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A Bigger Coup Than Trump’s Is Afoot: Call It America 2.0

As if further confirmation was needed, the plan in December of a Justice Department official to press states to review the 2020 election, and Trump's badgering Acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen to publicly say the election was corrupt, finally made it unequivocal that Donald Trump was engineering a "coup" as if it weren't apparent all along.

We began wondering about Mr. Trump's intentions two weeks after the election in an article titled, "If All Else Fails, a Coup?", the first of several pieces here that tracked Trump's bid to overturn the election's result, remain in office, and even be restored to the presidency.

His plot was stymied by Rosen, whose recent testimony to congressional investigators and the Justice Department watchdog opened a window on what was happening in the days after the election which we recount in our piece next door, "Yes, It Was an Attempted Coup". But Trump's attempt to enlist the Justice Department to aid in his takeover is just one plotline of several moving in parallel that presage the far larger coup the right-wing has in mind to reconfigure America and its institutions.

Trump was entirely out to regain the presidency, possessed of his delusions, but The Big Lie of a fraudulent and stolen election served the larger takeover plan by sowing doubt in the democratic electoral process. Phenomenally, it was a lie that was originated solely by him. No one else in the political sphere reacted on his or her own In the days after the election to claim Trump had actually won. Republicans who acquiesced belief in a stolen election were merely going along with what Trump was saying, mostly out of fear of being primaried in the 2022 campaign should they not echo their leader.

His attorney general, Bill Barr, had gone along before the election, imagining forged ballots coming in from other countries and mailed-in ballots being ripe for fraud, but Barr didn't sign on after the election to the Big Lie. On December 1 he told the Associated Press that no significant fraud had been found, and three weeks later resigned to be quit of Trump's chicanery after almost two years supporting all of it.

In his January 6 speech, Trump provides an overlooked state-by-state accounting, ascribing numbers to votes cast by people who died before the election, who lived in another state, registered after deadline, voted more than once, ballots that suddenly appeared, all for Biden, and so on. A tally of the numbers he cited in the speech comes to an astounding 2,104,400.

None of these very specific numbers has ever been run to ground. Trump had prefaced his scorecard with, "Over the past several weeks, we've amassed overwhelming evidence about a fake election". What became of that "overwhelming evidence"? We hear of no attempts by the Trump camp to come up with proof of any of Trump's allegations. He floated them into the winter air, proclaiming, "We won in a landslide… this, the most corrupt election in the history, maybe of the world". The crowd chanted "Stop the Steal", and went off to storm the Capitol.

democracy, so 1776

The vote by 147 Republicans in the January 6 joint session of Congress against certification of the electoral votes of the states in an attempt to block Biden as the election's winner was a stunning break with the Constitution. It revealed that a majority of Republicans had chosen the autocratic path of simply choosing who they wanted to be president, undermining the voice of the people. That on its own should make clear that those on the right are part of a growing movement to jettison democracy.

That was confirmed when Republicans in Congress subsequently voted down a 9/11 style commission to learn the who, the why, the how of the insurrection. They hoped to bury whatever facts might be discovered about the roots of the white supremacist groups as well as their own suspected complicity. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set up a substitute investigative panel in Congress, we saw obstructionism again when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appointed members who had voted against certification — they would likely be witnesses and therefore investigating themselves — especially Ohio Republican Jim Jordan whose performance in previous hearings has not been to find any truth but to engage in disruptive, partisan challenges.

The coup goes on

Mid-August has come and gone and with it the QAnon belief promulgated by pillow salesman Mike Lindell that Trump would be reinstated as president. Silly, but what gives pause is that they were ready. The Hartmann Report has noted that there is a Trump shadow government seemingly poised to take over. Hartmann heard on talk radio Trump's Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, refer several times to Trump's "cabinet". "We met with several of our Cabinet members tonight," Meadows said, still referring to Trump as "the president". "We actually had a follow-up ... meeting with some of our Cabinet members."

squeeze plays

Investigative reporter Jane Mayer, author of the book "Dark Money", in a 10,000 word New Yorker piece titled "The Big Money Behind the Big Lie ", has uncovered a congeries of rich conservative groups "determined to win at all costs" in a takeover starting in the 2022 election. With stunning percentages still believing The Big Lie — 53% of Republicans think Trump is the true president according to a May Reuters/Ipsos poll, and roughly half of Republicans think the Capitol attack was left-wing activists "trying to make Trump look bad" — these big money groups see this as the moment to trade on those beliefs full throttle.

A parallel plotline is the campaign in Republican-led state governments to enact hundreds of laws designed to make it more difficult for lower income groups to vote in person — those who cannot get off work or who sacrifice pay to do so, or are at college away from home districts — namely Blacks, Latinos, and students, groups that tend to vote Democratic. The pretext for the laws is to prevent the fraud that cost them the 2020 presidential election, fraud which in fact doesn't exist to any degree, fraud that — recall what's said above about Trump's claims — no one has set out to prove for the good reason that it would expose the fraudulent claim that there is rampant fraud. Jane Mayer quotes Phil Keisling, the former Oregon secretary of state who pioneered universal voting by mail, who said, “Voters don’t cast fraudulent ballots for the same reason counterfeiters don’t manufacture pennies—it doesn’t pay.”

The Census is finally out, reporting a first ever reduction in white citizens. That will surely spur Republican-controlled states to employ software-optimized gerrymandering to pack as many as possible of those groups into the fewest possible districts to guarantee the rest of a state's districts for Republican candidates.

Far more ominous are laws that would allow the legislature of a state to overturn the choice of the voters, substituting their own slate for the presidency to send to Congress for certification. There is now frequent reference by conservative elements to what is called the Independent Legislature Doctrine as justification for laws that weren't even anticipated by the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. They are focused on an anything-goes snippet in the Constitution that says states may choose electors for the presidency "in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." The laws often read the same, state after state, suggesting that they were prepared by ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) whose mission is to draw up "model" conservative laws for ready adoption by state legislatures.

The conservative Heritage Foundation plans to spend $24 million over the next two years starting in eight battleground states to promote “election integrity” which they say is "The right to vote in a free and fair election". By implication, this right is lacking. Why make a point of this item? The right-wing cannot win the popular vote, so it is uppermost to keep Trump's claims of fraud alive. Indeed, immediately following that statement on Heritage's site is a link to their "Election Fraud Database".

The Big Lie in general is a concerted plot to delegitimize the election system. Creating an assumption of fraud in advance of our elections lays the groundwork for state legislatures to say "we told you so" when they don't like the choice of their voters and send their own choice of electors to D.C. for certification in January 6's to come.

The future's electoral stage is being carefully set: Unlimited money, gerrymandered districts, restrictive voting laws, maximal gerrymandering.

operation downplay

January 6 is awkward for Republicans. Fox News, Newmax, and One America News have shown little of the vast trove of video of the attacks and the bludgeoning of the Capitol and D.C. Metropolitan Police over four hours that afternoon that will be inscribed in our nation's history. Not for their viewers, though, shielded from reality. That void made it plausible for Republicans to hit upon a parallel to the Big Lie, that it was a riot, yes, but nothing unusual.

In a March Pew Research poll, 54% of Republicans said too much attention was being paid to January 6. A Monmouth poll survey had two in every five Republicans saying that violence that day was at least partly justified.

Those on the left, shown heavy doses of successive releases of riot footage for months, were dumbstruck that opinion writer Christopher Caldwell could say about a day when five died and protesters erected a gallows to hang Vice President Mike Pence, that the "day’s events are ambiguous...something familiar: a political protest that got out of control". Georgia Congressman Andrew Clyde said "there was an undisciplined mob," but argued that "to call it an insurrection in my opinion is a bold-faced lie." He was the one who, isolating on the mob inside "staying between the stanchions and ropes" taking selfies against the backdrop of the building's grandeur, said "you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit”. Video was later found showing the forgetful Clyde doing his utmost to barricade a door against the marauders.

Others showed the sociopathy that has overtaken the Republican Party when they mocked the police who had protected them, refused to shake their hand in appreciation, voted against giving them a medal, and called the testimony before the House January 6 investigation by four police officers brutalized that January day "theater" and a "performance", mocking the tears of one who had experienced heavy wounds, been Tasered three times, and suffered a heart attack. In their campaign to now create a reverse image of the January insurrection, the law and order party that has always defended the police is now elevating to martyrdom not police who died protecting them or chose suicide, but Ashli Babbitt, who died from wounds when shot trying to force her way through a broken window into the chamber.

Trump 2.0

Mr. Trump sees this unfolding, hates being out of the limelight, shorn of power, and shows every sign that he will run again in 2024. Trump-watcher Michael Wolff, out with a third book from immersion in "his obsessions and fixations", says so in a New York Times opinion piece titled "Why I'm Sure Trump Will Run for President in 2024". Apart from returning to the top spot where he can wreak revenge on all who have challenged him — Pence, McConnell, Georgia Governor Kemp and, and now Florida's DeSantis — he knows he's set up a winning campaign battle-cry: revenge for "The Steal!".

Mayer quotes Michael Podhorzer, an AFL-CIO adviser, who said to her,

“What animates [the Big Lie] is the belief that Biden won because votes were cast by some people in this country who others think are not ‘real’ Americans…Trump won white America by eight points. He won non-urban areas by over twenty points. He is the democratically elected President of white America. It’s almost like he represents a nation within a nation.”

Trump held back from going too far in several instances while in office because he knew it could hurt his chances for re-election in 2020. But if he wins in 2024, there will be no stopping his full authoritarian inclinations. He will issue illegal executive orders. In his disdain for the courts he will disobey their decisions. He will fire military leaders until he finds those who will obey his commands should he want troops in the streets. He will drill down at the Department of Justice to find those willing to investigate those on his enemy list and file suits to financially break opposition media.

our dream future

Tucker Carlson of Fox News has become the conservatives' most influential media star with the largest audience in cable news. As if to tie together for us where all the plotlines lead that this article cites, Mr. Carlson this August went to Hungary for a week to show us the much better authoritarian system the right-wing has in mind for us. "If you care about western civilization and democracy, you should know what is happening here", Carson advised. He interviewed Hungary's President Victor Orban giving the near dictator a pulpit to tout his system to an American audience.

Orban has showed that a coup is unnecessary. Over ten years he, step by step, re-wrote the country's constitution, changed its electoral laws to favor his political party, blocked refugees, packed the courts with loyalists, gerrymandered election districts, and achieved near complete control of the media to create what he calls an "illiberal democracy".

But Carlson sees autocracy hidden behind a faux-democracy as the way to an ethnic homogeneous nationalism , and let's not forget Christian nation, too. Castigated by the liberal media, he feels a freedom in the Orban dream future. “Who’s freer?” Carlson asks. “If you’re an American, the answer is painful to admit.”

David Frum of the Atlantic magazine, conservative enough to have been a George W. Bush speechwriter, would differ. He was alarmed by what he thought he would never see again in Europe when on a visit to Hungary in 2016 noticed that it had become habit for people to look side to side should anyone be listening and lean in close to speak.

1 Comment for “A Bigger Coup Than Trump’s Is Afoot: Call It America 2.0”

  1. Tony White

    The claims to being a democracy continued to be exposed. Between dark money, voter suppression, gerrymandering and Republican behavior, along with the anti-democratic provisions of our Constitution, we have a long struggle ahead of us to reclaim our representative democracy.

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