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In case it isn’t clear what’s happening in the U.S. right now, we’re in the midst of what business people might call a “hostile takeover” and what political experts call “a coup, a self-coup, or an autogolpe.”
Per the Washington Post: “a coup against a democratic regime can be defined as any political action by state actors that aims to either maintain or take over power by unconstitutional means.”
While Trump’s attempt at a coup is likely to fail, if you care about the U.S. democracy, this is a critical situation to monitor. The short and long-term risk to our Democracy is at close to an all-time high right now.
Would Americans support a coup and what can we do to resist?
I just left the U.S. for the winter to live in Barbados but if Trump’s coup attempt succeeds, I will return to the U.S. to protest.
Let’s not forget that the vast majority of Republicans believe that the 2020 election was a fraudulent election and thus it isn’t far-fetched to think that they would support an overthrow of the U.S. Democracy.
Per FiveThirtyEight: “According to a poll from YouGov and The Economist conducted Nov. 8-10 among registered voters, 82 percent of Republicans said they did not believe that Joe Biden had legitimately won the presidential election, even though he has. This followed a Nov. 7 YouGov poll among registered voters that found 79 percent of Republicans believed voter fraud had occurred and affected the outcome of the election.”
Am I a partisan hack trying to cover up election fraud?
Would I support the outcome if there were widespread fraud or other issues that meant that Trump should be declared the winner? Absolutely. But so far there hasn’t been any evidence to support Trump’s allegations that he lost the election by fraudulent means.
And this sentiment is backed up by leading Republicans like Mitt Romney, Larry Hogan, and many others. It’s also backed up by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency which called this “the most secure in American history” and the U.S. courts which so far haven’t issued any meaningful rulings.
Let’s examine why this should be classified as a coup attempt
For starters, I’m not alone in calling this a coup. See The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, New York Mag, Fast Company, The Atlantic, and a growing number of other outlets. Even Tucker Carlson just went on a big rant calling out Trump’s team for absurd lies in an attempt to undermine our democracy.
I’m leaving the coup explanation to my friend Noah Smith who laid this out clearly in a Nov 12th Twitter thread.
“1/A few thoughts on the autogolpe…
Trump’s first strategy for autogolpe was “Stop the count!!!”. It failed.
His second strategy was to sue to have votes thrown out. That is in the process of failing.
So what are his remaining strategies? I can think of three…
2/One strategy is trying to persuade electors to be “faithless electors”.
That’s doomed to failure, since electors are very hard to persuade to flip, Biden’s lead is quite large, and many states have laws against faithless electors.
3/Another strategy, of course, is to do the traditional state-of-emergency, tanks-in-the-streets sort of thing.
But even if Trump were brave enough to do that, there’s no way that would succeed. The military won’t have it.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual." pic.twitter.com/dfqGxobZJD
— MeidasTouch.com (@MeidasTouch) November 13, 2020
4/So as I see it, this leaves him just one strategy:
Try to bully GOP-controlled state legislators into seating fake electors instead of the ones chosen by the voters.
The Constitution theoretically gives state legislatures great power over elections, but that’s not a reason to precipitate a constitutional crisis.
5/This is probably illegal, and as @greg_doucette has explained in a long series of threads, it would probably end up with Acting President Nancy Pelosi.
Sure. But even if we assume that happens, those electoral votes only get counted if a majority of the US House agrees to it https://t.co/obGb0hqnlV
— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) November 12, 2020
6/BUT, does that mean Trump won’t try it?
I think he’ll still try it, because has to try something, and this is the only thing he can try that won’t obviously and quickly end in failure.
Also it uses the only real tool in his arsenal: Bullying Republicans into falling in line.
7/Faithless electors require Trump to bully Dem-selected electors, which he can’t.
Tanks-in-the-streets requires him to bully the military, which he can’t.
Lawfare requires he bully courts, which he can’t.
But elected Republicans? Those he can definitely bully. So he will.
8/Now, I don’t know whether he’ll be able to bully GOP-controlled state legislatures into seating fake electors. The Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Leader, for example, said he wouldn’t do this. (Hopefully he won’t change his mind.)
For months, there has been talk swirling that if Joe Biden wins Pennsylvania, Republicans in the state legislature could bypass the popular vote and appoint electors who are favorable to President…
9/Of states that Biden won, five — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona — have GOP-controlled state legislatures. Of those, GA and AZ have Republican governors as well.
So it’s not just PA we have to worry about here.
10/Now, as I mentioned above, there’s a very good chance this strategy will fail.
1. If it fails it will not fail immediately
2. It’s not 100% guaranteed to fail, given the vagueness of election law
3. It only requires bullying elected Republicans.
11/Thus, unless Trump wants to throw in the towel or rely on a strategy that he knows 100% will fail (faithless electors), he’ll try the “fake electors” strategy.
In fact, Lindsey Graham and Ron DeSantis have already been kinda-sorta calling for this.
Pennsylvania GOP rallies to Trump’s defenseRepublican state legislators are calling for an audit of the presidential election results to be completed before electors are seated.
12/Assuming that Trump’s rule is “push wherever it’s easiest to push”, and that his main tactic is bullying elected Republicans, I think we can expect the “fake elector” strategy to be the main focus of the autogolpe from here on out.
And if it fails, the autogolpe fails.