What Happens When The Next MAGA Coup Works?
The United States held strong and avoided a blatant, anti-democratic jacklegged coup from a sitting president, who refused to accept that he'd lost the election like a big loser who loses elections without Russia's help. As Captain America once declared, “America stands!" ... but does it?
Republicans didn't ditch the twice-impeached thug, even after he incited a violent mob that attacked them. They have doubled down in their slavish devotion, claiming that the Mar-a-Lago resident is the bleak, dystopian future of the GOP. If the 2020 election was Return of the Jedi, with the fall of the evil Empire, what we're witnessing now is the brazen buildup to the more sinister, even duller, First Order.
It's clear if you're paying attention that the GOP doesn't consider the January 6 insurrection a recent low point in the American experiment, after four years of low points. No, Republicans are downright offended that Democrats have the nerve to win elections, and they are making every effort to ensure it doesn't happen again. White supremacist riots in the seat of government are apparently fine, but Democratic wins in Georgia require an immediate response.
Conservative David Frum remarked on a recent podcast that the GOP has decided to become a “post-democratic party, in which taking part in a violent attack on Congress is no big deal, in which corruption is no big deal." There is no respect for the truth. All that matters is power.
This is not a political party chastened by its near-fascist experience. No, it feels emboldened. There were no negative consequences from promoting the Big Lie. Corporations who called time out on financially supporting seditious Congress members are now strategizing how to slink back into bed with them.
David Atkins raised the obvious question in a Washingtonian Monthly article: "What Happens When Republicans Simply Refuse to Certify Democratic Wins?"
Biden's electoral college win was only certified because enough Republican secretaries of state and county election board officials did their duty to democracy and resisted pressure to thwart the will of the voters. Every lever of Republican power has since been wielded to punish them. Minor county board officials have been receiving organized harassment and death threats. Georiga Secretary of State Raffensperger is not only facing a major primary challenge, he was also stripped of his power to certify the election in the future. Every Republican not already committed to preserving their power by any means necessary has been put on notice that if they do not cooperate they will be physically threatened and politically replaced.
South Carolina Senator and bipedal mollusk Lindsey Graham said on live fucking television that “the people who try to erase [T***p] are going to wind up getting erased." That's some straight-up gangster shit. They might as well just play the piano solo from “Layla" whenever Republicans are interviewed.
It's hard to overstate how dangerous this is, and what its consequences might entail in the very near future. As Greg Sargent notes, the "GOP appears to be plunging headlong into a level of full-blown hostility to democracy that has deeply unsettling future ramifications."
The problem is that liberals view the GOP's “full-blown hostility to democracy" as something unprecedented, rather than a regressive appeal to how the country worked in the not-so ancient past before color TV. The "unwillingness to concede any electoral victory by a Democrat as legitimate" is consistent with the conservative desire to maintain a white-dominated political structure. Democrats only win because the “wrong people" (i.e. minorities) vote for them.
Even during the supposed “Blue Wave" election in 2018, when the Democrats reclaimed control of the House of Representatives, 54 percent of white voters still backed Republican candidates. The white electorate has slowly but steadily shrunk since Ronald Reagan's blowouts. White people accounted for 88 percent of all voters in 1980 but were just 67 percent of the electorate in 2020.
A Republican Party hostile to democracy can use America's creaky Constitutional system to create a series of unprecedented roadblocks to majority rule. Not just by suppressing the vote or drawing unfair districts, but by refusing to accept the vote itself. The result could throw the nation into political violence unseen since the days of Ku Klux Klan terrorism if not the Civil War itself.
Atkins wonders what happens in 2024 "if President Biden or Vice President Harris win the Electoral College, but local Republicans on county boards with majority Democratic votes refuse to certify the election." My answer, unfortunately, is ... nothing. Nothing will happen.
Most Republicans polled believe Biden didn't legitimately win the presidency. This is perhaps directly related to the Big Lie, but I also think it has a lot to do with how he won. Biden only prevailed because of an increasingly diverse electorate. The one-term loser still carried a whopping 58 percent of the white vote, even after almost killing us all from COVID-19. Forget the popular vote vs. the Electoral College and all that noise. Yes, true democracies require the consent of the governed, but America functioned for 200 years with only white men's (and occasionally white women's) consent. That was always the inherent promise of "Make America Great Again," a return to the days where the white majority chose the nation's leaders.
The Big Lie has primed Republican voters for another attempted coup. The next one could succeed and who exactly would take to the streets? Minority protesters showing up at the Capitol unannounced would wind up deader than fried chicken. And I don't hold out hope for the Joe Manchins and Kyrsten Sinemas out there to have our back. They'll just preach more bipartisanship while the true American experiment, the one begun in earnest during the Civil Rights Movement, comes to a close.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."