PERSPECTIVE: Make No Mistake: We’re Watching a Slow-Motion Coup Attempt
A country is under attack by an attempted coup headed by the sitting President that is trying desperately to cling to power after losing an election.
No, this isn’t the plot to a made-for-TV movie, or another Tom Clancy suspense novel.
This is what’s happening in the US of A, and today was the worst day of the long-running attempt to overrule the outcome of the democratically-held elections in November.
Today, thousands of Trump supporters rallied in the Nation’s capital and forced their way into the US Capitol Building, breaking windows, stealing items from congressional offices, and posing for pictures on the floor of the US Senate and House of Representatives. One protestor even carried a Confederate Flag around the Capitol building, clearly a sign of rebellion of another lost war that some still refuse to accept 155 years later.
Donald Trump then tweeted his support of the rioters, writing “We love you”, “You’re very special”, and later justified their actions by saying “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away,” again repeating the baseless claims that the election was fraudulent that led to the chaos in the first place.
It’s not an overstatement to say that President Trump laid the seeds to undermine the election last year when he began saying the elections are “rigged” and that he would not commit to accepting the outcome on Election Day.
Trump cautioned that the “deep state”, “Democrats”, “enemies of the state”, and “the media” would try to steal the election. Of course, had he won he would have said the outcome was right and the system worked.
But when he lost the election, with Joe Biden winning back swing states that Trump had won in 2016, including red-state Georgia, Trump immediately began casting doubt on the outcome.
Even before the end of the night on November 3rd Trump said he had won and demanded that states stop counting votes, but only in the states where he was ahead at the time.
As we all know, Trump lost the election, but he and his minions (real ones, not the funny yellow ones) began filing baseless lawsuits in swing states Trump lost. In 62 lawsuits, Trump’s team failed to provide any proof of fraud, even though they went on TV and lied that they had evidence.
Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Don Jr, Eric, and the whole gang have worked for weeks to undermine the election results, all claiming that widespread fraud had robbed Trump of his ordained victory in hopes of reversing the outcome and defying the will of the voters without showing one shred of evidence.
Not one of those cases actually argued that fraud occurred because they knew that they couldn’t make those baseless claims in court without evidence or they would face sanctions, fines, and even disbarment for the lawyers. They argued about the process, tried to challenge changes made to absentee voting rules, and even tried to claim that one state could challenge another state’s outcome. In the end, multiple courts in multiple states, several by judges appointed by Trump, even the US Supreme Court with three Trump appointees, rejected those cases as baseless or without standing to sue.
So instead, Team Trump went on TV and Twitter and lied to the public, which may be wrong, but not illegal.
Not one state, not even those controlled by Republican Legislatures and Governors, found any evidence of fraud. Every one of the 50 states certified its own election results and submitted to Congress their slate of Electors for either Biden and Trump, according to who won each state’s election. There is no disagreement there.
But some Republicans weren’t done with the attempted coup.
Today, January 6th, is the day Congress is required by the Constitution to hold a Joint Session of both houses to receive and accept each state’s Electoral College votes. The sitting Vice-President, Mike Pence in this case, presides over what is usually a formality of accepting the states’ votes.
But Trump has been pressuring Pence, both privately and this week on Twitter, to “do the right thing” and overturn the election results and proclaim Trump as the winner. Trump argues Pence has that power to do so which, of course, no Vice-President ever had. It’s an absurd argument.
(Side note: if a sitting Vice-President could overturn the outcome of an election, doesn’t anyone think that Al Gore would have done so in 2000 when we “lost” to George W. Bush in Florida? BTW, in the end, it was proven that Gore actually won Florida and should have been President.)
Before today’s Joint Session, Texas Senator Cruz recruited and encouraged other Republicans to object to the acceptance of Electoral College votes from several swing states that Biden won but which Trump claims should have gone to him.
In a show of complete self-flagellation to honor Donald Trump, Cruz did in fact object to the votes and caused the Joint Session to break back into each house to debate the objections.
In his floor speech defending his objection, Cruz committed another act in furtherance of the coup when he mischievously claimed he was only asking for the same type of “Electoral Commission” that had been used in 1876 to determine the outcome of that presidential election.
Cruz said that in that case, a commission of five Senators, five Congressmembers, and five Supreme Court Justices were empowered to decide which state votes to count, and Cruz claimed his request is consistent with history. No big deal, right?
But what Cruz conveniently left out was that in 1876, the election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden ended up with three states (Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana) submitting two sets of Electors to Congress because those states did not certify their elections. Without those states, neither Hayes nor Tilden had a majority of the Electoral College votes to win.
Congress chose to create an Electoral Commission to decide on which votes to accept from those contested states, but only those states. Congress did not presume to take the power away from duty certified state elections and overrule the will of the voters.
In the end, a deal struck with Southern states to withdrawal federal troops that had been enforcing Reconstruction after the Civil war led to a compromise that handed Hayes the election.
That decision to withdrawal federal troops led directly to Jim Crow laws and the further subjugation of African-Americans that eventually necessitated the 1960s Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act to ensure fair and equal treatment of blacks in the South.
Republicans today tried to use a slight of hand to argue they were just using the same historical process that had been used to decide another presidential election, but failed to mention that election was actually contested (unlike today), and that the use of the Electoral Commission actually led to further disenfranchisement of voters. Not a good example to cite.
Late tonight, even after the assault on the Capitol and four people being killed in the melee, 138 Republican Congressmembers and 7 Republican US Senators still objected to accepting Pennsylvania’s votes, and 121 Congressmembers and 6 Senators objected to accepting Arizona’s votes in a futile attempt to further the coup without providing any evidence of voter fraud. Try as they might to overturn the election, the plotters failed again.
Fortunately, all of the Democrats and enough Republicans voted to accept the Electoral votes of all 50 states as they were submitted, finally certifying what hundreds of millions of other Americans have known for weeks:
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were legally elected to be the next President and Vice-President of the United States.
It’s time to put down the campaign signs and come together, as this country has 58 other times after every presidential elections. We are the example of democracy for the world.
We should act like it.