If there was a coup in America, the Americans along with us would be the unsuspecting ones. But not because we haven’t been warned by the leading constitutional and electoral experts in America. The question of a possible presidential coup seems outlandish. But it wouldn’t be because we weren’t warned, only that we didn’t believe it.
If the question means ‘will there be a coup in the United States of America’, that question is day to day right now. If the question means ‘is it possible for a coup in the United States,’ leading political analysts are telling us the system is so flawed, so untested, so full of enough loopholes, that it’s within the realm of possibility that the next president of the United States can have lost the popular vote by a significant margin and lost the electoral college vote and still assume the office of the president. Just what we are witnessing, isn’t it? It could well happen because the system can’t stop it.
Who is telling us this?
Lawrence Lessig, lawyer and activist, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Blog. https://lessig.medium.com/10-november-where-we-are-b4e790f4b39c
Edward B. Foley, lawyer and election law specialist, Ebersold Professor in Constitutional Law at the Ohio State University and director of the election law program. Article in the The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/11/06/state-legislatures-electoral-college-steal/
Barton Gellman, author, staff writer at The Atlantic. The Election That Could Break America. The Atlantic. Nov 2020, p48.
Van Jones, lawyer and CNN political commentator, TED talk.
Many other leading constitutional experts relaying the same concerns are referenced in the above.
Here is what Barton Gellman describes as being in play: “A lot of people, including Joe Biden…have misconceived the nature of the threat…that Trump might refuse to vacate the Oval Office if he loses….The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power [as a sitting president] to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that uncertainty to hold on to power.”
This was written before the election outcome was known. It seems to be the script Trump is following. Before the election he set up the expectation with his followers that the election could be unfair and the results then in doubt. Since the announcement of the results of the election, he has refused to concede his claim on the next term of the presidency and in fact is quite forward in claiming he will continue in office. Hard-line Republican senators are standing behind Trump’s assumption of office, and only the most progressive Republican senators are challenging him. The rest are silently following along behind President Trump.
A couple of days ago, Trump fired those in all the top positions in the Defence Department. Yes. Fired them all. Gone. The defence department! The playbook is playing out. Are you scared yet?
The problem known for some time is that the electoral system is flawed. Nothing has been done to revise it because the congress is split. The Republicans aren’t interested in electoral reform. The Democrat House of Representatives has passed wide-ranging and by all accounts excellent legislation for reform of the electoral system to ensure democracy continues. However the Republican controlled Senate has quashed any effort in electoral reform. In fact for years with their authority in office, the Republicans who suffer steadily diminishing support with the increase of a more diverse, urban and progressive voting population of Americans has been effectively gerrymandering the system in their favour, descriptively expressed as using ‘voter suppression’ techniques. And being very effective. And of course, manipulating social media to manipulate the 2016 election as they did with Brexit (same group; Brexit was practice for them for the 2016 election). And then as they have continued with power in hand to undermine and hollow out legitimate democratic institutions over the last four years.
Briefly what you will read in the above references is that it’s been a tradition, but not a law, that the losing candidate for president concedes on election night or when the results have been confirmed. Up to now, all that would follow over the next months after election day as laid out in the electoral system is a formality. Conceding the election has represented up to now the peaceful transfer of power.
That tradition of peaceful transfer of power has changed with Trump. All he has to do is refuse to concede and this second election system of the period between the election and January 20 inauguration, a formality until now, can actually determine the next sitting president and the system can do that despite the choice of the people by cast ballots. It seems that’s what’s happening.
As with everything else he’s done, Trump couldn’t care less about conventions of democracy. He uses the system by lying and corruption and abusing its limits for his self-serving objectives. Why should anything be different now? He’s true to his word. He’s always be blatant about what he’s going to do. Never hid it in back rooms. And he’s telling us now he will be president for the next four years. Many of his supporters say, and he loves to hear it, that he should be the permanent president.
Trump and his team are pushing the system now, testing its weaknesses and flaws, in order to stay in power. And the fear in it all is there exists a path for him to that end. Of course, while the flawed system may well allow him be appointed President and continue as president despite losing the popular and electoral college vote, that action would likely result in protest and the possibility of violence, what some have even predicted as civil war in the United States. People are imagining the real possibility of some final airing out of the decades long hardening and widening of a fundamental and opposing split in the identity of America.
The inability for any kind of bi-partisan agreement during Obama and Trump presidencies -no significant legislative achievement (all by executive order only)- points to the dysfunction of the American system. The former bi-partisan decision-making, the bedrock of how the system used to function, may be coming to a head with Trump and powerful Republicans who are willing to push the limits of a deeply flawed system in order to stay in power. The drama will unfold before our eyes in the processes taking place with the electoral college and within the walls of Congress.
The constitutional and election law lawyers referenced above have spelled it out. Many concerned academics have been working on scenarios of possibilities of how the system might play out, and in each possible scenario, the end point is not resolved in law, for there is none for it, but rather the modellers weighing every possible eventuality end up in one place only, with a system and country in chaos.
I don’t recall whom, but one commentator made the point that this is all about money. Wouldn’t you know it? Greed. Lust for power. Heard that one before? Sure. It’s embedded in our human mythology and human history. No reason the history we are living through isn’t going to be the history of collapse once more at the excise of a mad addiction to excess, in this case, a collapse of the democratic experiment, a very fragile system, least common of historical, political organization. With every civilization collapse there were the ignored prophets and the great surprise of everyone when the end came, when, for an example, from one day to the next, from a day of sunshine on the golden stones of the walls of Jerusalem to the next when the streets literally flowed with the blood of the residents, all was a surprise. Not something we want to think of. But that’s the problem. However, some are thinking and acting feverishly. Many, many Americans, highlighted in the references above, knowing the crossroads they stand at, are doing all they can to protect the will of the people, We the People.
This convoluted system seems to go back to the beginning, to the very inspiration for the United States of America. Democracy may have been its watchword, but not its inspiration. It seems America has never really escaped its roots, and now it’s all come to a head, to a supreme test. The system will fall on its own scabbard or it will become something else.
The idea of ‘America,’ the place across the water, began with the Mayflower arrival. In fact, the Mayflower experiment was a corporation arriving at the North American shores, a corporation intent on making a lot of money. Turned out to be a failed corporation first time around. But then in the flowering of the Industrial Revolution that was based in the cotton industry, led by Great Britain, the “America”colonies became a production house for the highly profitable business of cotton, producing cotton to feed the British industrial machine. That meant, as a good business model, cheap labour: 4 million slaves is cheap labour.
The American Revolution if we can be allowed to simplify it enough, was the corporations (vested business interests) in “America” fearing and quite legitimately so, fearing that another corporation (one that had a larger standing military than Britain herself), the East India Company, a British company, which after routing India, was believed to be heading to the Americas to do the same. And it was a legitimate concern for the businesses in the British North American colonies. The reason the sinking of a ship of tea in Boston harbour was so symbolic to the revolution.
And then the writers of the American constitution, Monroe in particular perhaps, were very concerned about protecting themselves from the vote (will) of the mass of the population because the general population outnumbered the wealthy elite property owners. The monied constitutional architects wanted protection, didn’t want the mass of people to tell them what to do. Of course what the elite did was make money, and make money out of the subservience of the mass of the population. Money. All about money. And so America, the Corporation really, has this crazy electoral system that would allow the State legislatures of the privileged interests to override the wish of the electorate.
In the end, if it goes to the end without sanity intruding, the states each vote for president. Not the congress members where larger population states have more senators and representatives: no each state has one vote, Delaware with the same vote as California. What the Republicans are counting on as a means to hold on to the White House is pushing the system to its logical end. That seems to be a vote, one for each state, on who is to be next president. While the majority of people live in Democrat states, the majority of American states are Republican. And so the Republican states can outvote the Democrat states in the selection of the next president of the United States, choose the next president even if against the will of the majority of the population, that is elect a president who doesn’t want to concede to the will of the people, but assume for himself at his pleasure, another four years of office to continue with the self-serving theft and corruption of his first four years. And the ducks are lining up.
It’s going in that direction right now. Unbelievably. And there is a path for it if the Republicans decide to stand firmly behind Trump and his team.
Stand down and stand by Trump said to his militant followers, armed to the teeth having bought out the whole supply of bullets in the gun shops across America, as he told them plainly in the televised election debates. Stand down and stand by.
It’s a troubling and challenging few months ahead. We’ll see what world we live in come January.