A coup is not about what someone’s motives are for having it. A coup is about what happens, what can be measured. A coup doesn’t stop being a coup because someone is doing it for profit, and start being a coup because someone is doing it for power. Plenty of coups for profit have succeeded in seizing governments; plenty of coups for power have failed.
Neither are we psychic enough to know for sure any motives that Trump has behind his actions. We know his whim is unpredictable, dangerous, and can change by mood, yet then we act as if we can predict his future actions perfectly. We can’t. The only thing he’s demonstrated is that whatever is most chaotic is what he knows how to exploit best.
A coup is measured in what is happening. Last week, Trump replaced three of the four most powerful people at the Pentagon: the Secretary of Defense and two under-secretaries. We’re told Secretary Mark Esper’s removal was expected, and this makes us feel safer without our asking why it was expected – because he opposed the invocation of the Insurrection Act to use active duty military against protesters.
Richard Pilger, the director of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch was forced out on Nov. 9 because he opposed Trump’s Attorney General William Barr attempting to interfere with election results. Now Christopher Krebs, the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, has been fired for refuting the Trump-Pence Administration’s conspiracy theories. All this in a week and a day.
Meanwhile, Trump is denying the results of the election along with the majority of the Republican Party. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week told us he expected a “smooth transition to a second Trump Administration”.
These are all steps that are component to a coup. That it hasn’t fully formed is not an excuse to pretend it won’t matter. The only reason it’s not fully formed is because it’s still advancing bit by bit every day. It doesn’t need to be clear, highlighted, and complete with a “We’re having a coup here!” sign if it can still get stronger every day by being murky and ill-defined.
Trump, Barr, Miller, and their cohorts may not even know how far they’ll follow through on it. The answer is: however far we allow them.
Do I think Biden will be seated as president on time? I think it’s likely. But if we face even a 30% or 20% chance of a coup that goes much further than it already has, that’s far too high to risk.
I get that we recognize a full-fledged coup isn’t taking place. But that’s not the same as recognizing no coup whatsoever is taking place. As in many things, the Trump-Pence administration is pushing the norms further and further out to see just what they can get away with. If it’s some no-bid contracts and arms sales that make them money, that’s what it will be. If it’s a second Trump Administration ignoring the election, that’s what it will be.
The defining factor isn’t what they intend or what they want, because they’ve always wanted as much as they can take. The defining factor is where we stop them from taking any more. That means the work of active opposition and resistance to this administration isn’t done. However much it sucks, however much we don’t like it, that is the reality.
The thing is, we know how to beat this stuff; we’ve been doing it for four years. That is also the reality. We’re good at it by now. Sometimes even extraordinary. So go be really fucking good at organizing and calling and – if organizers decide it’s needed, marching. Go be really fucking good at stopping their greed and destruction one more time. Don’t let them leave on any victory, and certainly don’t risk them staying on one. Make them slink away into the night with their tails between their legs like the caught out con-men they are.
Gabriel Valdez has served as a campaign manager, PAC manager, legislative aide, and reporter. If what you read on this site is useful to you, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.