How to Stop a Coup (U.S. Election Filter)
October 19, 2020 10:16 PM   Subscribe

Ross Douthat, a columnist with The New York Times, writes that “There Will Be No Trump Coup.”

But the Transition Integrity Project, which brought together more than 100 experts in June 2020, expects otherwise. The project expects the election “will be marked by a chaotic legal and political landscape” and that “President Trump is likely to contest the result by both legal and extra-legal means, in an attempt to hold onto power.”

One way you can help is to become a poll worker.

Or you can volunteer as a poll monitor, with Common Cause, Progressive Democrats of America, or protectthevote.net (but not protectthevote.com, which is right-wing).

National and local groups are organizing, planning and preparing to ensure the election is free and fair, and that its results are respected. Here is more on stopping a coup, from various sources.

* Count on Us (young people).
* Choose Democracy is also holding training.
* Hold the Line has a guide and scheduled training sessions.
* Pace e Bene.
* Stopping the Coup, from The Disruption Project
* Protech the Results coalition.
* From Waging Nonviolence
* Working Families Party will hold a teach-in.
posted by NotLost (81 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ross Douthat is a pretty reliable source, in that if he says something, you can bet the opposite is probably true.

I applied to be a poll worker in my county a few weeks ago and still haven't heard anything. There was a message at the website with the application stating that due to an unusually high volume of applications they may take longer than usual to respond, so I'm guessing the word has gotten out that working the polls is a good way to help defend democracy, at least in my area. But maybe not in your area, so check and see! The application only took me about 10 minutes to fill out, so if you can spare the day, definitely check it out.

The information about becoming a poll monitor is great, thanks for the post and the links!
posted by biogeo at 10:49 PM on October 19 [40 favorites]


Ross Douthat opposes gay marriage, criticized birth control, and in general is as committed to white supremacy as the president. It's absolutely in his interest for you to relax and not worry about what's going on.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:52 PM on October 19 [83 favorites]


"Wielding that power in a way that doesn’t just seed another backlash requires both vision and restraint. And seeing its current enemy clearly, as a feckless tribune for the discontented rather than an autocratic menace, is essential to the wisdom that a Biden presidency needs."

Or in other words, please, Democrats, ignore the last three centuries of Mitch McConnell's undead reign, and allow the vampires to go about their usual business. We wouldn't want a backlash, now would we?
posted by kaibutsu at 11:16 PM on October 19 [10 favorites]


I think he's right about something: Trump doesn't have the support necessary to be a real autocrat. It's been obvious since Trump took power that real dictators are so because they have institutional support: usually the military, but generally the civil service willing to act as they express their desired state. Trump, incompetent nincompoop that he is, has always acted the part, without actually having the base of power that leads to organized executions and such.

That said, that's cold fucking comfort and Douthat should STFU, for the pissante, penny-ante enabler that he always is. Trump might not have a compliant military, but he's certainly captured the right wing chattering class, who are predictably shifting gears to "he wasn't that bad" from "he won't be that bad, and maybe he'll do some good."

DIAF, all of you.
posted by fatbird at 11:41 PM on October 19 [15 favorites]


Important coup-related point to not lose among all the other news here: Trump came out as explicitly pro-government-death-squad (←Twitter link to a few seconds of video) last Wednesday, again praising the police who shot Michael Reinoehl under suspicious circumstances but saying, they didn’t want to arrest him this time. No exaggeration, straight-up baldfaced support for extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

Shouldn't be a surprise, given that before he was elected he complimented Saddam Hussein because He killed terrorists—those terrorist being our allies the Kurds, whom he would formally screw over once in office, and others—and unctuously complimented Putin, of course, etc., and in office has had no end of praise and sycophantic ass-kissing for other dictators, the one example I'll pick being Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines who called himself the Hitler of drug addicts and initiated a campaign that has murdered thousands of people including children. (Just to point out... even if the people still being killed by the police in the Philippines even now are actually drug addicts, and not just people they need a convenient excuse to kill, so that the cover story is the actual true story—these are still government death squads.) And there's Khashoggi of course, for a flamboyant theocracy death squad to add a little flavor to the monotony of dictatorship death squads.

So it shouldn't have been a surprise that Trump would want to bring it all home, it's the kind of thing that the arc of his amoral universe has been bending towards this whole time, and it's pretty reap-what-ye-sow for the country itself given what our foreign policies have fostered all over the world during the last 1½ centuries. But I have to admit I was still surprised. And the MAGAhats will still cheer with abandon, because they're the ones it's not really a surprise for.
posted by XMLicious at 11:47 PM on October 19 [16 favorites]


Ross Douthat is a pretty reliable source, in that if he says something, you can bet the opposite is probably true.


I always hear his name pronounced in my mind as “Doubt that”.
posted by darkstar at 11:53 PM on October 19 [28 favorites]


I was old enough to remember Waco, Oklahoma City and early to mid 90s anti-federal government libertarian movements but too young to really understand what was going on. Did it feel like there was really a national undercurrent of change? I sort of felt like in the 90s there was an underlying paranoia with aliens, UFOs, conspiracy theories run amuck and somewhat organized militia movements. But this was largely caused by the end of the Cold War paranoia, and our government actually abusing power in incidences like Ruby Ridge. This feels a lot less like no one can really tell me what the coup would accomplish, who would run it, what happens after.
posted by geoff. at 12:13 AM on October 20


I agree Douthat is a fool, but he is surely correct in his assumption that Trump is not competent enough to run a coup, and generally his supporters across the US are also generally the less competent citizens of the nation. I'm imagining that there can be some localized unrest, because some people won't believe he can loose. I read one of those usual articles about Trump voters in Ohio (I think it was), and it struck me that one of the interviewees said she didn't know anyone who wouldn't vote for Trump. For someone like her, a Biden landslide will seem very strange and unbelievable.
But for a real coup*, he will need institutional support all over the 50 states, and I can't see that happening.

*Coup meaning that he actually looses the vote but then holds on to power by force and manipulation
posted by mumimor at 12:30 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


Trump isn't competent enough to run a coup, but the degree to which he's useful for people who might be and skilled enough in playing suckup and blame between different power players doesn't leave me sleeping well at night. And that's after remembering all kinds of other vote shenanigans he and the corrupt GOP are willing to pull backed by a vast propaganda arm that they've fully embraced.

I'm cautiously optimistic but there's a hell of a lot on the line and definitely some ways for things to go south.
posted by wildblueyonder at 12:42 AM on October 20 [15 favorites]


Douthat is always way too confident in what he thinks/rights and this is part of that. I think it's very unlikely Trump could pull off a coup, but this article still bothers me. There definitely could be violence related to the election, especially in places that have attracted right wing militia attention. I've also stopped trying to confidently predict anything in 2020.

But in general it's really hard to pull off a coup if the military doesn't like you, and most of the military really dislikes Trump at this point. On the other hand the police, homeland security, and militia love him but they're pretty disorganized and decentralized. There have definitely been coups run with the support of a police force over the organized military, but that tends to happen when an autocrat has had more time to consolidate power.

We're going to have a lot of problems after the election no matter who wins (my big fear is Trump is going to petulantly refuse to do anything and just let government fall even more apart), but it is very unlikely we will have something approaching a coup. I'm going to go worry about the more realistic, but still awful, things that will probably happen (yeah not sure it's any better to do that).
posted by JZig at 12:43 AM on October 20 [5 favorites]


I guess the advantage of nominating a NatSec Democrat is that the security and intelligence machines know that he is their guy in a way that Trump is not. Certainly if he commands the joint chiefs of staff to convey him to the Vale at oncesupport a coup, he's going to find just how the beautiful generals feel about him.
posted by atrazine at 12:45 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


There definitely could be violence related to the election

Last week in San Luis Obispo there was a parade of about 400 MAGA-decorated pickup trucks driving along city roads and yelling at everyone as they passed.

I have to assume about 200 of those were just along for the ride, and another hundred are maybe committed to peaceful forms of protest.

That leaves at least 100 crazed Trump supporters, all with deadly weapons (the trucks, probably guns too) that are going to be upset and SHOCKED when he loses, and even more upset if he actually vacates the white house.

And that's in one county in a blue state. There were similar gatherings all over the country, some much bigger.

Damn right there's going to be violence. Count on it.
posted by mmoncur at 2:00 AM on October 20 [9 favorites]


Depending on the incompetence of the other side to save you is a recipe for disappointment.
posted by pmb at 2:25 AM on October 20 [15 favorites]


Trump isn't competent enough to run a coup
True, but people like Barr and Pompeo are wily enough to use his incompetence to further their own stupid, malevolent goals. And Trump is a competent cheerleader and can (and we should expect will) drum up all kinds of ill-will if/when he loses. One can only hope that the FBI/Marshall service will react... at all. Just because Trump doesn't hold on to power doesn't mean he won't wreck the fuck out of countless lives by spurring the prone-to-violence to indulge themselves in the time between November and January.

It would be to everyone's advantage if the media broadcasting the Trumpian brand of nihilistic nationalism were shut up for six months. By that I mean the Murdoch empire and Facebook. These two megaphones are helping no-one.

More and more I creep up on the certainty that the US needs to renovate the levers of democracy. Get rid of the E.C., gerrymandering and 'Citizens United.' I have day dreams that Trump loses by enough of a margin that Biden comes in and, likely pressured from outside, uses his first hundred days to do these things. Without these changes, the US is a limping zombie cash-cow for a rapidly dwindling minority of super-wealthy.

Also, fuck poor Douthat. The real danger isn't what Trump does, its what he gives others license to do.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:50 AM on October 20 [15 favorites]


I'm here thinking that Trump will be very busy moving his remaining assets out of the country between November and January if he loses. Followed by his own sorry ass.
posted by Harald74 at 3:29 AM on October 20 [7 favorites]


I mean, he's basically said so out loud, and there's a whole load of prosecutors waiting for him to vacate the White House.
posted by Harald74 at 3:30 AM on October 20 [4 favorites]


From what I recall, Hitler didn't have institutional support from the military when he came to power; his support was from groups of embittered/radicalised veterans and NSDAP street-fighting units such as the SA. Upon coming to power, the Nazis purged many career officers, replacing them with their own goons.

In this analogy, the SA would be ICE, militarised police units with Punisher-skull logos and no respect for the laws of war, as well as various hangers-on such as Proud Boys and militias.
posted by acb at 4:14 AM on October 20 [13 favorites]


True, but people like Barr and Pompeo are wily enough to use his incompetence to further their own stupid, malevolent goals.
Well, they haven't been willing/able to prosecute Trump's percieved enemies, so there is clearly a limit to how far they will go. It's hard to remember right now, but the basic foundations of democracy serve the Republican Party too, in the states where they are legit strong.
posted by mumimor at 4:14 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


There has already been coup in the United States in recent times and it was done by George W. Bush, a not competent enough to run a coup man, and some asshats in Brooks Brothers clothing with the assistance of the Supreme Court. It did help that he had the republican establishment behind him including an ex-CIA, former president dad and the entire Military Industrial Complex and the whole Republican party. Also, everybody including the NYTimes pretends it didn't really happen.

Lack of competence is no barrier to running a successful coup in the United States.
posted by srboisvert at 4:17 AM on October 20 [45 favorites]


There has already been coup in the United States in recent times and it was done by George W. Bush, a not competent enough to run a coup man, and some asshats in Brooks Brothers clothing with the assistance of the Supreme Court.

Well, G.W. Bush was clearly competent enough, and you deliver the explanation: an ex-CIA, former president dad and the entire Military Industrial Complex and the whole Republican party
Trump has none of this. Also, while I don't think GWB is as smart as Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, he is definitely a lot smarter than Donald Trump, and also not a simple crook (though he may well be guilty of crimes toward humanity).
posted by mumimor at 4:22 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


I'm not especially concerned about a coup on the federal level. I am, though, quite concerned about armed numbnuts going apeshit on the local level, where they are far more likely to encounter little resistance (if not outright support on the part of local law enforcement) I can easily see local town/county/city councils across the country being invaded by armed Trumpettes demanding {insert insane rantings here}.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:25 AM on October 20 [23 favorites]


From what I recall, Hitler didn't have institutional support from the military when he came to power; his support was from groups of embittered/radicalised veterans and NSDAP street-fighting units such as the SA. Upon coming to power, the Nazis purged many career officers, replacing them with their own goons.

He did have some institutional support from the Officer/Juncker class who despised him but thought they could control him and were worried about socialist/communist power. And the SA was in existence before he came to power as an inherent part of the Nazi party structure. Hitler's rise isn't a good analogy for Trump, particularly in 2020. That doesn't mean the Trump isn't dangerous, just that it's unlikely to look like 1933.
posted by plonkee at 4:52 AM on October 20 [4 favorites]


I get confused by arguments that posit competence or stupidity as somehow relevant to the matter of coup-committing, as if to commit a coup is a cerebral thought exercise that hinges on the quality of project documentation & risk mitigation. It isn't. You attempt a coup and it fails or it succeeds, and then either you're done or you're in power. If you're in power, then it doesn't matter how stupid you are, because you're in power. If you're not in power, then it doesn't matter how smart you are, because you're done. That's really all there is to it.
posted by dmh at 4:55 AM on October 20 [23 favorites]


I feel like there's disturbing element of wistfulness to Douthat's "Trump is too stupid to be a dictator" thing, like he's yearning for a truly smart dictator and is sad because Trump isn't it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:05 AM on October 20 [13 favorites]


like he's yearning for a truly smart dictator and is sad because Trump isn't it.

Dictators are also supposed to be charismatic and Trump's not that either.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:07 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


There has already been a coup: the Republican party stymied the legitimately elected government of President Obama and, in the subsequent Presidential election, took power despite failing to win the popular vote. It is now trying to cement its position through voter suppression and other shenanigans. That this took place with a nod to legal forms is neither here nor there: a government that can't win majority support is intrinsically illegitimate.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:21 AM on October 20 [31 favorites]


a government that can't win majority support is intrinsically illegitimate

Just because a government didn't win majority support, doesn't mean it couldn't. This idea that if only we had a popular election instead of the electoral college would mean that Trump wouldn't have been elected is false. The candidates campaign to win the electoral college, if it was majority rule, don't you think they would change their strategy and campaign in populous states?
posted by 445supermag at 5:44 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


Ugh, I guess I'm glad we have a politics thread but did it have to start with a column by THAT guy?? He is like a wannabe Grima Wormtongue. (Stephen Miller currently holds that post)

Meanwhile in L.A., some assholes decided to set the ballots inside a ballot drop box on fire. I'm dreading the copycats who are going to think this is an amazing idea.
posted by emjaybee at 5:57 AM on October 20 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I always think of him as Ross Asshat.
posted by rikschell at 6:04 AM on October 20 [4 favorites]


Dictators are also supposed to be charismatic and Trump's not that either.

I've heard that that's somewhat of a misconception. He may be gauche and cruel and reliably odious, though he has the instincts of a showman and entertainer, and for those sympathetic to his value proposition (because they've self-sorted into the red polarity in the culture war, typically), he can be genuinely charismatic.
posted by acb at 6:30 AM on October 20 [10 favorites]


Dictators are also supposed to be charismatic and Trump's not that either.
Only... he apparently sort of is, right? How can someone so manifestly cruel, incompetent, dishonest and unlikeable get so many idiots to unwaveringly sing his praises? I have no idea how it works, but I clearly see it happening.
posted by gelfin at 6:34 AM on October 20 [12 favorites]


There's a book I want/need to read, but it has a positive quote on the cover by Ross Douthat and that does not bode well.


But this discussion of a coup feels anchored in the thinking of more innocent times. It's the thinking of a lobster in a pot who's explaining that the chef can't make the water go instantaneously from room-temperature to boiling, so no need to worry and definitely not to act.

The cancellation of rights and democracy doesn't need to be sudden and dramatic. If it's a gradual erosion that doesn't make it any less effective - just harder to recognize and point to in a way that people will acknowledge.

Countries like Russia have been demonstrating how effectively you can eat away at things like the EU and NATO without declaring any kind of sudden war on them. The Republican party has been eating away at various anchors of democracy for years. Under Trump even once-neutral bodies like the CDC are corrupted; bodies that are expected to uphold the rule of law, like the Department of Justice, are totally coopted; and the court system has been injected full of ideologues who will continue to be there for decades. Talking about classic coups is talking up a strawman at this point.
posted by trig at 6:43 AM on October 20 [26 favorites]


Hitler's rise isn't a good analogy for Trump, particularly in 2020. That doesn't mean the Trump isn't dangerous, just that it's unlikely to look like 1933.

So, instead, it's likely to look like everything else in 2020. Yikes.
posted by otherchaz at 6:47 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


I think it's a mistake to say that Trump doesn't have charisma. He certainly doesn't appeal to any of us, but let's not forget that thousands of people are still turning out to each of his rallies, at great personal risk to themselves, and he was quite successful as a TV showman. I look at old video footage of Hitler, and he just seems laughable to me. And yet he was quite obviously a charismatic figure to many many people. Why Trump is similarly compelling to so many people mystifies me, but it is nonetheless true.
posted by PhineasGage at 7:14 AM on October 20 [8 favorites]


Dictators are also supposed to be charismatic and Trump's not that either.
Only... he apparently sort of is, right? How can someone so manifestly cruel, incompetent, dishonest and unlikeable get so many idiots to unwaveringly sing his praises? I have no idea how it works, but I clearly see it happening.
One time in a D&D campaign I rolled up a lawful evil Drow bard, who split his time between buffing his party members in fights and stabbing them in the back in social situations. Bards draw all their power from charisma, but Drow are evil motherfuckers even by Faerün standards, and he was basically hated and feared everywhere he went. Compounding that, in his younger years, he'd been the leader of a cult, so he had crazy-looking evil tattoos and brands all over himself broadcasting his awful past. By all accounts, he had the social grace of a distempered hyena, and the animal magnetism of a raw potato.

Out-of-game, I likened him to Michael Scott in Scott's Tots: such a ghastly, slow-moving trainwreck of humanity that you desperately want to look away and pretend it never happened and that people can't REALLY be like this, but you just can't avert your eyes. But in-game he had a +4 charisma modifier, so at level 2 he could cast Dissonant Whispers at a save DC of 15, and fuck up anything the DM could throw at us.

Sometimes I still think about that bard when people describe Trump as "charismatic."
posted by Mayor West at 7:24 AM on October 20 [12 favorites]


Robert Evans has a podcast about this very thing, and how it would go down.

Given when it was recorded, how things have followed what he predicted and with how my family in norcal is acting, I now have a dried food stash.
posted by The Power Nap at 7:33 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


re: Trump's charisma - there have, at this point, been like a thousand thinkpieces and 10,000 Twitter posts on it. Or that touch on it in passing. It's well covered territory. (*Spoiler alert (not really, of course) - a regressive definition of "masculinity" is key to thinking Trump is charismatic.)

There was even a recent Twitter thread by someone known as liberal - of course long buried in my history so I'll never find it again - pointing out (with examples) that when he's not spewing mumble-mouthed incoherent half-sentences, he's actually sometimes capable of some expert-level comedic/showman timing.

A near-constant 40% approval rating belies the idea that he is somehow inherently and objectively NOT charismatic.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:33 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


Also a good episode on BtB
posted by The Power Nap at 7:44 AM on October 20


But this discussion of a coup feels anchored in the thinking of more innocent times [...] bodies that are expected to uphold the rule of law, like the Department of Justice, are totally coopted; and the court system has been injected full of ideologues who will continue to be there for decades. Talking about classic coups is talking up a strawman at this point

Or perhaps not. If the constitutional order gets corrupted to the point that it undermines the legitimacy of authority and/or the democratic process, that's precisely when you get coups, and sedition, and secret police, and disappearings, and all that other good stuff from "more innocent times".
posted by dmh at 7:44 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


Our weak, ranting, infected-by-Covid chief executive is not plotting a coup, because a term like “plotting” implies capabilities that he conspicuously lacks. That part's pretty accurate. But the Republicans learned in 2000 that they could steal the Presidency, and they are ruthless and focused in a way that Dems don't begin to grasp. Vote suppression is wildly out of control and the Far Right judges McConnell shepherded through will allow a fair bit of it to stand.

The threat of far-right violence is certainly real, but America’s streets belong to the anti-Trump left. Some BLM protests have resulted in rioting and looting and riots; as a general rule they are dedicated to nonviolence, successfully so. Trump's banner-waving fans planned to kidnap a governor, some addled, brainwashed kid went to a BLM protest to kill protesters, and did. Right-wingers are vastly more likely to have lots of guns, and they have been not even subtly encouraged towards violence. Douthat conveniently does not address this.

in terms of seizing power over policy he has been less imperial than either George W. Bush or Barack Obama. WTF? This sounds like a GOPer Talking Point; they're good at this.
With American liberalism poised to retake presidential power, it needs clarity about its own position. Liberalism lost in 2016 out of a mix of accident and hubris Biden is a staunch moderate, 'liberalism' is just one more GOPer Talking Point; this is how they control the narrative so well. 'hubris'? again, WTF? He natters on about 'liberalism' trying to hang it on Biden, and create a narrative, but it's lost on me. What a pompous blowhard.

I think the military will support the Constitution, but of course I'm concerned that McConnell, Trump, GOP governors, will pull shenanigans. It's really harmful to the country and they don't care.
posted by theora55 at 7:49 AM on October 20 [5 favorites]


This presidency was a warning. Trump was able to completely control the nation's narrative and group consciousness for four years. And he's a lout that can't speak in complete sentences. It doesn't take much imagination to see the US going full Nazi. It doesn't get any more dire than that.
posted by jabah at 8:04 AM on October 20 [7 favorites]


Many successful fascists and wanna be fascists look like clowns to people who are not part of their cult, thus all those early 30s newspaper articles people roll out laughing at Hitler. More modern examples include Berlusconi, Duterte, Bolsonaro. There are a few who go for the pose of more remote and "noble", like Franco and Pinochet, but clown is a sufficiently common archetype to suggest that it's an active attraction to fascist-fans.
posted by tavella at 8:12 AM on October 20 [27 favorites]


While Republicans are definitely flirting with the idea of replacing representative democracy with some form of autocratic oligarchy I don't think they have anywhere close to a majority or even a significant plurality. The reality is that conservatives aren't particularly popular and are mainly using a handful of hot button issues (Abortion, Immigration, etc) as a way to shore up their electoral prospects. Combined with increasing attempts to disenfranchise voters and attempts to decrease voter turnout they've been able to compete in elections despite being largely unable to win the national popular vote.

Conservative Christians such as Barr and Pompeo have a large degree of influence in the Republican party but will start to lose influence as Americans continue to become more diverse and more secular. Their power also largely stems from the level of control Republicans are able to assert over the Republican caucuses through aggressively primarying "RINO" candidates.

I don't think there is enough widespread support of abandoning Democracy among critical power blocks beyond the political appointees at the top of various government organizations. Even if there are elements of the national security apparatus that lean Conservative I'm not sure how many of them would be willing to sacrifice their own power to support an asshat like Trump who is completely corrupt and inept.

There is definitely no significant support for widespread civil war outside of some small extremist groups that have high media visibility but fairly small actual membership especially in terms of members with the actual desire to potentially sacrifice their lives or their livelihood for some vague idea of a renewed white nation. We will definitely see an increase in "lone wolf" extremists but their organization and threat level is extremely localized.
posted by vuron at 8:23 AM on October 20


How and when did "lose" become the most misspelled word of the decade?
posted by Chickenring at 8:25 AM on October 20 [15 favorites]


I'll second the recommendation for Evans' podcast. The least doomy episode is maybe worth listening to in particular.
posted by StarkRoads at 8:49 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


You attempt a coup and it fails or it succeeds, and then either you're done or you're in power.

Trump is not going to take cover behind the Resolute Desk and try to shoot his way out past the Secret Service. There is zero chance he has what it takes for a real struggle for control.

Also, Trump doesn’t need to “concede” the Presidency. Biden can get sworn in wherever and run the country from Kamala and Doug’s spare room in Beverly Hills if Trump wants to still play pretend.
posted by sideshow at 8:57 AM on October 20 [6 favorites]


Another way to think about it: are the thousands of members of the 82nd Airborne willing to risk a firing squad by assassinating Gov Newsom and seizing the CA statehouse in Sacramento? If not, we won’t see a coup.
posted by sideshow at 9:00 AM on October 20


I have no idea what will happen on or after November 3.

I do think that there's some possibility that if Trump loses decisively he'll be strong-armed out of the White House by the GOP itself behind the scenes, because Mr. Market is going to have an enormous sad if there's a lot of uncertainty and chaos stretching out over months during a pandemic. Trump has been useful, but he's delivered the Supreme Court and he's not delivering any predictable response to the pandemic. If Trump wins, things will be predictable and Mr. Market will be happy - even if they're terrible. But if it's chaos and violence and declining possibilities for a vaccine and state bankruptcies and the movie, restaurant and tourism industries totally unstable for the forseeable future, that's no good. Markets like predictability.

The thing is, there's an affective side to fascism that is very strong and important and mobilizes all kinds of people, but the vast majority of oligarchs are mostly motivated by money first.

So my hope is that Trump loses decisively and the GOP decides to wait for the Supremes to deliver. That's very bad, of course, but it gives us a little more operating room than if there is literally a chaotic transition to full, overt military minority rule.
posted by Frowner at 9:10 AM on October 20 [7 favorites]


“There Will Be No Trump Coup.”

Oh good I was getting worri

Ross Douthat

Oh no there is definitely going to be a coup
posted by Lonnrot at 9:18 AM on October 20 [22 favorites]


Anyway, all the very confident comments here about how there definitely won't be a coup because [not convincing reasons] are not really reassuring me that the coup that is happening right now is not happening right now. Nov. 3 and the following months are a political analysis event horizon - something will happen outside ordinary parameters, the usual laws and norms are irrelevant, none of us knows what's on the other side but the people who study and understand black holes are freaking out.

Best case scenario, the US is still on the brink of collapse and under leadership that's unlikely to acknowledge any of the systemic issues that brought it there but won't at least be actively helping fascists worsen the situation. < 4 years of that reluctant foot-dragging plus stewing resentment from fascists and we'll get President-for-Life Tom Cotton. I have no idea how to deescalate the situation. Should Trump actually be deposed from power, the US will have to do some kind of large-scale cult recovery. I have no idea what that looks like or how it could possibly be effective. Recovery tactics only work when people want to leave cults or hate groups - they often backfire when people are too invested in them. So even if Democrats went all-in on Truth & Reconciliation (they won't), Republicans fully relish playing the villain and will escalate their racist, misogynist, frankly anti-life authoritarianism in response.

I do not know what will happen but the one thing I do not expect is a landslide Biden victory after which Republicans shrug and step aside because "the people have spoken." That outcome would both shock and shake me. We're to extrajudicial killings of citizens and some evidence of practiced genocide at this point. Republicans just secured the Supreme Court, have tried and will try again to invalidate mail-in ballots across the board, continue to incite armed insurrections against (enemy) elected officials after federal authorities stopped two such attempts, large convoys of vocally enthusiastic fascists who inevitably incite violence, fascists setting ballot drop boxes on fire, etc. etc. All evidence suggests they care about nothing except securing and maintaining their own power.

Things are thoroughly broken. Unbreaking them will be enormous work. Of the two actual political parties in the US, one of them doesn't want to do that work and the other is extremely active in working toward the precise opposite. I can no longer imagine realistic paths forward that deescalate away from fascism.
posted by Lonnrot at 9:48 AM on October 20 [12 favorites]


At the end, he calls Trump, "a feckless tribune for the discontented."

You have got to be fucking kidding me. What a sack of garbage this guy is.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:53 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


How and when did "lose" become the most misspelled word of the decade?

"led"'s lead is so strong that no coup will dethrone it
posted by trig at 10:05 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


I do not know what will happen but the one thing I do not expect is a landslide Biden victory after which Republicans shrug and step aside because "the people have spoken." That outcome would both shock and shake me.

Of course they won't. They haven't. Obama won by an absolute landslide and they never once acknowledged his legitimacy or mandate and spent his entire two terms sabotaging everything he tried to do, spreading endless disinformation, encouraging people to arm themselves because he was going to impose Sharia law/communism and take away their guns, stealing a Supreme Court seat, stealing various lower-level elections, etc. Even if/when they concede the election on a practical level, they will not be conceding it "morally" (those are heavy side-eye quotes). They'll keep sabotaging and undermining regardless.

It's just not necessarily going to look like an old-school coup where you have soldiers and a new constitution.

I can imagine paths that will deescalate away from this, but it would require a ton of vision, charisma, leadership, determination, communication, and competence. So I share your lack of optimism.
posted by trig at 10:18 AM on October 20 [10 favorites]


If you're in power, then it doesn't matter how stupid you are, because you're in power.

Watch Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait, the documentary by Barbet Shroeder. That guy was a moron, and he did it.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:20 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


If you're an NYT columnist, then it doesn't matter how stupid you are, because you're in NYT columnist.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:42 AM on October 20 [11 favorites]


It doesn't take much imagination to see the US going full Nazi. It doesn't get any more dire than that.

If anything, it finally puts to rest the foundational lie of the notion of separation of powers as a means to keep abuses in check. When two of three branches collude with the Russian government — a third, counting the court — there are no safeguards. Not even the press, which happily use Trump to sell ads, and not even the military, which help the puppet gas citizens for photo-ops and disappear citizens into minivans. A coup is definitely as likely as a legitimate Biden electoral win.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:04 AM on October 20 [5 favorites]


Apparently Trump's already giving up, so whew on that.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:04 AM on October 20


If you're an NYT columnist, then it doesn't matter how stupid you are, because you're in NYT columnist.

Just write banal shit. I don't even do research. When you're an NYT columnist, they just let you do it.
posted by atrazine at 11:25 AM on October 20 [5 favorites]


How and when did "lose" become the most misspelled word of the decade?

Lose lips sink ships
posted by emjaybee at 11:41 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


So, all that being said, the discussion about whether Trump is canny enough to succeed in staging a coup (doesn't matter, those around him are and as They sucked his brains out! points out, Republicans are compromised as a party and control most of the government) or whether an attempted coup is likely or not (it is) is a derail. Even if you don't agree, starting from the position that a coup is possible is more helpful because it saves us all a lot of time and energy and allows us to engage with the content here more directly. I fully understand the temptation, but this post probably shouldn't have led with the Douthat piece because it's kind of distracted from the actual substance of the other links, which boil down to: Suppose Republicans do stage a coup - what can we do to stop that?

Not much! But not nothing! Everyone needs to read the TIP report, or at least read the highlights at the beginning. Here, I'll just paste them in full. That will make this a much longer comment and I apologize but I think it is important to spread this information and I don't think they can be winnowed down to even slimmer bullet points. Note that these are focused on administrative risks more than the threat of stochastic terrorism and overt calls/orders to commit violence.

The risks:
The concept of “election night,” is no longer accurate and indeed is dangerous. We face a period of contestation stretching from the first day a ballot is cast in mid-September until January 20. The winner may not, and we assess likely will not, be known on “election night” as officials count mail-in ballots. This period of uncertainty provides opportunities for an unscrupulous candidate to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the process and to set up an unprecedented assault on the outcome. Campaigns, parties, the press and the public must be educated to adjust expectations starting immediately.

A determined campaign has opportunity to contest the election into January 2021. We anticipate lawsuits, divergent media narratives, attempts to stop the counting of ballots, and protests drawing people from both sides. President Trump, the incumbent,will very likely use the executive branch to aid his campaign strategy, including through the Department of Justice. We assess that there is a chance the president will attempt to convince legislatures and/or governors to take actions –including illegal actions –to defy the popular vote. Federal laws provide little guidance for how Congress should resolve irregularities when they convene in a Joint Session on January 6, 2021. Of particular concern is how the military would responding the context of uncertain election results. Here recent evidence offers some reassurance, but it is inconclusive.

The administrative transition process itself may be highly disrupted. Participants in our exercises of all backgrounds and ideologies believed that Trump would prioritize personal gain and self-protection over ensuring an orderly administrative handoff to his successor. Trump may use pardons to thwart future criminal prosecution, arrange business deals with foreign governments that benefit him financially, attempt to bribe and silence associates, declassify sensitive documents, and attempt to divert federal funds to his own businesses.
And mitigations:
• Plan for a contested election. If there is a crisis, events will unfold quickly, and sleep-deprived leaders will be asked to make consequential decisions quickly. Thinking through options now will help to ensure better decisions. Approach this as a political battle, not just a legal battle.In the event of electoral contestation, sustained political mobilization will likely be crucial for ensuring transition integrity.Dedicated staff and resources need to be in place at least through the end of January.

Focus on readiness in the states, providing political support for a complete and accurate count. Governors, Secretaries of State, Attorneys General and Legislatures can communicate and rein-force laws and norms and be ready to confront irregularities. Election officials will need political and public support to see the process through to completion.

Address the two biggest threats head on: lies about “voter fraud” and escalating violence. Voting fraud is virtually non-existent, but Trump lies about it to create a narrative designed to politically mobilize his base and to create the basis for contesting the results should he lose. The potential for violent conflict is high, particularly since Trump encourages his supporters to take up arms.

Anticipate a rocky administrative transition. Transition teams will likely need to do two things simultaneously: defend against Trump’s reckless actions on his way out of office; and find creative solutions to ensure landing teams are able to access the information and resources they need to begin to prepare for governing.
Here is a Guardian article from today on what ordinary people can do to prepare for an attempted Republican coup. Smushing the basic points down as much as possible:

• Vote, get out the vote for Biden, volunteer to help with elections, etc.
• Prepare to organize for mass-mobilization in the streets. Talk to people you know about the risks, share the TIP report, the Foley report or this article discussing the risks in detail. Take these seriously as possibilities, push back against American exceptionalism and "can't happen here" attitudes of complacency. Be realistic.
• If you're in a position to do this with organizations and institutions, do this with organizations and institutions.
• General strike.

Choose Democracy has more information on implementing any of these into actual action. My position is that Republicans are staging a coup now and will continue to escalate and diversify their tactics in the coming months. Whether or not that is successful will depend on how prepared people are in responding to that. Relying on the perceived incompetence of Republicans (which Trump has been great for - pay no attention to the fascists behind the clown) or on institutional norms or ruling class interests or fantasies about what the Democrats would totally do if only they could... to stop what is already happening is not helpful. Denying that Republicans are actively attempting to permanently dismantle US democracy, or that "it won't get that bad" is not helpful. It is important to be realistic and look at what has already happened and what is likely to happen, and to prepare our responses based on that.

I know both my posts here sound chiding or combative, but please chalk that up to my being fairly sleep deprived. My main point is that it is crucial to take the threat of an overt authoritarian power grab by Republicans seriously - whether through voter fraud tied to narratives of "voter fraud," decrying the entire election as rigged, mobilizing white supremacist militias, police, DHS and ICE or any number of other specific scenarios. This is already happening and is not a hypothetical.
posted by Lonnrot at 12:19 PM on October 20 [34 favorites]


Obama won by an absolute landslide and they never once acknowledged his legitimacy or mandate and spent his entire two terms sabotaging everything he tried to do, spreading endless disinformation, encouraging people to arm themselves because he was going to impose Sharia law/communism and take away their guns, stealing a Supreme Court seat, stealing various lower-level elections, etc.

And the so-called "liberal media" both-sidesed it all the way, blaming "partisan bickering" or "Congressional gridlock" for not passing legislation that Republicans blocked.

The fact that the New York Times publishes a hack like Douthat in its op-ed space tells you all need to know about how willing they are to appease conservatives.
posted by Gelatin at 1:30 PM on October 20 [6 favorites]


> Trump is not going to take cover behind the Resolute Desk and try to shoot his way out past the Secret Service.

You are correct. The Atlantic has laid out exactly how the election could be stolen and it is much more banal than the above. It does not involve the military or bunkering in the White House. It's a lot easier than that.

One - of several - ways of counteracting the vote is for states to appoint electors other than those chosen by voters, something that might fly under the pretext of the oft-claimed voter fraud. Excerpt from the Atlantic article:

The Trump-campaign legal adviser I spoke with told me the push to appoint electors would be framed in terms of protecting the people’s will. Once committed to the position that the overtime count has been rigged, the adviser said, state lawmakers will want to judge for themselves what the voters intended.

“The state legislatures will say, ‘All right, we’ve been given this constitutional power. We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state,’ ”


Indeed some Republican lawmakers have indirectly implied support for actions like the above.

A landslide for Biden could defeat such an attempt by eliminating their pretext. So that's what we need to do.
posted by splitpeasoup at 4:03 PM on October 20 [9 favorites]


A loss by Trump just means he kicks and dismantles anyone’s peace until they give him what he wants (pardons, grift, adoration, a tv network) just to shut him up. It’s how he’s done ‘business’ his entire life.
posted by Harry Caul at 6:56 PM on October 20


FWIW, I'm putting $5 down on "Impeached again, November 4th." Because there's every reason for it, and after the election, no reason not to.
posted by sexyrobot at 7:05 PM on October 20


FWIW, I'm putting $5 down on "Impeached again, November 4th." Because there's every reason for it, and after the election, no reason not to.

Run the inquiry in the House through December, then do the trial with the new Senate in January.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:17 PM on October 20 [4 favorites]


Impeachment requires a supermajority for conviction that is well beyond even the best case projections for the next Senate.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:40 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


This idea that if only we had a popular election instead of the electoral college would mean that Trump wouldn't have been elected is false. The candidates campaign to win the electoral college, if it was majority rule, don't you think they would change their strategy and campaign in populous states?

I think in that case the Republican party would focus on suppressing minority voters in populous states, just as they presently attempt to suppress minority voters in states they expect to win. But winning the popular vote wouldn't make them more legitimate: many despotic regimes have been quite popular, certainly more popular than their opposition. The problem is that the Republican party is anti-(small-d)-democratic at every level and are working to achieve a situation where it will not matter whether they win popular votes or not. Their occupation of many judicial positions is part of that, as is their disenfranchisement of minorities. And US demographics are changing such that Republican control of the Senate will be locked in. At that point democratic change will be pretty much irrelevant, because non-Republican Presidents will be unable to make any appointments or fulfill their agenda; and the Republicans' compliant judiciary will be ready to roll back any established protections that don't accord with the new order.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:50 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


And US demographics are changing such that Republican control of the Senate will be locked in.
This is kind of de-raily, but I think it is a mistake to think that the current distribution of people is going to be the way things are forever. The big, mostly coastal, cities have been growing in population and wealth since the mid-1990's. Before that small towns and suburbs were more popular for 4-5 decades. Demographics are not static and while I don't think we will "go back" to anything, those cities have long been prohibitively expensive, so young entrepreneurs and creatives have begun moving out to places they can afford to live and work in. This has been reported for at least the last 5 years, and it is already beginning to show, some states that pundits and some politicians thought would be forever red are turning purple. Nothing is fixed.
posted by mumimor at 4:36 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


A landslide for Biden could defeat such an attempt by eliminating their pretext. So that's what we need to do.

My understanding from watching 2016 is that it's effectively the tv networks that call the election, which sets the narrative (votes are counted for reals, but it's the call and concession that effectively determine the presidency). If there is a Biden landslide and the tv networks believe that the votes show a Biden landslide on the night and call it, then that would help a lot.
posted by plonkee at 5:46 AM on October 21 [3 favorites]


I appreciate the concrete steps towards readiness provided above. I think preparing at a state level will be key. Trump postponing or canceling elections is dismissed as an unrealistic scenario due to the nature of our state controlled voting system, but at this point I don’t think it is implausible that at least one republican controlled state (Florida?) will postpone in-person voting to further muddy the waters. It seems counterintuitive, since Trump is likely to win those states anyway, but would certainly cause chaos, and if the rest of the states seem to vote in Biden’s favor, having one state that hasn’t had their election yet but could conceivably tip the balance for Trump would enable him to claim victory as he fights the rest of the election results on other legal fronts. I guess it’s just hard for me to imagine Trump will allow a scenario where he clearly loses without pulling out all of the stops first. If someone can explain why this can’t happen, I’d love to hear the reasons.

Another concern of mine that I haven’t seen addressed anywhere is that Biden’s campaign will be stripped of its assets immediately after the election under Executive Order 13848 of September 12, 2018 ( Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election ), which would hamper the inevitable legal battles and be a whole other front to fight on. But maybe I’m just reading too much into the language of that executive order.
posted by soy bean at 7:45 AM on October 21


> biogeo:
"Ross Douthat is a pretty reliable source, in that if he says something, you can bet the opposite is probably true.

I applied to be a poll worker in my county a few weeks ago and still haven't heard anything. There was a message at the website with the application stating that due to an unusually high volume of applications they may take longer than usual to respond, so I'm guessing the word has gotten out that working the polls is a good way to help defend democracy, at least in my area. But maybe not in your area, so check and see! The application only took me about 10 minutes to fill out, so if you can spare the day, definitely check it out.

The information about becoming a poll monitor is great, thanks for the post and the links!"


I applied to work the polls in August, didn't get called back until the middle of September, and only got the letter actually confirming my acceptance and asking to make an appointment for training until last week. The training sessions aren't until the end of next week. I guess they want the info to be fresh or something?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:48 AM on October 21


How hard is it for Republicans to rig the Senate races? It's hard to rig a landslide, but their chances are better there. They must be pretty keen on keeping the Senate as that and the Supreme court would let them gridlock a lot of what Biden could do.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:54 AM on October 21


. The training sessions aren't until the end of next week. I guess they want the info to be fresh or something?

Check the board of election's website. Ours has the training videos online.
posted by mikelieman at 10:22 AM on October 21 [1 favorite]


I applied to be a poll worker, and got my training online. I'm working one stop-voting this Saturday, and election day. From what I can tell, the Board of Elections position is that everyone votes - if they aren't appearing the rolls for some reason, they get a provisional ballot.

I saw the quintessential "bless his heart" Southern yard sign yesterday. It read, "Pray for Trump. Vote for Biden."

Edited to respond to the topic: I think a lot of enlisted soldiers are still pro-Trump. I don't think they are enthusiastic enough to support a coup. That would be a be jump.
posted by corvikate at 11:29 AM on October 21 [3 favorites]


> mikelieman:
". The training sessions aren't until the end of next week. I guess they want the info to be fresh or something?

Check the board of election's website. Ours has the training videos online."


Oh no, this is Iowa. Covid isn't real here, so we never shut down. (/s)

The letter did say that there would be a zoom option, and that recordings would be made of the training, but not how to access them.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:38 AM on October 21


Impeachment requires a supermajority for conviction that is well beyond even the best case projections for the next Senate.

Who gives a shit? They still have to answer the charges, it clogs the senate, and eats all the news cycles. I say impeach him for the election interference he's already done and block him from fucking with the count. And if mitch refuses to answer the charges, impeach him too.
posted by sexyrobot at 4:08 PM on October 21 [4 favorites]


There has already been coup in the United States in recent times and it was done by George W. Bush, a not competent enough to run a coup man, and some asshats in Brooks Brothers clothing with the assistance of the Supreme Court.

Amy Coney Barrett, along with John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh worked for those Brooks Brothers Bros at the time. And yet Lindsey Graham has the chutzpah to complain about the Democrats packing the court.
posted by y2karl at 6:30 AM on October 22 [3 favorites]






Politico: Your Guide to an Election Gone Bad:
“There are different points where we’ll know what kind of world we’re living in,” says Stanford Law School election expert Nathaniel Persily. “Every nightmare scenario begins with the early states not being decisive and the absentee vote in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin being outcome determinative. We’ll know within four hours of polls closing whether we live in that world.”...

What should we start worrying about, and when? Below, we’ve pulled their insights into a chronological guide: What to watch for in the minutes, days, weeks and months after voting ends on Nov. 3...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:27 AM on October 23 [2 favorites]


Washington Post: Fearful calls flood election offices as Trump attacks mail-in voting, threatening participation in GOP strongholds
Weber County, a majority-Republican community of 260,000 on the eastern shores of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, held its first by-mail election in 2013. The process gained such widespread confidence that by June of this year, more than 99 percent of ballots cast in the primary were placed in the mail or deposited in a drop box.
But something has changed in Weber County, which now requires three full-time phone operators to field calls from residents “suddenly worried about voting by mail,” said Ricky Hatch, the county clerk and auditor.
“Voters refer to ballots being thrown in a ditch, a river and dumpsters,” said Hatch, a Republican. They mention “dogs receiving ballots” and worry about things such as foreign interference and “rogue postal workers.” Some ask about dead people voting, he said.
I guess the Trump/Putin method has always been equal-opportunity, non-partisan chaos. But I suspect a lot of down-ballot republicans see it differently.
posted by mumimor at 8:18 PM on October 24 [1 favorite]


« Older It's hard to meet women when you look like this   |   Sound macroeconomic management — or, socialism Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments