We usually think of a coup in terms of a military dictatorship, bloodshed, and tanks rolling down the streets. The main point, though, is the ending of “normal” democratic rights. That can also be accomplished through legal or Constitutional means. There has been a series of articles raising such a possibility here in the United States. That is extremely significant in itself.
Such articles have appeared in Foreign Policy magazine, which is the journal of the foremost capitalist think tank; the Washington Post (one of which was written by three retired US military generals), the New York Times and even the British Guardian newspaper. In fact, the Times and the Washington Post have carried several such articles. (See the end of this article for some of the links.)
On the other side, some commentators are debunking these warnings. Ross Douthat, columnist for the Times, for example points out that for all the talk about violence, few are willing to carry it out. According to Douthat, it’s an “exaggeration” and simply displays “liberal bias”. He says it’s “worth worrying about but not at all the likeliest scenario…” Douthat is joined by some on the left, for example this supporter of DSA, who wrote on a Facebook exchange: “The courts will ALWAYS be able to shoot anything down. Congress will ALWAYS be independent of the Executive Branch. The GOP leadership has no appetite for a break with constitutionality and country club conservatives are invested in status quo politics….”
We can get a clearer view on the question by revisiting the January 6, 2021 invasion of the Capitol.
At first glance, it seemed that January 6 was just a spontaneous event by a few violent nut cases who actually thought they could overthrow the US government. It seemed that they had no thought-out strategy or plan. However, evidence is now appearing that January 6 was part of a plan to delay congress’s formal counting of the electoral votes for long enough to get Trump installed. Here’s what was happening partly behind the scene:
Forged Elector Documents
In at least five “battle ground” states (Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, Nevada and Wisconsin) which Biden won (and allegedly two others also), the Republican electors met and wrote out official looking documents saying that they were the electors for that state and that they were casting their votes for Trump. They then sent their document to the US National Archive. In Michigan, the Republican imposters were actually filmed trying to get into the state capitol to cast their votes for Trump.
A significant detail – which it turns out is not a detail – is the fact that the official elector documents from each state look very different. However, all the fake elector documents look virtually identical. The most logical explanation is that this was centrally planned.
Suspicion for who did the planning tends to fall on two individuals: Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and even more so on a top official at the Department of Justice, Jeff Clark. Clark had tried to get the DOJ to send out a letter to officials in the State of Georgia – and possibly to other states as well – asking them to investigate supposed election fraud. Other top officials balked, but if Trump had succeeded in getting Clark appointed as attorney general following the resignation of Bill Barr, it is likely that that letter would have gone out.
Relationship with January 6
Here is where January 6 comes in. While for the majority of participants it probably was spontaneous, it does seem that there was at least one group who had planned it. That was the Oath Keepers, who marched into the Capitol in military-style formation, hands on the shoulder of the Oath Keeper directly ahead of them.
Had they succeeded in getting the official counting of the electoral ballots delayed for a day or two, this would have been used by Trump and his officials to pressure the Republicans to consider the fake elector documents. That was Plan A. Even if the forgeries were not the ones finally recognized, such confusion could have thrown the ultimate decision to the members of the House of Representatives. There, each state delegation gets one vote. Despite the fact that the Democrats have an overall majority of representatives, the Republicans have a majority in the majority of states, meaning that they would have the majority of votes. So they would have installed Trump. That was Plan B.
Some argue that since Trump and his party were unable to defraud the elections when they actually controlled the presidency, how could they do it now, when the Democrats are in the White House? That is a valid question, but since then they have been passing new laws state-by-state to not only suppress the vote, especially of black voters, but also to nullify the vote. In addition, they are moving to get elected state secretaries of state who would be committed to carrying out such a legal coup.
The mainstream of the US capitalist class is carrying out a full-court press against this. They are doung so through their now-preferred party – the Democratic Party – and through the major organs of the media – the major newspapers and TV channels such as CNN and MSNBC. It seems that this is having a small effect. For example, support for Trump has declined in Michigan to 31% vs. 40% a year earlier. Such a decline will probably also affect Trump lookalikes in the state, and a similar decline may exist elsewhere. That shows the influence of the US capitalist class on the views of most Americans. The Wall St. Journal editors, who were euphoric about Trump’s general policies, have also sharply criticized his more out-of-control tendencies. They have denounced his claims of election fraud, and on the first anniversary of January 6 they wrote: “ Mr. Trump will not change, and Republicans who think a campaign to vindicate 2020 is the key to victory in 2022 will lose again.”
Divisions in the MAGA Crowd
Another serious obstacle is the incompetence of Trump and the tendency for him and his followers to fight among themselves. Most recently, for example, Trump indirectly attacked one of this strongest supporters, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, for refusing to admit he’d gotten vaccinated. That’s because one of the few feathers in Trump’s cap is the fact that the vaccines were developed during his presidency and he wants to take credit for it.
MAGAists in Legal Trouble
In addition to the media blitz, the legal apparatus is being brought to bear. Ken Paxton, attorney general in the single most important Trump state – Texas – is now in trouble. He traveled to Washington DC for the January 6 rally. Now, four Texas newspapers have requested under Texas’s open records law any work related communications Paxton may have sent while he was there. Paxton has refused to honor that request, so a complaint was made to the Travis County DA Jose Garza. He has investigated the complaint and found it to be valid. The Washington Post explained, “it’s reasonable to suspect they may include exchanges with some of the rally’s organizers and possibly Trump’s inner circle about what was about to transpire.Any more detail about Paxton’s role in helping to energize the crowd, given what ultimately happened, will surely not reflect well on him as top law enforcement official from one of the nation’s largest states.” It may also help open a window into who coordinated January 6 and how.
Several arrests and possible arrests may also have an effect. For example, the head of the Oath Keepers, Ben Rhodes, has been arrested for his role in January 6. So have several other Oath Keepers. It seems possible that one or more of them could flip and reveal information that would be very damaging to Trump and his lieutenants. The same is the case with the dozens of Republican electors from those five – or possibly seven – states mentioned. They committed some fairly serious crimes by submitting forged documents. According to Dana Nessel, Michigan Attorney General, it seems the Department of Justice is investigating and the electors may be arrested. If that happens (a big “if”), then it seems almost certain that some of them would flip and reveal who coordinated this effort at fraud.
US Capitalist Class
These are the ways in which the US capitalist class is trying to shore up political stability and maintain its traditional means of rule. Their problem is that they have less influence within the US population than they have had for over a century. All the means of helping ensure capitalist stability that have been written into the Constitution have now turned into its opposite. This includes both the electoral college and the role of the US Senate, both of which now give outsized and undemocratic power to a right wing, out-of-control rabble.
The capitalist class, through both the media and the Democratic Party, is trying to return the Republicans as the reliable partner to the Democrats. They are promoting such Representatives as Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney. Both of these, along with every single other Republican representative voted against the two voting reform acts. It is expected that if it ever reaches the senate floor every single Republican senator will also vote against it. So what we have is a Republican Party taken over by those committed to regaining complete power even if they have to violate both US law and the Constitution, meaning plunging the United States into completely new waters. On the other hand, a small minority is willing to enforce its attacks on the US working class through voter suppression and vote nullification, as long as that is within the law.
The Democrats on the other hand, remain committed to trying to rebuild the partnership with the Republicans. That is why they are proceeding so cautiously and why they are promoting “reasonable” right wing reactionaries like Cheney and Kinzinger. At present the Democrats are in the concession-to-the-working-class mode. That will change, especially if inflation starts to really get out of hand. And if inflation takes off, that will likely seal the Democrats’ fate in the midterm elections and seriously boost the MAGA Mob. In fact, it could happen anyway. In that case, a new and dangerous chapter in US and world history will have opened up.
The main point is that, contrary to what the media and the Democratic Party portray, Trump is not the cause of this political crisis. He is an accelerant, but more so he is a symptom of the crisis of US and world capitalism. That is why the Democrats have no answer to him. It is why what is needed more than ever is a working class party and socialism.
Links to articles on a possible coup:
(Note: some of these are behind a pay wall. However, even just the titles of the articles is revealing. The text of some of these articles is also posted on the Facebook page of John Reimann.)
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