Following are portions of two reports related to the title of this post.
Is Trump Planning a Coup d’État? asks Sasha Abramsky at The Nation. Many observers—including Republicans—worry that he is. They’re organizing now to stop him.
This summer, shortly after scores of camo-wearing, heavily armed federal agents descended on Portland, Ore., to attack protesters, Charles Fried, Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general, pondered the implications of what he was seeing on the streets. What he saw scared him; he remembered the use of paramilitaries by fascist leaders in 1930s Europe, where he was born, and he feared he was now witnessing a slide into paramilitarism in the United States. (His family fled the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.) Fried felt that President Trump was using the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies in a way that was “very menacing. You might as well put brown shirts on them. It’s a very bad thing.”
A Harvard Law School professor who still counts himself as a Republican and a board member of groups such as the Campaign Legal Center, Checks and Balances, and Republicans for the Rule of Law, Fried has grown increasingly worried in recent months about Trump’s willingness to stir chaos and violence as an electoral strategy in the run-up to November’s vote and about the willingness of his attorney general, William Barr, to burn the country’s democratic institutions to the ground to preserve this administration’s hold on power. Like earlier authoritarians, Trump could, Fried fears, utilize “agents provocateurs, getting right-wing people to infiltrate left-oriented and by-and-large peaceful demonstrations to turn them violent to thereby justify intervention.”
Fried, a student of history who chooses his words carefully, has concluded that Trump and his team are “certainly racist, contemptuous of ordinary democratic and constitutional norms, and they believe their cause, their interests, are really the interests of the nation and therefore anything that keeps them in power is in the national interest. Does that make you a fascist? It kind of looks that way, doesn’t it?”
Michael Steele, a former chair of the Republican National Committee, has come to share Fried’s conviction that Trump is a threat to the Republic, although Steele believes the Trump cult is more about naked political opportunism than any grand fascist ideology.
Steele bitterly resents Trump’s takeover of the GOP. He feels that Trump and his acolytes are trying to drive genuine Republicans out of their political home. As Steele piquantly puts it, “I come into your house and shit on the carpet. I tear down your drapes, write on your walls, offend the people who live in the house. Do you leave or kick my ass out? I don’t know anyone who leaves their house without a fight. What kind of America, what kind of country do you want? What kind of leader do you want?”
Like Fried, Steele in recent months concluded that Trump, aided and abetted by the GOP’s congressional leaders, is willing to “open up a Pandora’s box of mischief” to remain ensconced in the White House, Steele says. “He’s laying down the predicate—taking shots at vote by mail and saying he already knows there’s fraud— and therefore it’s likely he won’t accept the results of the election.” For Steele, Trump is “the P.T. Barnum of the 21st century, on steroids,” a man with a mastery of the art of manipulation. “He doesn’t give a shit about the people of Portland. He doesn’t give a crap about Chicago,” Steele avers. “This is not complicated. I don’t know why people keep overthinking this man. His goal is to protect himself. He uses the system against itself.”
This summer, Fried, Steele, and other devotees of traditional conservatism began coordinating with fellow anti-Trump conservatives around the country, as well as with progressive organizations, to strategize responses should Trump attempt to maintain power despite rejection at the polls. Some participants formed the Transition Integrity Project, which includes campaign experts such as Michigan Democratic ex-governor Jennifer Granholm and Democratic Party consultant Donna Brazile, along with Steele and other old-guard GOP stalwarts. They fear that if mail-in votes are still being tabulated weeks after the election and—as seems increasingly likely—barrages of lawsuits are filed by the candidates’ campaigns, conditions could be ripe for Trump to create maximum mayhem.
In their sobering 22-page report, they write of the potential for “escalating violence” if Trump loses and refuses to bow out gracefully. Given the administration’s record of embracing “numerous corrupt and authoritarian practices,” huge numbers of Americans must be ready to take to the streets should Trump and his henchmen try to illegally curtail the counting of mail-in ballots. The administration could deploy federalized National Guard troops to stop vote counts. Indeed, on the day Joe Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, Trump suggested on Fox News that he could order federal agents, even local sheriffs, into polling stations ostensibly to monitor fraud. Trump and his allies could also challenge the results in numerous states simultaneously, send federal forces into Democratic-controlled cities, and through social media accounts and speeches, activate right-wing paramilitary groups.
The report warns that a desperate Trump could push the American republic to the breaking point. …
Taking it to the streets
Dartagnan at the Daily Kos writes about how Progressive groups prepare voters to take to the streets if Trump tries to steal the election.
I’ll pick up the story here.
Donald Trump has made it clear he will contest any result of the 2020 election that does not confirm him as the victor. He has already indicated he is prepared to incite violence among his supporters in order to secure that victory, and, as recent events in Kenosha and Portland have illustrated, his supporters will respond by armed threats to American citizens. Because mail-in ballots this year overwhelmingly favor Democrats, due to well-founded concerns about in-person voting in the midst of the COVID–19 pandemic, there is a significant possibility that at the end of the evening on November 3, Trump, who has systematically tried to disparage mail-in voting and has urged his supporters to vote in person, despite the pandemic, will have eked out a lead among the in-person ballot tally. At that point, it is likely that Trump will declare victory, and claim that any count of the remaining mail-in ballots are tainted by “fraud.” His supporters will then attempt to mobilize and harass ongoing vote-counting efforts in select swing states, in particular, such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, much as the “Brooks Brothers” brigades successfully harassed vote counters in Miami-Dade 20 years ago.
This is not the stuff of an active imagination, but instead a highly likely scenario.
The Trump campaign is already taking steps to intimidate local officials and lay the groundwork for legal challenges to mail-in ballot counts. And the same faces featured in the theft of the 2000 election are again making an appearance. For example, Mercedes Schlapp, whose husband’s efforts were so successful in 2000, is already laying the groundwork for the Trump campaign to accuse local officials of fraud. Further, there are already concrete efforts underway by the GOP to harass and intimidate Democratic voters at the polls, including the use of “poll monitors” to challenge the validity of African-American and Latinx votes. But as we saw in 2000, the more “physical” manifestation of this effort is likely to occur after the polls have closed.
As Ron Brownstein, writing for the Atlantic, reports, it is the memory of the stolen 2000 election that has prompted several progressive organizations to band together in order to ensure that 2020 does not feature another bad result dictated by a “Brooks Brothers riot,” and in particular to counter any anticipated Trump-inspired protests after November 3.
No one can say what exactly will happen if Donald Trump contests an apparent loss on November 3 by insisting that the results are riddled with fraud. But one prediction is safe: Democrats won’t cede the streets to the GOP again in the weeks after the election.
A wide array of progressive groups is already coordinating efforts to ensure substantial public protest after the election to defend the vote counting. Their assumption is that Trump will try to intimidate state officials tabulating mail-in ballots by mobilizing the same sort of armed supporters who poured into midwestern capitals to protest the coronavirus lockdowns in the spring and confronted Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer. The intent on the left, if it comes to that, is to meet Trump’s demonstrators with overwhelming numbers; the goal is to establish a presence more reminiscent of the street uprisings in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the more recent prodemocracy protests in Ukraine and Hong Kong, than of anything in modern American experience.
The effort is called Protect the Results, and includes a broad coalition of liberal and Democratic groups such as Indivisible, CREW, Public Citizen, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Color of Change, Greenpeace, People for the American Way, and yes, Daily Kos.
The ultimate purpose of the effort, of course, is to ensure a fair election, but the added spectacle of hundreds of thousands of potentially disenfranchised voters peacefully marching in the streets is intended to convey a message not only to those counting the votes that we are on their side, but to the media as well.
From the Protect the Results website:
A core principle shared by supporting organizations is a commitment to nonviolent, peaceful actions. All actions that are sponsored, organized, or listed on this page are intended to be nonviolent and peaceful. We expect all participants to act lawfully at all times and to seek to de-escalate any potential confrontation with those who disagree with our values.
The Biden campaign has preemptively announced it is well-equipped to handle the bogus legal challenges that the Trump campaign intends to mount in the event Trump cannot fairly win the election. But the Biden campaign cannot overshadow the threatening aspect of armed neo-Nazis and “militia” terrorists banging the doors at local election boards and auditoriums where these recounts will take place. That can only be achieved by sheer numbers of people demanding that the ballots be counted.
In sum, it isn’t going to be pretty, and for the most part we Democrats will be on our own, faced with a party now quite literally in thrall to fascism. These groups and the many sure to join them in the next few weeks will have our back, but ultimately it may come down to every one of us taking a stand, in the streets.
Thanks to Editor-at-large Sherry for alerts on the “coup”.