There is a coup underway in the United States of America. Some have made an excellent argument that this coup has been going on for several years and is nearing a point of completion. The American electorate has been conscious participants and unwitting victims, but this coup has taken place all the same. This isn’t of the military type, sudden and spectacular with tanks in the streets and some hitherto unknown military commander making statements on the radio. The American coup has been a slow burn, not an explosion. It has been public, yet largely ignored, veiled as it has been in the language of partisan politicking.
Looking back at my own experience, I can now see the groundwork being laid as far back as 2003. Against all opposition, against the advice of allies and the general sentiment of the American people, a Republican president led the charge into a foreign country under the pretext of disarming a dangerous regime and installing liberal democratic institutions. Fifteen years later and the United States is still not fully done with Iraq. On the surface this is simply another entry on the list of military adventures the nation has taken on over the past 100 years. However, the 2003 invasion of Iraq signaled a distinct change in how the governed responded. When Lyndon Johnson couldn’t get Americans out of Vietnam, public backlash forced him to “not seek” nor “accept the nomination of [his] party for another term as your president”. When no one found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and a bloody insurgency sprang to life in the wake of his invasion, George W. Bush not only received the nomination of the Republican Party but was reelected as well. This, coupled with the fact that long-serving congressmen who had supported the war remained safely in power, demonstrated that the benefits of stepping over constitutional boundaries and creating new powers for the president far outweighed any potential repercussions.
These preliminary actions, however, seemed amateurish and crude in comparison to the machinations of the Republican Party after the election of 2008. The coup leadership proudly proclaimed absolute opposition to Barack Obama yet most people saw this as little more than business-as-usual, just a little more so than usual. However, new participants were brought in to help the cause. Right-wing propaganda organs such as Fox News became the official unofficial press agents for the GOP and hyper right-wing fringe outlets such as InfoWars and Breitbart became their philosophical fountainhead, spouting the most putrid filth while dressing it up with graphics and presentation to lend their lies an air of legitimacy. During the first Obama term, these media elements remained mostly relegated to the darkest recesses of the internet. By the time the second Obama term started, they began creeping out of the shadows and by 2014 and 2015 their messages were becoming mainstream talking points and a champion had emerged to take those messages all the way to the White House.
I do not believe Donald Trump has the observational skills needed to realize how much he is being used by the conspirators in the GOP. He genuinely thinks people voted for him because of him. People voted for him because he played the conduit from the reactionary right-wing kingmakers to the disaffected white masses willing to be duped by the hollow “populist” brand and its hashtag-friendly MAGA slogan. He is as much a patsy in all this as the people who cast votes for him. The Republicans required and received a spineless figurehead who would sign any bill they placed on his desk and who would push whatever agenda they desired. Congressional Republicans had managed to bring partisan media, industrial special interests, evangelical zealots, neo-Nazis, Russian gangster capitalists and anxious middle Americans together under a single banner carried by Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan. The fact that Trump’s administration has been under investigation and suspicion from the moment it began has not deterred the conspirators as whatever happens to the Trump regime is immaterial as they have Mike Pence waiting in the wings. If Trump goes to prison tomorrow the coup leaders in the GOP will simply shrug it off and immediately kiss Pence’s ring as he is one of them, a career politician and a consummate conservative. With all three branches of government in the grip of the Republicans (let us not forget that the Republicans refused to even entertain the thought of an Obama Supreme Court nominee yet magically became concerned about the Scalia vacancy the instant their man came into power), the coup is nearly complete.
The only way to prevent this final undoing is to elect people who will not tolerate the rise of one-party rule and the specter of despotism. There have been hopeful signs in special elections in Alabama, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, but the real public response must come this November. The people still have some support in the judicial system as several states’ Republican designed election maps have been voided for being politically or racially imbalanced. The coup leadership is not resting, though. They have shown a remarkable ability to use disinformation as a weapon against the people and are fully willing and capable of employing all manner of voting suppression tactics to remain in power. Lastly, let us forget at our peril that the current inhabitant of the Executive Mansion almost certainly had a helping hand from Comrade Putin to get where he is and that Putin’s tentacles are long and poisonous.