There has been for some time now much talk on the left that describes the leading party on the right, the GOP, as inherently undemocratic. Those who call this talk empty reveal nothing except their party affiliation.
What is not hard to find on the record is the GOP’s undemocratic proclivities (gerrymandering, voter suppression, the shameless overrepresentation of white rural votes, and so on). But between November 7 (when the networks declared Biden the president of the United States), and November 24 (when Pennsylvania certified Biden’s victory in that commonwealth), there was a moment in the US when it seemed a coup was not just in motion but a real possibility.
On November 10, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alarmed a large part of the American public when he told reporters—with no hint of fear, and as world leaders were congratulating Biden for his win—that there would be a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” Couple that with the silence of most Republicans about the obvious election results, and you had the idea that America was going through a world-historical regressive transformation of its political system.
As always, Dems were powerless to do anything about this obvious coup attempt. And mainstream media did not have or want the language to call a spade a spade: this is coup. But in the end, Trump’s attempt to undo Biden’s victory and remain in the White House for another four (and possibly more) years despite losing the race by a stunning 6 million votes collapsed in a matter of hours. On November 24th, the transition started and Pennsylvania officially handed Biden its 20 electoral votes.
The more we look at this traumatic period, which we are now exiting, the more we need to ask: Why did Trump fail? Or, why did Biden succeed? Some in the moderate right felt it was the probity of the conservative judges. This point was made by Senator Pat Toomey. The Republicans in politics lacked the spine of the Republicans in the judicial system. These officials tossed out almost all of Trump’s flimsy lawsuits in Arizona and Pennsylvania and stuck with the facts. There was even GOP technocrat in Georgia who could put number above party. The moderate conservatives can take pride in that. It is a gem they can pull out of all the Trump crap they voted for and supported.
The upstanding technocrat from Georgia:
By all accounts, Georgia had a wildly successful and smooth election. We finally defeated voting lines and put behind us Fulton County’s now notorious reputation for disastrous elections. This should be something for Georgians to celebrate, whether their favored presidential candidate won or lost. For those wondering, mine lost — my family voted for him, donated to him and are now being thrown under the bus by him.
But what is all of this really telling us? Was there just enough (strong enough) democratic feeling in the GOP to overcome the party’s long commitment to voter oppression and block their leader’s out-and-out coup attempt? This sounds like a fairy tale. And, sadly, many center-left types really want to believe that a good number on the right did transcend their party and reached that Platonic region where all forms are really just Americans.
But let’s put the feel-goody-reach-across-the-aisles nonsense aside, and get to the most troubling question one can present to America’s democracy today: Would what happened to Biden (a moderate if ever there was one) had happened to Bernie Sanders if he (a devoted socialist) defeated Trump (a right-wing nut)? If the left sits and does a some mental hodology on this, they will find all of the thought paths lead to a very dark place.
David Frum, the political commentator and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, retweeted a mini tweetstorm by Brandon Friedman, a CEO and former member of the Obama administration, who basically praised the US military for saving the US from Trump’s coup. Beginning in June, this path of thinking goes, the generals sent messages to the White House that made it clear that they would be neutral in all matters relating to the presidential election. Who wins is who wins. Friedman saw this as representing American patriotic feeling in its most undulated, most noble state. The generals would protect, above all, the Constitution.
Friedman’s last two tweets:
Our military has many shortcomings, but the way it has behaved this year, under these circumstances, in the context of world history, is notable. It stood in stark contrast to DHS and even local police departments that chose follow Trump every step of the way. I hope Americans appreciate that and don’t take it for granted.
For one, it is a bit odd to find comfort in the fact that the only thing between us and totalitarianism is the army, the most extreme and one-dimensional institution in our country. One would hope that many unarmed options were available for the protection and preservation of American democracy. But here we are. A general or two away from Forever Trump. And this is disconcerting for many important reasons, one of which is: What if Sanders won the Democratic ticket and went on to beat Trump, and Trump began the exact same attack on the election results on November 7. Would it have become an actual coup? Meaning, would the generals have supported it out of self-interest (keeping that meaty military budget meaty) and forming an alliance with Wall Street?
My answer is yes. Trump would have prevailed. And remember there is no such thing as a coup without the military, this part Friedman got right, and this part the GOP understood directly or indirectly. How do you pull off a takeover without an army, or without what Fela Kuti called an “army arrangement”?
If a country’s political system reaches the rock-bottom of a coup, it means the generals are in control of the country. If some thought is put into what I have presented briefly (“time keeps on ticking”), you will understand that we have reached that rock bottom by another, longer path. If Biden is in power because the generals agreed to salute him, the question is: What happens when we have a leftist candidate they openly dismiss?