The Coup Stage of Donald Trump’s Presidency. Masha Gessen of the New Yorker compares Trump’s con to a coup. Scriber follows on by pointing out a progression from con to coup get’s us to the same, bad place.
Across a reassuringly wide political spectrum, observers hold that Trump’s refusal to concede the election results is not tantamount to a coup attempt. In the Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney wrote, “Trump is a con man, and his insistence that he can overturn the election is his latest grift.” In The Nation, Jeet Heer argued that, while Trump’s behavior is concerning, “it is very different than a coup. It is more accurately viewed as a cover-up,” adding that Trump is “interested in keeping his con game afloat.” My colleague Susan Glasser posed the question “Is it a coup or a con?” to a dozen of her smartest Washington sources, and they, too, tilted the needle closer to “con.”
But, as I said …
"Con versus coup” might be a false dichotomy. A coup is a power claim made illegitimately, often but not always with the use of force, sometimes illegally but sometimes within the bounds of a constitution. A con is a mushy term: it can be a criminal act or simply an unethical one, perhaps just wily and manipulative. A con, in other words, is an illegitimate act of persuasion. A coup always begins as a con. If the con is successful—if the power claim is persuasive—then a coup has occurred.
Gessen reviews all he weird legal maneuvers that end up failing and closes with this:
Trump’s bad con continues to show how easy it would be to stage a good one. Then we would call it a coup.
Susan B. Glasser, also at the New Yorker, takes us on a ride with Trump’s Clown Coup Crisis. On another terrible week for American democracy.
… [Trump] is no longer merely pursuing spurious lawsuits in state courts; in recent days, he and his lawyers have confirmed publicly that Trump now is trying to directly overturn the election results and the will of the American people by pressuring Republican state legislators to appoint electors who will vote for Trump in the Electoral College instead of Biden.
Since the end of this campaign, which did not result in that victory, Trump has engaged in what I’m increasingly certain history will record as one of the worst offenses of his Presidency: a systemic attack on the integrity of the election itself. This escalated dramatically this week, as his first wave of lawsuits began collapsing under the scrutiny of skeptical judges and nonexistent evidence. Rather than retreat, however, Trump has redoubled his efforts in key states, such as Georgia, Michigan, and Arizona, publicly pressuring local Republican officials not to certify the election results.
In Georgia, this ploy appears to have failed, with the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, openly feuding with the President and denouncing Trump’s efforts to undermine the vote count. On Thursday night, after a hand recount, Georgia officials said that Biden had once again emerged as the winner in the state—the first Democrat to do so since 1992—and that Raffensperger will certify the results on Friday. …
… Mitt Romney, the Utah senator who was the only Republican to vote to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, earlier this year, issued a statement that might well have been the toughest I have ever seen about a President from a member of his own Party. “Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” Romney said. “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.”…
Last week, I wondered in this column about just what Trump was up to in challenging the results: Was it an attempted coup, or just another Trump con? The past few days have seemed to offer an answer, and not a reassuring one. The truth is that even if Trump’s would-be coup looks like a con, even if it seems to be a clown show that’s surely doomed to fail, it must still be taken seriously as long as it is happening. Look at how far Republicans have gone along with Trump’s folly after an election that was decisively won by Biden, a contest in which he beat Trump by more than five million votes and garnered three hundred and six electoral votes—exactly the electoral-college “landslide” that Trump secured in 2016. Republican excuses have grown increasingly pathetic: We’re just giving him time. We’re just letting the process play out. He’s entitled to pursue his claims in the courts. In explicitly demanding that Republican state officials disregard the will of the voters, Trump has, once again, made his Party’s leaders out as stooges and patsies.
The G.O.P. knows all too well that this is not the process by which American elections are decided, not now and not ever. What Trump is doing is not like the 2000 Florida recount. It is not like anything before in American history. Republican leaders can end this today by finally saying publicly what so far they have only had the courage to admit in private. But will they, at long last, tell Trump what the voters said loudly and clearly: It’s over, you lost, and Joe Biden won?