that Donald Trump and other Republicans refuse to acknowledge. Trump also fired Christopher Krebs, the director of the federal agency that vouched for the reliability of the 2020 election and had pushed back on the president’s baseless claims of voter fraud.

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His victory doesn’t hinge on one state, and he has probably insurmountable leads in Michigan, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona. There is a long-shot legal theory, floated by Republicans before the election, that Republican-friendly legislatures in places such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania could ignore the popular vote in their states and appoint their own electors.

“If the country continues to follow the rule of law, I see no plausible constitutional path forward for Trump to remain as president barring new evidence of some massive failure of the election system in multiple states,” Richard Haven, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in elections, wrote in an email. For Trump to win the electoral college, several states would have to take this extraordinary step, a move that would cause extreme backlash and a real crisis of democracy throughout the country.

A live broadcast of Donald Trump speaking from the White House is shown on screens at an election night party in Las Vegas on 3 November. But in a major blow to the president’s legal efforts, the state’s supreme court ruled that Philadelphia election officials did not improperly block Trump ’s campaign from observing the counting of mail-in ballots.

The purpose of these suits appears not to be to actually overturn the election results, but to try to create uncertainty and draw out the counting process. By dragging out the process, the Trump campaign may be seeking to blow past that deadline and create more wiggle room to second-guess the results.

“States are going to start certifying their vote totals beginning in less than 10 days, and there is no basis in the claims made thus far for the courts to stop that process,” he said. Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nevada all have Democratic governors who would refuse to approve a set of Trump electors with the popular vote clearly showing Biden winning their state.

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Trump has been broadly acknowledged as “norm shattering” and some have argued that this is just more of his usual bluster, while others have pointed out terminological issues with calling his endeavors a coup. Coup may not quite capture what we’re witnessing in the United States right now, but there’s also a danger here: Punditry can tend to focus too much on decorum and terminology, like the overachieving students so many of us once were, conflating the ridiculous with the serious.

Trump is attempting to stage some kind of coup, one that is embedded in a broader and ongoing power grab. On Tuesday, Gabriel Sterling, the Republican who serves as Georgia’s voting-system implementation manager, appeared at a press conference.

After Sterling spoke in Georgia, a local TV station asked the two Republican senators running for election in the January runoff for comment. But instead of offering straightforward denunciations, both issued perfunctory condemnations and then used the opportunity to continue to fan doubts about the process.

“We won’t apologize for addressing the obvious issues with the way our state conducts its elections.” The other senator’s campaign took a similar line. “Like many officials, as someone who has been the subject of threats, of course Senator Offer condemns violence of any kind.

The president personally called the two Republican canvassers in Wayne County, Michigan, and then both signed affidavits attempting to rescind their certification of the vote in that state. They had earlier tried to block certification of votes from Detroit, providing a glimpse of what could happen if a more competent president tried to steal an election.

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The president has amplified messages that call for people to fight back hard against the allegedly stolen election. The president’s election lawyer said that “the entire election, frankly, in all the swing states, should be overturned, and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump.” She has since been dismissed from his team, but he has not publicly repudiated her statements, and she continues to make similar statements.

Statewide races cannot be similarly gerrymandered, though, and that year, North Carolina voters elected a Democratic governor and attorney general. The general assembly then used its veto-proof majority to override 23 of Governor Roy Cooper’s 28 vetoes in the first three years of his term, rendering one of his key remaining powers effectively useless.

After the loss, the Wisconsin state legislature followed the same playbook as the GOP in North Carolina, rushing, in a lame-duck session, to take away crucial powers previously exercised by Walker. When voters try to contest gerrymanders or power grabs, many of the cases end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, where lifetime appointments are made by the president but approved by the Senate.

The Republican Party’s Senate majority in recent years has rested on its strength in these rural states. Louis-Napoléon did indeed seem like a figure worth ridicule, but the well-heeled members of ruling classes often confuse lack of propriety for weakness.

Now he’s establishing a playbook for stealing elections by mobilizing executive, judicial, and legislative power to support the attempt. Imagine the same playbook executed with better decorum, a president exerting pressure that is less crass and issuing tweets that are more polite.

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When Biden takes the presidential oath in January, many will write articles scolding those who expressed concern about a coup as worrywarts, or as people misusing terminology. But ignoring near misses is how people and societies get in real trouble the next time, and although the academic objections to the terminology aren’t incorrect, the problem is about much more than getting the exact term right.

But the coup Even led many years later was anything but farcical: Hundreds of thousands were detained, and more than 100 were tortured to death. Instead, we should react to the frightening substance of what we’re facing, even if we also believe that the crassness and the incompetence of this attempt may well doom it this time.

If the Republican Party, itself entrenching minority rule on many levels, won’t stand up to Trump ’s attempt to steal an election through lying and intimidation with the fury the situation demands; if the Democratic Party’s leadership remains solely focused on preparing for the presidency of Joe Biden rather than talking openly about what’s happening; and if ordinary citizens feel bewildered and disempowered, we may settle the terminological debate in the worst possible way: by accruing enough experience with illegitimate power grabs to evolve a more fine-grained vocabulary.

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