We’re Learning the Truth About Trump,
and the Coup,
and It’s Even Worse Than You Probably Thought
by umair haque
How far was Trump prepared to go to steal the election? And why was he willing to go so far? A much, much clearer picture is finally emerging. It’s every bit as bad as those of us called “alarmists” feared, and then some.
Another revelation surfaced recently. Trump pressured the Justice Department to declare the election “illegal” because it was “corrupt.” Why? So that Congress could could invalidate the certification of Electoral College results — an effort that Trumpists had already begun in earnest as that point.
Think about that for a second — what it all really means. This isn’t some ad-hoc, random, tantrum. On the contrary, it’s a sophisticated plan. By a sitting head of state. Pressure the judiciary to declare an election illegal — so that your allies in the legislature can then refuse to certify it. What happens then? I’ll come back to that. First, let me put in context.
That’s a breathtaking attempt to destroy a democracy. It’s not the stuff of amateurs. It’s the stuff of autocrats and authoritarians who are versed in how to kill democracies. Why do I call it “sophisticated”? It’s all three branches of government working in concert — executive, legislative, and judicial — to destroy a democracy from within. Again, think about that. All three branches working together to seize power: it’s the stuff of complex and coordinated plans. It’s not amateur hour at open mic autocrat night.
What do we now know Trump tried, properly speaking? An attempted soft coup. A soft coup is an attempt to use the procedural and formal mechanisms of democracy to seize power. It’s a coup without the tanks and paramilitaries and so forth. What Trump attempted was a textbook soft coup — he wanted “his” judiciary to declare an election illegal, so the legislative branch could refuse to accept its results, and he’d presumably retain power.
What happens then? Well, then any number of scenarios become possible. Martial law. Another election — this time, the actually corrupt one. The prosecution of the opposition — after all, they’ve “broken the law.” Show trials and persecution campaigns of critics and opponents of any kind. Real violence by paramilitaries.
All that was what America was facing. That’s the textbook pattern of how soft coups play out. Afterwards, in the aftermath of a shattered democracy, autocracy and authoritarianism of the hard kind tighten their grip. None of that was a joke, and America, we now know, came incredible close to all that happening. Trump really was the aspiring autocrat that many feared — far worse and more dedicated to the cause than most pundits knew or wanted to admit to themselves.
And that was only one leg of the plan. The other one? If the soft coup didn’t work, there was to be a hard one. That’s another classic autocratic pattern: if destroying democracy from within doesn’t work, by abusing the law, norms, rules, and codes, procedurally and formally — well, then send in the goons.
That’s exactly what happened, too. When it was clear that the soft coup wasn’t working out as planned, finally, on Jan 6th, Trump seemed to incite a hard coup. The now infamous storming of Capitol Hill. A huge mob of hardcore fanatics marched to Capitol Hill, and, in the words of the cops defending it, were intending to “kidnap or kill” members of Congress. Why? To stop the certification of the vote.
The hard coup was a bloody, violent affair. It was a very, very real hard coup. No, there weren’t tanks — that’s because the heads of the military, fearing just such a hard coup, had already prepared against it. Still, Trump used whatever force was at his disposal — if it wasn’t America’s tanks, then it was his fanatical right-wing paramilitaries. The mob that stormed the capitol was dressed in military gear, knew exactly where to go, who to look for, and had carefully coordinated their movements and goals. It wasn’t a rabble, and it certainly wasn’t “tourists.”
We now know too that it was a minor miracle that a massacre didn’t happen on Capitol Hill on Jan 6th. Don’t take it from “alarmists” like me — take it from Officer Hodges, who said there was “no doubt in my mind” that the mob was looking to kill Congresspeople.
See how the goals of the soft and hard coup were exactly the same? To prevent the certification of the vote — so that Trump could stay in power, and presumably, begin to abuse it in much, much worse ways?
Put the pattern together and you have something incredibly disturbing beginning to emerge.
Exactly what scholars and survivors of authoritarianism and fascism like me had predicted. Yes, Trump really was modern-day authoritarian. Yes, he really was leading a neo-fascist movement. Yes, there really would be coup attempts if the election didn’t go their way.
We now know that all that was true. There was not just one but two coup attempts, the soft one and the hard one. They were linked in the classic pattern, the hard one being incited when the soft one didn’t seem to be working fast enough. The coup really was a fascist one — again, don’t take it from me, take it from Officer Hodges, who called it a “white nationalist insurrection,” or Officer Dunn, who wept recounting how he was taunted with racial slurs, and then threatened with death. And the goal of all this really was for an authoritarian to seize power, thwart an election, and keep power, maybe for life.
All that was incredibly real. America still doesn’t quite grasp, I think, how narrow it’s escape really was. Take those brave officers — make their instinctive reactions slightly less incredibly brilliant, leading the mob down the wrong hallway — and bang. American democracy was on the brink of death. Yes, really.
All that raises the question: why? Why did Trump attack his own country?
Why was Trump dedicated to the destruction of his own country’s democracy? You see, this is where the situation begins to differ from poorer nations. There, coups happen because governments are ineffective or corrupt or malign. That’s not to say they’re good things, only that they’re the product of dysfunction and chaos. America’s government is ineffective, sure, and maybe even corrupt — but not at those levels. It’s just incompetent and garden-variety corrupt. It’s not, say, warlords of the Congo level abusive.
We now have an answer about why Trump attacked his own country, too. And that answer is also every bit as bad and then some as those of us on the critical side said. The answer can be summed up in one word: Russia.
A theory emerged over the years that Trump was a Russian puppet. This theory gained credibility, eventually, but not widespread acceptance, really. That’s largely because while Trump’s actions were incredibly weird and suspicious — who else cozied up to Russia? Who else seemed to do its bidding? Why else attack NATO and your own allies? An endless list of bizarre questions — the evidence, as such, the hard evidence, was missing. It’s pretty hard to prove, after all, that…the President of the United States is a puppet and maybe even a spy.
Last month, though, the Guardian finally dropped the bombshell. Russia really had installed Trump, with a sophisticated intelligence campaign. How sophisticated? The Kremlin launched a “coordinated multi-agency operation” to install a, in their words, “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the office of the President. Why? To sow “social instability” and “social turmoil” in America — and bring about the “theoretical political scenario” Russia wanted, “social explosion” of the nation. How important was all this to Russia? “It is acutely necessary to use all possible force to facilitate his [Trump’s] election to the post of US president,” the leaked directives say.
Russia knew that it could control the “impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced,” because it had compromising material collected during “non-official visits to Russian Federation territory”. Once in office, Trump could be the stuff of spymasters’ dreams — an American President controlled by Russia. Not only he could share all the info, he could be told what to do and when to do it.
That’s why Russia did use “all possible force.” Just as the plan said, it planted “media viruses” in the American population, to “alter mass consciousness” — remember all that Facebook disinfo? It hacked Hillary’s emails and the DNC at just the right moment and so on. To Russia, getting Trump into the Presidency was the single greatest opportunity of the post-war era, one of the greatest in history.
And when Russia did install Trump as President, their plan, all that effort, paid off in spades. Donald Trump became the first President in American History to attack his own country. With a soft coup, and a hard coup. To try to destroy its democracy. To seize power for himself. To cheer for bloodshed on the steps of the Capitol.
And lest you think all that’s over, Americans are still living in the nation forged by all that. Trumpism’s still alive and well — healthier than ever, in some regards. There’s a new wave of fanatical Republicans, who are now hardened authoritarians, who openly preach violence, who openly call for democracy to basically come to an end. Trump has total control of the GOP. Trumpism is now a fascist movement in rude health, vast swathes of the nation fully committed to the project of an ethnically cleansed, racially purified America, ruled according to theocratic principles for the true of blood and pure of faith.
Russia’s plan didn’t fail. It succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. Sure, the ultimate success would have been Trump, the Russian asset, as an American Gaddafi — a lifelong dictator. But that was probably too good to believe, too astonishing to ever come true. Second best was plenty good enough. Trump shreds American democracy, anyways — leaving it wrecked, ruined, smoking wreck in his wake. The “social turmoil” Russia wanted did happen — Trumpism is a neo-fascist movement which has cleaved America in two, the GOP is a fully autocratic, authoritarian party, and meanwhile, Trump’s back on the re-election trail.
Now we know the truth. It’s weirder, stranger, and darker than many believed. Except those us, who, from the very beginning, suspected it all along.
Because we couldn’t help but believe what we saw with our own lying eyes.