Donald Trump keeps mentioning that we owe him another two years, that he might stay 10 or 14, an epoch of Trump that presumably would end only with his death and a military parade — uniformed children carrying large banners featuring his portrait, palms laid upon the ground, dirges, etc.
“Whatever we like, right?” Trump said at a recent rally. “Watch, it’ll be headlines tomorrow: 'Donald Trump Wants to Break Constitution.'”
Somehow, a segment of the population has chosen not to dismiss this out of hand, and instead push Trump staging a coup as a realistic possibility, like he’s Richard Nixon presiding over the dystopian 1980s in Watchmen.
“Doesn't seem all that outlandish, does it?” asked Chris Cillizza. “This, I think,” wrote Michael Tomasky for the Daily Beast, drawing comparisons between America and Turkey, “this is something Trump could and, if he thought he could pull it off, would do.”
“We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that,” Nancy Pelosi told the New York Times of the idea that Trump might just not leave if he isn’t reelected.
Do we have to be prepared for that? Is everyone OK? Are people trying to get a coup working here?
Nobody in the military leadership ever seems to really like him. Nobody in the senior levels of government ever really seems to either. The government just issued a 448-page report that details, at length, the way no one who works for Trump even listens to the president. This is an actual paragraph from the Mueller report, found on page 158, volume II:
The president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests. Comey did not end the investigation of Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. McGahn did not tell the acting attorney general that the special counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the president’s order. Lewandowski and Dearborn did not deliver the president’s message to Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only. And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about the events surrounding the president’s direction to have the special counsel removed, despite the president’s multiple demands that he do so.
He’ll need to remedy this before the coup. Ah, but that’s a joke about Trump’s inefficacy, and those are verboten with the possible coup on the table.
But public perception is fluid and complicated — how does a large group come to believe something intangible? The danger in any situation where you have a chaotic actor like Trump going on about something, and a class of people constantly putting it back into play as a possibility, is a softening of the ground. Before the 2016 election, the late Charles Krauthammer wrote that while there were many problems with Trump, his insistence on jailing Hillary Clinton might reign supreme. “In democracies, the electoral process is a subtle and elaborate substitute for combat, the age-old way of settling struggles for power,” he wrote. “One doesn’t even talk like this. It takes decades, centuries, to develop ingrained norms of political restraint and self-control. But they can be undone in short order by a demagogue feeding a vengeful populism.”
And given there isn’t much actually for you, the citizen, to do in advance of a coup a few years off (stockpile arms? $25 before the midnight deadline does not fend off a coup), it’s worth considering what else people who want you to be concerned about a coup have to say.
Pelosi, for instance, wrapped her coup PSA inside a plea to cast off the Green New Deal and Medicare for All in favor of a more promising electoral strategy for a dominant victory (that includes keeping the House). “Own the center left, own the mainstream,” she said.
From there, there’s a kind of circular criticism against Pelosi and her stance against impeachment: If even she concedes Trump might not peacefully leave office, then why won’t she commit to impeaching him in the here and now?
“I mean, it's *not* a hard question to answer,” Seth Abramson recently opined. “Any Trump adviser could simply say, ‘Of *course* he will leave office if defeated in 2020, and I've never heard anything privately to suggest he has any intention besides doing so.’”
If Mueller couldn’t stop Trump, as the now-failed prophecies foretold, then an appealing next step is to promise no one can stop Trump.