September 23, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Republican coup d’etat has begun

Fact: Donald Trump is rigging the election in more ways than one.

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I said Tuesday I thought the Republicans would wait until the lame-duck period of the 116th Congress to follow through with confirming a new US Supreme Court justice. I was mistaken, evidently. According to the Post, Lindsey Graham, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants the process wrapped up by October’s end. The president, meanwhile, told reporters Tuesday he needed nine justices to handle “the unsolicited millions of ballots” expected to come in, by which he meant a loyal court majority to hand him victory after he alleges fraud in the form of very cool and very legal absentee votes, a necessity stemming from his failure to protect the country from a lethal virus that has killed more than 205,500 Americans, per Worldometer.

The president and the Republicans may be on the brink of victory. In that victory, however, lie the seeds of future doom.

Now comes news this morning that the Trump campaign is “discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority.” According to The Atlantic’s peerless Barton Gellman, “With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly. The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbor deadline expires.”

This is the clearest picture of what many of us suspected might happen. We already knew the weeks and months between Election Day and Inauguration Day would be the tenderest and scariest any of us has witnessed, a period of deep uncertainty, insecurity, lawlessness and violence; that the US Department of Justice designated cities like New York and Seattle “anarchist jurisdictions”; that Attorney General William Barr urged federal prosecutors to charge dissenters with “sedition”; that the president and his Fox confederates are prepping heavily armed white-wing vigilantes to terrorize Trump’s opponents; and that mass protest against Trump’s power-grab would be called an insurgency “proving” accusations of voter fraud and justifying a government crackdown. There will be blood. This we knew. We didn’t know the ace in the president’s pocket—a future 6-3 supermajority ready to legalize a coup d’etat.

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This is a time for respectable white people to stop wondering who’s to blame for “division,” “polarization” and “dysfunction” in Washington, and instead do what Bob Woodward did recently—come to a firm, final moral conclusion. Trump and the Republicans are not trying to persuade a majority of the electorate to take their side in accordance with American custom, principle and law. They are instead trying to take power by force, using American institutions—the Electoral College in particular—to smash the republic itself in order to remake it in their authoritarian image. This is a time to understand that every accusation is a confession of what they have already done, that every allegation is a projection of what they are prepared to do. This morning, when Ohio representative Jim Jordan said Joe Biden and the Democrats are trying to steal the election, what he was really saying was the GOP is trying to steal the election.

If the president gets away with swing-state electors handing him the election, he will spark mass protests the size and scale of which this country has never seen. Trump and his Republican confederates will accuse the protesters—all of them, even veterans, kids and grandmas—of being criminal or something terrible justifying a reaction they already want to take against public demonstrations challenging Trump’s legitimacy. Inevitably, they will allege “insurrection,” because insurrection is precisely what they are doing. They are advancing an insurrection step-by-step in coordination with a hostile foreign power that’s radicalizing Americans by the millions. Russia is now to the Republican Party what the United States was in the 1980s to Contra rebels. But instead of successfully destabilizing a democracy just getting started, as the US did to Nicaragua, the Kremlin is successfully destabilizing the world’s oldest democracy.

When you ram through a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, when you rig a presidential election, when you piss on the bedrock American principle of the consent of the governed, you’re really not entitled anymore to the benefit of the doubt. You’re not entitled to deference or trust. You’re not entitled to anything. You have irreversibly broken faith with the American people. When you treat Americans like enemies, eventually Americans start reciprocating in kind, degree and intensity, which is exactly what the president and the GOP cannot see coming at the moment. They are too blinded by the prospect of seizing what they have coveted. True, they may be on the brink of victory. In that victory, however, lie the seeds of future doom.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. John Smart on July 30, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    …and STILL the Democrats have no viable answer. Marches will not do it… We should be training people in civil disobedience. We need to be talking about economic repercussions, boycotts. Yet Democrats STILL seem to be in a fantasy world in which the election will simply play out fairly.

    The civil war is HERE NOW the only rational thing to do is to figure out how to keep it as non-lethal as possible. But there are STILL no clear headed leaders on the Left or in the middle willing to speak the WHOLE truth and put forth a plan of action.

    • GHD on July 30, 2021 at 11:19 pm

      Then step up, John.

      Why are you looking for other people to do work that you think should be done?

      What’s the plan?

    • Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 11:19 pm

      I understand your perspective but disagree with your prescription. I think too many Democrats and liberals have a ‘savior’ expectation about the Democratic party and politics in general. We keep waiting for the next FDR, JFK, or LBJ to save the day. When contemporary political figures fail to meet the Messiah standard, we criticize them for not providing heroic outcomes.

      In my opinion, I am a Citizen and a Patriot. It’s MY responsibility to address the challenges we face and not wait for some public figure or political party to tell me what to do. John Stoehr is trying valiantly do his duty with his newsletter, and I comment frequently as part of my own efforts to fulfill my civic responsibilities.

      I don’t know precisely what we can do to get out of our current predicament, but I do know that waiting for someone else to set the path is unnecessary. Anything anyone of us can do, no matter how small, will contribute to the great cause to save our nation.

    • John J Publicus on July 30, 2021 at 11:19 pm

      Bull! Pay attention.

  2. Katy Cordeth on July 30, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    The world’s oldest democracy?

  3. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    Remember when Barr smirked about history being written by the “winners”? He, Trump, et. al. think they’ve got the election all figured out. Here’s what I think they’re going to do:
    1. Claim that mail-in ballots are inherently fraudulent and should not be counted. This has been Barr’s go to narrative for the last several weeks to set the stage for rejecting mail-in ballots altogether.
    2. Get SCOTUS and multiple right-wing state or federal judges to freeze the count on Nov. 3 and declare mail-in ballots not counted by Nov. 3 as invalid either nationwide or in key swing states. If they’re really ambitious, they will impose court orders tossing or invalidating many, most or all mail-in ballots in swing states. This is why they are determined to place a hard core right winger on SCOTUS before the election.
    3. Attempt to seize and impound any and all mail-in ballots not counted by Nov. 3. Why? Because they’re fraudulent and/or have been discounted by court order(s). They may even try seizing ALL ballots to “insure the validity and accuracy of the vote”. This also removes the tangible evidence of Biden’s win from state and county election officials’ hands.
    4. Unleash “poll watcher” thugs to disrupt in person voting.
    5. If there is any hint of violence at poll locations, deploy police and National Guard forces after declaring riot or martial law provisions and thereby shut down polling stations. If a poll location in a riot zone does post results, those results can and should be discounted because after all, a riot has simply caused too much disruption to validate those results.
    6. Because of all the fraudulent mail-in votes and chaos at polling locations, the state legislators “should do the right thing” and simply provide their own slate of Electoral College electors. The newly super right wing SCOTUS will conveniently provide a decision supporting this power grab.

    So that’s the game plan. I am confident they will try some or all of these actions. I am also confident that their efforts will be so brazenly egregious that loyal Americans will rebel as John points out. The key thing is whether white liberals will have the courage and resilience to step up and apply endless pressure – political, social, and economic – to overcome the attempted coup. The coup can be stopped but it’s going to take a massive awakening by many people who simply don’t have the experience or perspective to fight for the survival of our country.

  4. Mark Powley on July 30, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    All is lost unless people are willing to vote in person and ensure the vote is cast and counted. Grassroots need to be viable to get everyone possible on board to hustle and create more overwhelming votes cast to be counted fair and square. I doubt there is any way possible to do what is required at least in the swing states.

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