The Insurrection Was Only One Step in the Attempted Coup

The radical reactionaries on the Supreme Court didn’t get a chance to overturn the 2020 election, although given how five Republican justices handed the presidency to George Bush in 2000, they might have been willing. 

It’s important to distinguish between the attempted coup and the January 6th insurrection. Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton advisor, explained the distinction on January 6, 2022, for The Guardian:

The insurrection was not the coup itself. It was staged as the coup was failing. The insurrection and the coup were distinct, but the insurrection emerged from the coup. It has been a common conceptual error to consider the insurrection alone to be the coup. The coup, however, was an elaborate plot developed over months to claim that the votes in the key swing states were fraudulent, for Mike Pence as the presiding officer of the joint session of the Congress to declare on that basis that the certification of the presidential election on the constitutionally mandated date could not be done, to force that day to pass into a twilight zone of irresolution, for House Republicans to hold the floor brandishing the endless claims of fraud, to move the decision to the safe harbor of the House of Representatives, voting by states, with a majority of 26 controlled by the Republican party, to deny both the popular vote and the electoral college vote to retain T____ in office, for protests to breakout at federal buildings, and for the president to invoke the Insurrection Act to impose law and order.

Presumably, any gesture to forestall the coup by the joint chiefs would be communicated at once to T____ from his agent, Kash Patel, a former aide to far-right representative Devin Nunes), sworn enemy of the “Deep State”, embedded as chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense, and presidential orders would be issued to countermand. The rally on 6 January – “will be wild”, T____ promised – was a last-ditch attempt to intimidate the vice-president with the threat of violence into fulfilling his indispensable role in the coup, to lend support to the Republicans objecting to certification, and to delay the proceedings into a constitutional no man’s land. …

The insurrection may also have been intended to provide a pretext for precipitating clashes with anti-T____ demonstrators, following the example of the street violence and multiple knife stabbings perpetrated in Washington by the neo-Nazi Proud Boys chanting “1776” on 12 December, and which would then be an excuse for invoking the Insurrection Act. In the criminal contempt citation of Meadows for his refusal to testify before the select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, the committee noted that Meadows sent an email the day before the assault to an unnamed individual “that the national guard would be present to ‘protect pro-T____ people’ and that many more would be available on standby”. From whom would “pro-T____ people” be protected?

In the midst of the attack, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, managed to reach a preoccupied T____, who was riveted viewing the unfolding chaos on television at the White House, closely monitoring whether the coup would finally succeed, taking phone calls from Jim Jordan and a host of collaborators, and fending off urgent pleas to call it off … T____’s first reply to McCarthy was to repeat “the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol”, according to the Republican representative Jaime Herrera Beutler.

McCarthy argued: “It’s not Antifa, it’s Maga. I know. I was there.” “Well, Kevin,” said T____, “I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” “Who the fuck do you think you are talking to?” McCarthy inquired in an uncharacteristic display of testosterone that soon was replaced with his regular order of servility …. The absence of antifa, and McCarthy’s refusal in the heat of the moment to lend credence to the phantom menace, may have condemned any false-flag thought of invoking the Insurrection Act. Meanwhile, the bayonet-ready national guard idly awaited orders for hours to quell the actual insurrection. …

The coup was hardly T____’s full-blown brainchild. It was packaged for him. It was adapted, enhanced and intensified from longstanding Republican strategies for voter suppression. The coup was a variation on the theme from a well-worn playbook. T____ eagerly grasped for the plan handed to him.

More than a year before the election of 2020, in August 2019, conservative operatives in closely connected rightwing organizations began preparing a strategy for disputing election results. A “Political Process Working Group” focused on “election law and ballot integrity” was launched by Lisa Nelson, the CEO of the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), heavily funded by the Koch brothers’ dark money syndicate, the Donors Trust. …

The investigative reporter Anne Nelson, in her book Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right, describes the CNP as a nexus of “the manpower and media of the Christian right with the finances of western plutocrats and the strategy of rightwing Republican political operatives”.

A board member of the CNP, Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer at the center of a host of rightwing groups, assumed control over the Alec-originated project and moved it forward. Mitchell was instrumental in devising the blueprint for the coup. On 10 December 2020, 65 leading members of the CNP signed a succinct step-by-step summary of the completely elaborated plot that went little noticed except on the coup-friendly rightwing website Gateway Pundit:

The evidence overwhelmingly shows officials in key battleground states – as the result of a coordinated pressure campaign by Democrats and allied groups – violated the constitution, state and federal law in changing mail-in voting rules that resulted in unlawful and invalid certifications of Biden victories. There is no doubt President D____ J T____ is the lawful winner of the presidential election. Joe Biden is not president-elect. Accordingly, state legislatures in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada and Michigan should exercise their plenary power under the constitution and appoint clean slates of electors to the electoral college to support President T____. Similarly, both the House and Senate should accept only these clean electoral college slates and object to and reject any competing slates in favor of Vice-President Biden from these states. Conservative leaders and groups should begin mobilizing immediately to contact their state legislators, as well as their representatives in the House and Senate, to demand that clean slates of electors be appointed in the manner laid out in the US constitution.

Mitchell was by then a T____ campaign legal adviser, with direct access to T____ and working on the Georgia challenge to the results.

Ridiculous, But Still Seditious

The attorneys general of Texas and 17 other states run by Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to change the winner of the presidential election in four states Joe Biden won: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If the Supreme Court agreed, the Democratic electors in those four states wouldn’t get to vote for Biden. Instead, the Republican-led legislatures in George, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would appoint electors who would then presumably vote for Biden’s opponent. Since those four states have 62 electoral votes between them, the Orange Menace would receive 294 electoral votes, enough for him to stay in office another four years. Voila!

The president and his cult have already lost more than 50 lawsuits before both Democratic and Republican judges aimed at changing the results of the election. But, according to the president, this latest lawsuit is “the big one”. It’s always been his hope that the Supreme Court, now overflowing with Republicans (three chosen by him), would come to his rescue if the election didn’t go his way.

In lawyer-speak, there is “no factual or legal basis” for the Supreme Court to intervene in the election. Giving Texas what it’s asking for would amount to a judicial coup d’état. Pennsylvania’s response to the lawsuit says “the Court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated”. It’s not a close call.

In fact, it’s unlikely that the attorneys general of Texas and the other states think they can win. The president may be an ignoramus who lives in a world of his own imagination (he is), so he might think there’s hope. No doubt millions of his supporters believe the Supreme Court will step in and save their hero. But the attorneys general all made it through law school. They’re simply using the Supreme Court to publicly demonstrate they’ll do anything, no matter how preposterous, to back this president and Keep America Great Again.

As an indication of the seriousness of the Texas lawsuit, look at the statistical “evidence” the lawsuit presents (pages 6 and 7 here). They got one of the president’s supporters, who is roughly 80 years old and claims to have a Ph.D.in economics, to state that there was less than a 1 in 1 quadrillion chance (that’s less than 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000) that Biden won even one of the four states, given (1) how far ahead Txxxx was at 3 a.m. on the night of the election and (2) how much better Biden did than Hillary Clinton four years ago. These calculations were based on two absurd assumptions:

(1) Votes counted before 3 a.m. on the night of the election and those counted after 3 a.m. (including on subsequent days) were from identical samples of voters. But, as expected, Democrats tended to vote by mail, which meant their ballots were counted more slowly; and, of course, some jurisdictions count votes and report results more slowly than others. The assumption that “votes are evenly and randomly distributed among geographic regions, demographics, and voting method, so that any two large groups of voters should generate similar results [has been] described as “ludicrous” and “statistical incompetence” by several academics. Kenneth Mayer, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, said “This is going to be used in undergraduate statistics classes as a canonical example of how not to do statistics” [Wikipedia].

(2) Since they were both Democrats running for president, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton should have received roughly the same percentage of votes in the four states. Is it necessary to mention that Biden and Clinton were different candidates running in elections four years apart, and that Clinton ran against a political newcomer, while Biden ran against an incumbent with a disastrous four-year record? Or that the differences between Biden’s percentages and Clinton’s were relatively small — the only significant difference being that he won and she lost?

So, the Supreme Court will either refuse to consider Texas’s lawsuit or dismiss it. This doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Millions of Republican voters, more than a few of whom are either violent or crazy, are counting on the Supreme Court. How will they react when they’re disappointed? (Gosh, I hope they refuse to vote in the Senate election in Georgia — that will show the politicians who’s boss!)

Secondly, hundreds of Republican politicians from around the country have signed on to this lawsuit, all repeating the same stupid arguments in favor of ignoring the votes of millions of their fellow citizens. As Paul Krugman wrote today:

The [Republican Party] has no commitment to democracy, and hasn’t for years. Given the chance to turn America into Hungary, the GOP wouldn’t hesitate for a second.

Some Republicans might hesitate, but it’s clear that one of our major political parties no longer plays by the rules. Their goal is power, and we have no idea how far they’ll go to get it or keep it. 

Note: Now that all the states have certified their election results, the Electoral College will meet on Monday and declare Joe Biden the winner. Thirty-seven days later, he’ll be sworn in. If you’d like to look at the legal documents filed for and against Texas’s suit, they’re available on the Supreme Court site.