Editorial: Trump’s continuing coup

July 8, 2022

From the July-August 2022 issue of News & Letters

The Supreme Court’s erasure of 50 years of a woman’s constitutional right to abortion shines a spotlight on the continuing coup by extremists. Donald Trump’s success in pushing the U.S. Supreme Court off the cliff by appointing three justices after losing the popular vote in 2016 dovetails with his efforts to hold on to power after losing both the popular and electoral vote in 2020.

In the public hearings of the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6, retired Judge J. Michael Luttig, who had advised Mike Pence against Trump’s illegal plot, warned that “Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy” for pledging “in open and plain view of the American public” to overthrow the 2024 election “but succeed where they had failed” in 2020.

These words from Luttig carry weight. He’s a hero of the reactionary Federalist Society, which depends on suppression of democracy, as do theocratic Christian nationalists working to take away rights with broad popular appeal—abortion and same-sex marriage—and abolish gun control. To these once-fringe positions, add opposition to masks and vaccinations and the insistence that Biden lost the 2020 election, and you have the platform that nearly every Republican candidate seems compelled to run on.


Everyone saw Trump demanding the end of ballot counting in several states, and then browbeating Georgia election officials for “11,780 votes”—after claiming in advance that the election to come was rigged. (He had done the same before the 2016 election.)

Back in 2019 he named the forces he used on Jan. 6: “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump—I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough, until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” Then in December 2020 he directed the mob to the Capitol, tweeting Jan. 6 “Will be wild!”

The tough people like the Proud Boys did spearhead the attack on Congress, knowing the routes courtesy of MAGA Representatives. They threatened to hang Pence and kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with the goal of ending the count of electoral votes. Trump dared not call in the military, but had veterans in the Oath Keepers, just as bosses a century ago employed veterans to break strikes in 1919 Seattle and 1921 West Virginia.


The insiders testifying in the June public hearings were in a position to say no to the coup plot because they had said yes to Trump for four years. Attorney General Barr, Acting Attorney General Rosen, Georgia Gov. Kemp and Arizona Speaker Bowers had all been okay with pursuing “legal” suppression of democracy. Obstructing voter registration, purging voter rolls and gerrymandering, all diminish the value of the vote for Black, minority and working-class people.

Gerrymandering has made the House unreflective of the national electorate, with added voter suppression measures for 2022 in state after state, while a vote for the Senate in Wyoming has 68 times the impact of one in California. Gerrymandering by states has made state and federal legislatures even less democratic, hence Trump’s last ditch appeals to the states to substitute themselves for the voters and efforts to codify the power to control elections and override the popular vote in numerous states before the 2024 election.

In his answer to the testimony, Trump called Jan. 6 a simple protest that got out of hand, citing the minor crimes most of the 800 or so had been convicted of—they should consider themselves lucky that Merrick Garland’s Justice Department is so fearful of appearing political that only a few were charged with seditious conspiracy. But the main purpose of his speech was to dangle the promise of pardons for all—pardons he did not deliver to White House aide Peter Navarro and the six members of the House Freedom Caucus who asked for them, because they then would have been compelled to testify against Trump.

He was wise to skip Biden’s Inauguration for fear of being handcuffed then and there for crimes detailed in the Mueller Report and in his two impeachments, even before the new revelations. Trump’s tactics of intimidation, learned from Sen. Joe McCarthy by way of their common attorney Roy Cohn, have so far kept him out of jail.

Election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss testified to the Committee that public intimidation and false charges against them from Trump and Rudy Giuliani also worked: it not only forced them into hiding from death threats, but caused every other worker in their polling place to quit. The dream of MAGA fanatics is to replace them, and poll workers in places like Detroit, with partisans ready to do what they have falsely accused Freeman and Moss of: throw an election.

Knowing that Ronald Reagan emerged unscathed from the Iran-Contra crimes, never punished for his illegal weapons sales to Iran to arm counter-revolutionaries in Nicaragua, we can’t say for sure that Trump will face justice. But he has set in motion a formula for ending meaningful elections that, if not stopped, raises the threat of 2024 as an empty ceremony for Trump or DeSantis or [Insert Name Here] before a coronation.

—Bob McGuire

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *