Tag Archives: coup

The Emerging Story Of January 6th

Like many people who read this blog, I receive the daily Substack newsletters issued by Heather Cox Richardson. They are always informative, but Richardson is especially good at two things: concisely summarizing important news, and providing historical context for it.

Her October 31st newsletter focused on in-depth reporting from The Washington Post–and did so in a way that illuminated the importance of that reporting.

The Post’s report was a “deep dive” into January 6th–the events leading up to the insurrection, an in-depth description of that event, and the machinations that followed it. It involved a team of 75, including more than 25 reporters;  they “reviewed video and court transcripts, followed social media posts, and interviewed more than 230 people.” The report, which can be found in its entirety here, concluded that Trump was to blame.

It also uncovered what I can only call an “intentionality” that surprised me.

Like most of my friends, I have blamed Trump for the uprising, but not in the intentional, purposeful, planned way disclosed by the Post’s investigation. His presidency was so inept, his lack of intellect and discipline so pronounced, his complete ignorance of the way government worked so debilitating, that it simply never occurred to me that he might be capable of actually planning a coup. Riling up his supporters, sure–egging them on, sure. Taking satisfaction from the mob’s “acting out,” absolutely. But deliberately engaging in planning to overturn an election seemed beyond his limited abilities.

Evidently, I was wrong. (That has been happening a lot…) As Richardson summarized,

The report concludes: “Trump was the driving force at every turn as he orchestrated what would become an attempted political coup in the months leading up to Jan. 6, calling his supporters to Washington, encouraging the mob to march on the Capitol and freezing in place key federal agencies whose job it was to investigate and stop threats to national security.” It notes that the former president did not make any effort to stop the attacks until it was clear they wouldn’t succeed, and that lawmakers assumed he was backing the rioters….

The Washington Post report places the insurrection into context: “The consequences of that day are still coming into focus, but what is already clear is that the insurrection was not a spontaneous act nor an isolated event. It was a battle in a broader war over the truth and over the future of American democracy,” it says. “Since then, the forces behind the attack remain potent and growing.”

There is much more detail in the linked Letter, and it is chilling; I encourage you to click through and read it.

Although the Letter didn’t address it, I think these new revelations explain something I’ve been unable to understand: the persistence of Trump’s repetition of, and his base’s professed belief in, The Big Lie.  Given the utter lack of any probative evidence of voter fraud or other “rigging,” why the constant insistence that Trump “really” won an election he clearly lost by over 8 million votes?

Here’s my theory: If someone is mounting a coup–especially in a country with a historical commitment to democracy and majority rule–the question of legitimacy looms large. Had Trump been successful (or if he ultimately succeeds in reclaiming the White House) think how much better–how much more self-serving and legitimizing–it would be to claim that he is being “restored” to a position to which he was really entitled.

The effort on January 6th to subvert a democratic election failed, but we aren’t out of the woods by a long shot. A frightening number of our fellow-Americans have imbibed the Kool Ade and joined this cult, aided and abetted by a pretty sophisticated disinformation industry. Worse, most of the rest of us continue to discount the clear and present danger they pose. We continue to believe that coups happen elsewhere.

The Washington Post concluded that America is in a fight for the survival of democracy. We need to listen, because it can happen here.

On January 6th, it almost did.

 

 

 

Mitch McConnell Issues A Threat

This morning, I’ve created a theoretical exercise. it’s intended to put you in the proper frame of mind to consider the latest outrage from Mitch McConnell–aka the most dangerous man in America.

Assume we are watching a TV western. The sheriff–having won a hard-fought election in his scruffy border town by promising to keep the residents safe from (unspecified) “bad guys”–issues a proclamation promising to deal severely with law-breakers. Well, maybe not all law-breakers. He’ll deal severely with any law-breakers who supported his opponent in the election.

If someone who supported him breaks the rules, however, he says he’ll look the other way.

If we encountered  a show with that plot device, we’d be incredulous–not only is that not what we mean when we champion law and order, we’d turn the TV off while muttering about the ridiculous premise–after all, when TV bad guys decide to engage in nefarious acts, they don’t typically broadcast that intention. If that storyline did appear in our fictional TV episode, we’d expect the local folks–including those who’d supported the sheriff– to rise up and run him and his co-conspirators out of town, thereby reinforcing the primacy of justice over partisanship.

Which brings us to Mitch McConnell.

After the Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Jackson, a Black female jurist, will replace Merrick Garland), McConnell reacted with a threat.

In an interview with the conservative radio commentator Hugh Hewitt, Mr. McConnell said Republicans would most likely block any Supreme Court nominee put forward by Mr. Biden in 2024 if Republicans regained control of the Senate in next year’s elections and a seat came open.

Along with most lawyers, I was astonished and infuriated in 2016 when McConnell brazenly refused even to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, piously intoning that it was “too close to the presidential election,” although that election was months away and nominees had previously been confirmed to the Court during similar timeframes..

As we all saw, that excuse was shown to be the partisan hogwash it was when Trump nominated, and McConnell pushed through,  Amy Coney Barrett a mere six weeks before the November election.

Republicans who had banded together in 2016 at Mr. McConnell’s urging and declared that it was not appropriate to confirm a Supreme Court nominee during an election year had remarkable conversions in the case of Judge Barrett. The Republican leader insisted that he had not changed his position, arguing that because Mr. Obama was a Democrat, it was entirely appropriate for members of his party to block his nominee.

“What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president,” Mr. McConnell told Mr. Hewitt. “And that’s why we went ahead with it.”

Partisan misuse of power, in McConnell-land, is “entirely appropriate.”

America without the rule of law would not be America. As far short of our aspirations and stated beliefs as this country has often fallen, it still seems absolutely incomprehensible that a high-ranking, powerful political figure would publicly–proudly!– trumpet his intention to ignore so foundational a principle.

I often refer to the rule of law, assuming readers understand its importance. The shorthand we all hear is: the same rules apply to everyone. Maybe that’s too abstract.

As an educational site maintained by the US Courts defines the concept:

Rule of law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are: Publicly promulgated, Equally enforced, Independently adjudicated; and consistent with international human rights principles.

The Trump administration waged an unrelenting attack on the rule of law, culminating with Trump’s pardons of some of its sleaziest transgressors. But even Trumpers as morally and ethically compromised as Bill Barr drew the line at publicly announcing their disdain for fair and equal application of the rules.

McConnell is the sheriff from my mythical TV show–the guy who publicly announces that the rules don’t matter–that whenever possible, he will ignore fundamental fairness and the national interest, and exercise power solely to privilege his partisans.

In a very real sense, he has promised  a coup. 

Michael Flynn must be so pleased.

 

 

While We Were Sleeping…

Tuesday night, Donald Trump announced his nominee for the Supreme Court seat that has been vacant since the death of Antonin Scalia. When I went to my computer yesterday morning, I found the predictable emails claiming that Judge Gorsuch is an unacceptable, far-right threat to the Republic and must be stopped (and oh, send money).

I agree that this nomination should be rejected (although I doubt it will be), but not because the Judge himself is outside the legal mainstream. He isn’t. He is certainly more conservative than I would like, and I disagree strongly with his particular approach to originalism. But accusations that he is an unacceptable ideologue are intellectually dishonest.

The real reason his nomination should be rejected is that placing him on the Supreme Court would reward an unprecedented assault on the rule of law–the refusal of the Senate to even consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.

They blocked that nomination for entirely specious reasons, simply because they could.

I don’t think most Americans understand the implications of that action–implications that  go well beyond the makeup of the Supreme Court. In fact, the sheer effrontery of that power play requires us to consider the possibility–really, the likelihood– that we are no longer either a democracy or a republic; that during the past several years, while most Americans were comfortably detached from political activism and participation, a far-right faction of the Republican party managed to pull off a bloodless coup.

In plain sight.

Thanks to strategic gerrymandering, voters no longer choose their representatives–the representatives choose their voters. Together with successful vote suppression tactics (aided and abetted by voter apathy and citizen disengagement), the result is that this country is now run by people chosen by barely a quarter of those entitled to vote.

Thanks to manipulation of the filibuster, majority rule is no longer sufficient to pass legislation in the Senate. A minority of that body can block anything.

We are now governed by people who sneer at the rules of a constitutional system intended to constrain precisely the sort of power they now wield.

In the past, America has prided itself on adherence to the rule of law. A fundamental tenet of the rule of law is that no one is above the law–that the rules apply to everyone, governors and governed alike. Senator McConnell’s willingness to place raw power above that principle–and to gloat about it– was evidence that these radical usurpers no longer feel it necessary to give even lip service to that foundational principle.

It was the ultimate “fuck you, America. We have seized power and can do what we want.”

If Gorsuch is confirmed, so is the coup. It has nothing at all to do with his  judicial philosophy or bona fides.

I’m very much afraid that while Americans were sleeping through the warning signs, we lost our country.