Don’t Worry — They’re Merely Attempting a Coup

Well, technically speaking, it wouldn’t be a coup unless Joe Biden was already president. One dictionary says a coup is a sudden alteration or overthrow of an existing government, usually by force. Another says a coup is a sudden illegal, often violent, taking of government power, especially by the military. So unless some powerful group, like the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is able to replace Biden after January 20th, we’re not looking at a coup.

Instead, what President Txxxx and his Republican co-conspirators are trying to do is steal the election. Of course, we’re beyond that kind of thing now. But an historian at the Smithsonian Institution explains that, back in the 19th century, stealing elections was almost routine. There were two methods:

Although most elections were (relatively) clean, “majority manufacturers” in teeming Northern cities, racially tense Southern districts and new Western settlements laid out two paths for stealing elections — steal the cast or steal the count.

“Stealing the cast” meant interfering with the vote up front. You bribed people to vote your way or got gangs of your supporters to vote illegally. You intimidated legal voters with threats of violence or somehow stopped them from getting to the polls.

“Stealing the cast” on Election Day was a lot of work, much of it illegal and confrontational. “Stealing the count” was easier. It required quietly turning power into more power, using local officials to swing state elections with national consequences. 

Destroying ballots was a preferred method. However, in one case, in Mississippi in 1880, somebody put a powerful laxative in the Republican poll workers’ dinner, allowing Democrats to add fraudulent ballots while the Republicans were indisposed.

In the 1876 election, while the Democrats decisively won the popular vote, Republican-controlled [election committees] in disputed states used fraud, bribery and the U.S. Army to steal the count. In Louisiana, they disqualified whole parishes, throwing out one in 10 votes statewide, 85 percent of them for Democrats.

That’s what the Republicans are trying to do in 2020: steal the cast. They’re putting pressure on local officials to disqualify legal ballots or replace Democratic electors (the Electoral College voters) with Republicans. From The Washington Post:

President Txxxx has invited the leaders of Michigan’s Republican-controlled state legislature to meet him in Washington on Friday, . . . as the president and his allies continue an extraordinary campaign to overturn the results of an election he lost.

Txxxx’s campaign has suffered defeats in courtrooms across the country in its efforts to allege irregularities with the ballot-counting process, and has failed to muster any evidence of the widespread fraud that the president continues to claim tainted the 2020 election.

Txxxx lost Michigan by a wide margin: At present, he trails President-Elect Joe Biden in the state by 157,000 votes. Earlier this week, the state’s Republican Senate majority leader said an effort to have legislators throw out election results was “not going to happen.”

But the president now appears to be using the full weight of his office to challenge the election results, as he and his allies reach out personally to state and local officials in an intensifying effort to halt the certification of the vote in key battleground states.

In an incendiary news conference in Washington, Rudolph W. Giuliani, . . . who is now serving as Txxxx’s lead attorney, made baseless claims that Biden had orchestrated a national conspiracy to rig the vote.

Txxxx’s team appear to be increasingly focused on Michigan as a place where Republican officials — on the state’s Board of Canvassers and in the legislature — might be persuaded to overturn the results.

Earlier this week, Txxxx called a member of Wayne County’s Board of Canvassers after a contentious meeting in which she first refused, and then agreed, to certify election results from the state’s largest county. She subsequently released an affidavit seeking to “rescind” her vote for certification — a move that the secretary of state’s office said was impossible.

Legal experts condemned the president’s actions, saying he was trying to use the power of his office to alter the vote.

“To bring the weight of the White House and the presidency onto an individual county canvassing board commissioner about what to do with certification is an incredible assault on the democratic process,” said Richard H. Pildes, a constitutional law professor at New York University. . . .

Joanna Lydgate, the national director of the Voter Protection Program, said . . . “the president’s unpatriotic behavior is reaching new heights with summoning state legislative officials to the White House,” she said. “But the legislature has no role in certification, as its leaders have already publicly admitted. This raises serious legal and ethical concerns about the president’s conduct — but it will not alter the outcome of the election.”

Despite that, Txxxx and his allies have spent the last week making baseless allegations of fraud in lawsuits, news conferences and tweets — seemingly probing to find a judge or an elected official who would accept them.

At the news conference in Washington on Thursday, Giuliani claimed without evidence that the campaign could roll back Biden’s wins in multiple states, including Michigan.

“It changes the result of the election in Michigan if you take out Wayne County,” he said. Wayne County includes Detroit, the state’s heavily Democratic, majority-Black largest city.

It’s yet another case of Trump Projection: accuse your opponents of the nefarious behavior you’re doing yourself. I’m totally convinced he won’t succeed, but the participation or silence of leading Republicans means they’d accept a competent attempt to steal a future election, especially if it’s closer than this one (the 2000 election with its “Brooks Brothers riot” and Supreme Court intervention already suggested that).

As for today, Chris Krebs, the election security official who was fired after he said it was a fair election, says Giuliani’s “press conference was the most dangerous 1 hour 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest”. 

Matthew Gertz of Media Matters for America adds this:

President Txxxx, Fox News, and other pro-Txxxx propaganda outlets created an impermeable information bubble for the Republican base. Within that bubble, it is canon that the 2020 election was ripe with voter fraud and that Txxxx actually won if you only count the “legal votes”. 

It is very easy to imagine a . . . purge of Republican [politicians] who don’t play ball with what really looks like a coup attempt [Note: not technically speaking!] in plain sight, based on mass invalidation of ballots and elections. And very hard for me to imagine the [Republican Party] walking back from this edge and becoming a party with any appreciation for basic precepts of democracy.

And it all begins with the right-wing information bubble. If you don’t spend time there, understand that right now it is a constant stream of conspiracy theories and bullshit that the election was stolen. Vanishingly few exceptions, and those will be marginalized.

Finally, a report from Reuters:

A senior Txxxx campaign official told Reuters its plan is to cast enough doubt on vote-counting in big, Democratic cities that Republican lawmakers will have little choice but to intercede.

The campaign is betting that many of those lawmakers, who come from districts Txxxx won, will face a backlash from voters if they refuse to act. The campaign believes the longer they can drag this out, the more they will have an opportunity to persuade lawmakers to intervene . . . 

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll published this week suggested the Txxxx campaign had succeeded in stirring doubt — however unfounded — about the presidential election. The survey found about half of Republicans think [Dear Leader] “rightfully won” the election he lost.