Last week, The Atlantic published a story by Barton Gellman called Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun.
Who, you are rightly asking yourself, is Barton Gellman when he’s up and has his trousers on, and why should anyone care what The Atlantic publishes? And, by the way, isn’t The Atlantic the place where they wouldn’t hire Kevin Williamson because he was too much of a hardcore conservative and where David French writes now?
In the past few years, The Atlantic has become the place where our inbred elites go to find out what it is that they believe and stand for. That place used to be the New York Times editorial pages but given the scabrous imbeciles who’ve migrated there, not even someone who is currently getting their third booster shot and wearing double face masks can take that hot mess seriously.
Answering why you should care about Barton Gellman is a lot more complicated. He’s one of those guys who has literally never done anything but write a lot of glib crap lefties fall all over themselves praising and showering with dubious prizes. Those prizes have garnered more prizes. Those prizes, in turn, got him more prizes, and so now his bowel rumblings are essentially holy writ as far as the American Left is concerned.
In short, the only reason you should care about this article is that it is causing a lot of stir among those people who have been trying to actively destroy the idea of America as envisioned by the Founders. And, in the words of the famous strategist Ron White, “that is a handy piece of information to have.”
Seriously. There is no phenomenon on the right to compare to the left’s lemming-like absorption of whatever a tiny clique of “thinkers” tells them to think. If you waggle any center-right person’s name as an authority, you’ll get a lot of pushback. The left just falls in line. Another item I discovered in writing this is that Gellman’s article is a lot like a Christmas fruitcake. We’ve all given them and received them, but have you ever eaten one? The same seems to apply to this article. When reading the commentary on the article, one just finds the same quotes used over and over.
This is Gellman’s premise:
For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election. They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time. Some of them have rewritten statutes to seize partisan control of decisions about which ballots to count and which to discard, which results to certify and which to reject. They are driving out or stripping power from election officials who refused to go along with the plot last November, aiming to replace them with exponents of the Big Lie. They are fine-tuning a legal argument that purports to allow state legislators to override the choice of the voters.
By way of foundation for all the rest, Trump and his party have convinced a dauntingly large number of Americans that the essential workings of democracy are corrupt, that made-up claims of fraud are true, that only cheating can thwart their victory at the polls, that tyranny has usurped their government, and that violence is a legitimate response.
The article is a longish read and notable for the way Gellman strings together anecdotes (no, the plural of anecdote is not data), legitimate actions by state legislatures and the Supreme Court, and a pathological fear of President Trump and his supporters into a rather bizarre conspiracy theory that concludes an out-of-office president is on the verge of conducting a coup against the republic.
This is the basic story Gellman tells.
- He holds to the fringe belief that the riot at the US Capitol on January 6 was an insurrection designed to keep President Trump in power. He believes the people who have been held in prison for nearly a year for the equivalent of a misdemeanor trespass citation are insurrectionists.
- He saw nothing untoward with how the 2020 election was conducted and thought all attempts to make states follow their own voting laws rather than just making sh** up is a conspiracy to suppress voting.
- President Trump is no longer Hitler; he is now Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević.
Why? Because being concerned about voting integrity means Trump supporters, like the Serbs, “were losing their dominant place to upstart minorities.” How did he get to that conclusion? Because Trump said this in his January 6 speech:
“Our country has been under siege for a long time, far longer than this four-year period,” Trump told the crowd. “You’re the real people. You’re the people that built this nation.” He famously added, “And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
- He runs into what folks in the law enforcement business would call a “clue,” but is so blindered by hate of Trump and Trump voters that he misses it.
“The thing that got our attention first was the age,” [University of Chicago professor and the yob who came up with the Milošević comparison, Robert A.] Pape said. He had been studying violent political extremists in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East for decades. Consistently, around the world, they tended to be in their 20s and early 30s. Among the January 6 insurgents, the median age was 41.8. That was wildly atypical.
Then there were economic anomalies. Over the previous decade, one in four violent extremists arrested by the FBI had been unemployed. But only 7 percent of the January 6 insurgents were jobless, and more than half of the group had a white-collar job or owned their own business. There were doctors, architects, a Google field-operations specialist, the CEO of a marketing firm, a State Department official. “The last time America saw middle-class whites involved in violence was the expansion of the second KKK in the 1920s,” Pape told me.
Yet these insurgents were not, by and large, affiliated with known extremist groups. Several dozen did have connections with the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, or the Three Percenters militia, but a larger number—six out of every seven who were charged with crimes—had no ties like that at all.
Those people were at the demonstration not because President Trump held a Svengalian influence over them. They were there because they believed the 2020 election had been blatantly stolen. They weren’t angry because the election had been stolen per se; as Republicans, you get used to that happening, but because it was done so openly and in such an in-your-face manner designed to send a message that this would be the new normal.
The poll found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of GOP and Trump voters believe ballots were not counted accurately in 2020 (32% believe they were counted accurately) and 53% believe they will not be fairly counted next year, with 38% having confidence in the vote. Forty-seven percent of Republican and Trump voters are not confident that the candidates who got the highest number of votes were properly certified as the winners.
- Trump supporters have violent tendencies.
In the June results, just over 8 percent agreed that Biden was illegitimate and that violence was justified to restore Trump to the White House. That corresponds to 21 million American adults. Pape called them “committed insurrectionists.” (An unrelated Public Religion Research Institute survey on November 1 found that an even larger proportion of Americans, 12 percent, believed both that the election had been stolen from Trump and that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”)
- He needs to up his meds.
In Gellman’s view, Republicans exercising legitimate constitutional authority is a coup.
Arizona’s legislature, meanwhile, has passed a law forbidding Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, to take part in election lawsuits, as she did at crucial junctures last year. The legislature is also debating an extraordinary bill asserting its own prerogative, “by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration,” to “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election.” There was no such thing under law as a method to “decertify” electors when Trump demanded it in 2020, but state Republicans think they have invented one for 2024.
In at least 15 more states, Republicans have advanced new laws to shift authority over elections from governors and career officials in the executive branch to the legislature. Under the Orwellian banner of “election integrity,” even more have rewritten laws to make it harder for Democrats to vote. Death threats and harassment from Trump supporters have meanwhile driven nonpartisan voting administrators to contemplate retirement.
The coming midterm elections, meanwhile, could tip the balance further. Among the 36 states that will choose new governors in 2022, three are presidential battlegrounds—Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan—where Democratic governors until now have thwarted attempts by Republican legislatures to cancel Biden’s victory and rewrite election rules. Republican challengers in those states have pledged allegiance to the Big Lie, and the contests look to be competitive. In at least seven states, Big Lie Republicans have been vying for Trump’s endorsement for secretary of state, the office that will oversee the 2024 election. Trump has already endorsed three of them, in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan.
“Death threats.” lolgf.
What is worse, the Republicans have developed a strategy to sustain their rules against legal challenges. Quelle horreur!
Amid all this ferment, Trump’s legal team is fine-tuning a constitutional argument that is pitched to appeal to a five-justice majority if the 2024 election reaches the Supreme Court. This, too, exploits the GOP advantage in statehouse control. Republicans are promoting an “independent state legislature” doctrine, which holds that statehouses have “plenary,” or exclusive, control of the rules for choosing presidential electors. Taken to its logical conclusion, it could provide a legal basis for any state legislature to throw out an election result it dislikes and appoint its preferred electors instead.
Elections are complicated, and election administrators have to make hundreds of choices about election machinery and procedures—the time, place, and manner of voting or counting or canvassing—that the legislature has not specifically authorized. A judge or county administrator may hold polls open for an extra hour to make up for a power outage that temporarily halts voting. Precinct workers may exercise their discretion to help voters “cure” technical errors on their ballots. A judge may rule that the state constitution limits or overrides a provision of state election law.
Four justices—Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas—have already signaled support for a doctrine that disallows any such deviation from the election rules passed by a state legislature. It is an absolutist reading of legislative control over the “manner” of appointing electors under Article II of the U.S. Constitution. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s last appointee, has never opined on the issue.
Trump is not relying on the clown-car legal team that lost nearly every court case last time. The independent-state-legislature doctrine has a Federalist Society imprimatur and attorneys from top-tier firms like BakerHostetler. A dark-money voter-suppression group that calls itself the Honest Elections Project has already featured the argument in an amicus brief
For elections to have any validity, voters of both parties must know what the rules are, and there must be assurances that rules will be followed. Instead, what happened in 2020 was that Democrat election officials and tame judges interfered time after time to change rules and the rule changes all went in the same direction: against election integrity.
He goes on to mewl about Biden not being up to the job of defending “muh free elections” and carrying out the federal takeover of elections.
And it ends:
Donald Trump came closer than anyone thought he could to toppling a free election a year ago. He is preparing in plain view to do it again, and his position is growing stronger. Republican acolytes have identified the weak points in our electoral apparatus and are methodically exploiting them. They have set loose and now are driven by the animus of tens of millions of aggrieved Trump supporters who are prone to conspiracy thinking, embrace violence, and reject democratic defeat. Those supporters, Robert Pape’s “committed insurrectionists,” are armed and single-minded and will know what to do the next time Trump calls upon them to act.
Democracy will be on trial in 2024. A strong and clear-eyed president, faced with such a test, would devote his presidency to meeting it. Biden knows better than I do what it looks like when a president fully marshals his power and resources to face a challenge. It doesn’t look like this. [Read this paragraph a couple of times–streiff.]
The midterms, marked by gerrymandering, will more than likely tighten the GOP’s grip on the legislatures in swing states. The Supreme Court may be ready to give those legislatures near-absolute control over the choice of presidential electors. And if Republicans take back the House and Senate, as oddsmakers seem to believe they will, the GOP will be firmly in charge of counting the electoral votes.
This essay reads like a combination of two things. First, there is an admission by the Democrat intelligentsia, such as it is, that the Democrats’ goose is cooked in 2022. Barring some sort of deus ex machina outcome…which can’t happen if said “machinas” are being operated according to law…the Democrats will lose the House and the Senate. This means an end to bullsh** like the coup set in motion by the COVID voting rule changes in November 2020. The Democrats are establishing the narrative they will use to explain the repudiation of the first two years of Biden’s abusive misrule by the American people. Essentially, Gellman has taken on the task of gaslighting people who want to be gaslit because they can’t accept reality. Second, he lays down the predicate for a concerted federal law enforcement campaign to punish Trump supporters. Getting an academic on board to classify 20+ million Americans and violent insurrectionists is just the first step to intimidation of former Trump voters no matter who is running as a prelude to fundamentally stealing control of how elections are conducted in the United States.