Who’s Coup-ing Who?

Who’s ‘Coup-ing’ Who?

Often we think of a government coup as a revolution, an attempt by one ideological group to wrest the reins of government from those currently in power. We see it as a quick bloody battle where the perpetrators run a risk of death or imprisonment if they don’t succeed. If those in power lose then a new leader sits in the seat of power and sets policy. Those who rise to power can execute, imprison, or exile the ousted leader and his/her followers.

Overturning a leader through a democratic election usually is not considered a coup. Donald Trump is trying to change that. He claims that the Democratic Party is attempting a coup against him. The House is attempting to take over the executive branch, he says. Of course, in this case the Democrats in the House of Representatives are exercising legal prerogatives assigned to them in the Constitution of the United States. Congress is supposed to act as a check if the executive branch looks as if it has gone rogue. All that means is that they are allowed to ask questions and collect facts to make sure that a President and others in the Executive Branch are upholding their oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. The Constitution and historical practice places few limits on the investigative powers of the House or Senate Congressional Committees. Congress has oversight responsibilities over the Executive Branch. Investigation is Congress’s superpower.

Trump is a master of the craft of twisting reason until our brains feel ready to explode. He is claiming that the Democratic representatives in the House are using (or planning to use) their investigative powers to take over the Executive Branch and thereby, take over the American government. They are using the Constitution to invalidate the Constitution. (Did your brain explode yet?)

It is possible to have a bloodless coup, a coup whereby one political party pushes another political party out of power through chicanery and rigging elections. This kind of coup can take some time. Coups are things that generally happen in what we once named “third world countries”, countries where democracy is ‘iffy’, in places that are now labelled “illiberal democracies”- democracies in name only. We are supposed to be a “stable democracy”, well-established; the democracy, against which all others are measured.

But we have a President who accuses the Democratic Party of being traitors to the nation, of trying to turf him out of office and take over the government through a legal procedure called “impeachment”. Or perhaps, he asserts, they want to damage him so badly that he loses the 2020 election ( while at the same time he claims this is impossible.) Yes, he is obviously a desperate man, but he is accusing the Democrats of being traitors, guilty of treason!, just to wiggle out of having the nation hear the possible proofs of his bad behaviors.

He says that the Democrats are partisan, so they cannot be objective. Well that’s when I have to ask, “who’s coup-ing who”? The Democrats only appear to be partisan because the Republican Party has put them in that position. When Mitch McConnell said that he would obstruct everything Obama did he meant it and the GOP was behind all the disrespect towards Obama and the Dems that people insisted on blaming on both parties. It was the GOP who refused to do the compromise negotiations that have made our basically two-party system work. With obstruction, if one party absolutely refuses to compromise the other party must either capitulate completely or join in the standoff. Which party is partisan? Both I guess, but one by design, and one by default. The Republican Party has not stopped opposing the Democratic Party to this day.

We are in a pitched battle. It seems to be about the size of government and whether or not government should pay for programs that benefit the American people. It now seems to be also about whether or not America will be, going forward, a white, Christian nation. We are in this battle because industry fled and money went to safe havens and all the blood (money) went to the head (the wealthiest). Do we keep wealth inequality because these wealthy people deserve what they have (according to them)? We know what happens biologically when our lower body is deprived of blood flow. Will the same thing happen if less and less money ‘trickles down’ to those who are not at the very top of the social heap? Will the society die from within?

This picture of the future does not bother the Republicans, in fact they seek it, they are trying to hold on to this lop-sided distribution of life’s blood (which sadly, right now, is money). The Democrats would like to be the party of balance, of restoring a democracy which is fast disappearing The Democrats are not the ones who denied giving even a hearing to a legal nominee to the Supreme Court. The Democrats are not the ones who keep trying to use the “I’m Rubber, You’re Glue” strategy to pin their sins on the other party.

If anyone is staging a coup it is the Republican Party (which is now headed by Donald Trump). The GOP has been attempting to ‘own’ the entire federal government of the US and they have not been the least bit worried about doing this by the book. Tinkering with elections has been the GOP’s favorite weapon to use in their coup. They almost succeeded. In 2016, using a number of voter suppression and voter propaganda techniques (and perhaps by allowing a foreign government to interfere in an American election) they succeeded in taking over all three branches of government. They haven’t been able to hide their game plan so they just blatantly get on with it. Dems argue against these tactics and the GOP just laughs.

Although the GOP lost the House in 2018 they do not consider this will end their plans. This is a war and they only lost a battle. There is always another election and they are still tinkering, tinkering away. And if rigged elections don’t get them what they want the takeover of the states which they have been conducting will eventually succeed in turning enough states Red to trigger a Constitutional Convention and allow them to put the GOP stamp on our Constitution.

Trump is using the coup accusations flying around the internet these days to turn him into a victim (“poor president Trump”) of a ruthless political takeover by a party that is supposedly wielding the Constitution like a club. Ironically Democrats have learned that there are almost no tools available to fight a President or a political party willing to ignore the rules set down in our documents. The Democrats have never called what the Republicans are up to a coup, but I have. Now the Democrats are being accused of perpetrating a coup against Trump (and by association the Republicans). But he has simply taken the truth and twisted it to his advantage. Don’t believe him. If you use your head it’s pretty easy to tell who’s coup-ing who/m.

How Far Will Dems Go?

Dems donkey flag big harrisdems.org

Democrats knew that the 2016 election was an election we really could not afford to lose. We knew that losing would have existential repercussions for the party, the way the American future would play out, and even for American democracy itself. We let ourselves be divided and that would only have worked out fine in the old America. This is not that America. How far will Dems go to fix the balance of power in America?

We knew what the Republicans had been doing to “fix” elections, although we had no clue that Russian assistance would be enlisted. We lamented the Citizens United and related decisions that have flooded elections with corporate money and influence, and offered “creative” ways for the wealthiest Americans to have an outsize influence through PAC’s and 501(c)s, or nonprofits. We know that Conservatives want to extend this financial influence on elections to churches and that there is legislation already written to do just that.

We have watched Conservatives turn the courts (Federal and Supreme) into partisan bodies that would uphold their assault on previous court decisions. We knew about their assaults on abortion clinics, their insistence that America follow their Fundamentalist Christian rules and ban abortions by overturning Roe v Wade, and their refusal to accept that women’s bodies should be controlled by women. Stuffing courts with Conservatives would help in this regard and in many other places the Republican Party wanted to go. They played with the voting rules in the Senate, they obstructed in the House, and they refused to confirm Obama’s legal appointment to the Supreme Court when Judge Alito died an untimely death. Now they are having a field day confirming fairly young, unqualified people to as many lifetime court positions as they can, while they can, and crying foul if Democrats use the same procedures to slow down confirmations that the Republicans previously found so useful.

We have noted all the voter suppression techniques such as extreme gerrymandering that made it almost impossible to elect anyone except a Republican in some Congressional districts (enough to turn Congress red?). We were shocked when the Supremes removed the pre-clearance requirements from the Voting Rights Act which allowed states to change voter laws in ways that negatively affected minority voters more than white voters. We were incredulous when the GOP claimed that they were not being racist; they just wanted to suppress Democrat votes. (It suddenly became the fashion to drop the “-ic” from the word Democratic when using the party name as an adjective because it connected the Democrats too closely to our form of government.) (It also became fashionable to stress that our government is actually a republic as this made the Republican Party the truest representative of American governance.)

We knew all this but all we did was whine, complain, call attention to these behaviors, fight among ourselves, and appear weak. We seemed not to understand that these bad behaviors were symptoms of a party that was making a serious power play. Reactions of Dems fell far short of any effective strategy of resistance. Dems were all talk, little action through all the Obama years. We relied on Obama’s popularity and his elegant statesmanship to win the day, although we all were privy to the hateful undertones in the nation.

We heard the GOP talking points, over and over. We knew the Republicans wanted to use a “tough love” approach to end social programs – no help with food for the poor, no public healthcare, no support for the disabled, no social security for seniors, no housing for the poor, no public schools. America could not afford to have a heart, apparently. They reminded us that none of these things are functions of the federal government according to our founding documents and they insisted these programs should end. States could provide for these needs if they wished (although the right knew the states could not afford to do this). Or they could be privatized.

The GOP saw the resentment building in the workers whose factories had fled, or whose livelihoods had become obsolete because of environmental damage, and they invited them aboard the bandwagon by agreeing that taxes were being used to give aid to people who did not deserve it. Soon it became as if we had all decided to eliminate social goals from our national agenda instead of just being a decision reached within the conservative web of right-wing organizations, foundations, and think tanks centered around wealthy Republicans donors like the Kochs.

Democrats spoke out against this rather Darwinistic view of society but they seemed powerless against the aggressive strategies on the right, the loudest voices in the land at the time. Dems relied on “regular order” and a moderate stance to eventually “break the fever” on the right. Dems appeared to be almost intimidated by the Tea Party’s seemingly overwhelming power over the Republican Party. This could be partially because Democrats are lovers of grassroots politics, and also due to their failure to see the connection of the Tea Party to the white supremacy that was simmering in right wing teapots. Dems did nothing but talk, believing all this would run its course. When people pointed out that the right was mounting a kind of bloodless coup, those people were labeled as extremists.

It was becoming clear that there was a Constitutional argument being fomented. Conservatives decided that America had moved too far from our forefathers’ intentions. They wanted to go all Fundamentalist on American governance – back to the basics. On the left this was seen as unrealistic. It could be seen as an expedient argument used by Republicans to pull out the old states’ rights drumbeat that they had used so successfully (when they were the Democratic Party) to end Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War.

Giving in to this states’ rights stance allowed the racist treatment of Americans of African Descent to continue into the 1960’s (and even to this day) and allowed the defeated Confederacy to nurse their resentment, and their white supremacist attitudes – to continue to see themselves as righteous rebels. This is the rebellion that is still affecting us now. It is the true reason for the rabid defense of the NRA and the encouragement of militia movements. These Republicans/Conservatives planned either to take over the American government from within, or without (rebellion) if necessary. Right now they are doing pretty well with their “from within” set of tools.

The Democrats were not even considering a new war. We were taken somewhat by surprise. Try to find a Dem militia, but I warn you it will prove to be difficult to impossible. However, Democrats also were finding nothing in the Constitution to help them against this organized rebellion that used tactics which were not strictly against established custom and law, but which certainly challenged the spirit of American customs and laws. Democrats did not see that the Republicans could win all by simply killing the Democratic Party and turning America into a single-party government. Such an action is not against our founding documents since parties did not exist when America was born. (Although it did not take long for parties to form.)

There is so much more to the GOP strategy and we have been witnesses to all of it. For example, there was the skewing of the media until some of it was not news at all but merely propaganda, which happened right before our eyes. It was allowed because of how much we treasure everyone’s right to free speech. Perhaps we could have argued sooner that people had the right to say what they wanted to but did not have the right to pass off lies and conspiracy theories as facts or news. We did not react strongly enough in the face of this onslaught. How many governments have been overturned because some of the people in power wanted to stay the course and believed they would eventually win the day; they believed justice was on their side and would prevail?

The Democrats let the Republican Party demonize our best people. Email server unorthodoxy seems a bit tame compared to behaviors power-mad Republicans excuse now. I am guilty here also because I thought America was ready for a female President. I did not think it would be fair to eliminate a woman who had been unfairly tainted (as all powerful women are these days). I refused to see how seriously she had been damaged. Maybe Progressive promises would have been the perfect counterpart to regressive rhetoric. We might have been better off fighting fire with fire. The middle road held too little appeal and too many people bought what the Republican Party was selling. None of this should strip away the guilt of liberals who would not vote against Trump and the Republicans. Still, once the Republicans were left with Trump we may have been “royally” screwed no matter what.

How convinced are the Democrats that their policies will make a more live-able future than what Republicans have to offer? How far are we willing to go to make it so? If our hopes for a blue wave in 2018 are dashed, what’s next? If it looks like our Democracy really will become an autocracy will we resist more aggressively, or slide down into a dictatorship and live quietly underground until it dies, as all dictatorships eventually do? These are terrible decisions to be faced with and yet they may have to be made with no formal forum in which to design a deliberate plan. I do not feel a “fighting” spirit uniting the Democrats yet, in case the resistance is ineffective. Although the majority of Americans lean left we could soon find ourselves living out the Conservative Way. I have no idea what we will do if elections don’t work. We may regret, for a long, long time,  that we did not get our act together in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

Governments Determine Society

 

Let’s talk about the link between a government and the society in which that government sits. Clearly governments determine society in very direct ways by the things they do and the things they do not do. Do the people in the society feel comfortable? Are people fearful? Do they scuttle out of their homes, do their business quickly, and get back behind closed doors, with closed curtains? Do the people have enough to eat, have adequate housing, pleasant surroundings? Are the people warm enough and well-clothed; are they healthy?

Is transportation available? Can people afford it? Are there jobs? Can people choose their own professions? Can they get the training they need? Do they enjoy some autonomy in the work places where they spend so much of their time or are they nervous because bosses are cruel and arbitrary and employees never know quite where they stand?

Russia

Let’s be more case specific. What do you think it was like to live and work in Russia before the Russian Revolution and after it? Russia had aristocrats, it had merchants, and it had peasants. The merchant class was about as close as they came to having a middle class. If you were not an entrepreneur then you were a peasant and the pleasure you took from your life depended on so many factors that you were far more likely to labor long and hard and die young, with perhaps a saint’s day to celebrate now and then. How the whole society fared depended on whether their ruler was benign or tyrannical.

So you would think that when that big pitchfork – revolution – turned over that compost heap and those on the bottom were the hallowed, but poor workers who rose up against oppression, that those poor people would experience a transformation in their lives. But the leaders of the revolution made tests for people. You had to join the Party and everyone’s actions were constantly under scrutiny. You could be sent to labor and die in Siberia. You could be killed outright. You could be imprisoned in a gulag, without a trial, without any argument, just taken out of your life and sent to hell on earth. Then the leaders, who perhaps felt vengeful about their years at the bottom of the heap, really clamped down. They assigned citizens to jobs. They erected that virtual iron curtain around the USSR so they would have no interference from other nations. They even built an actual wall to separate West and East Berlin.

China

The People’s revolution in China did not turn out well either. Perhaps it was because Mao was mentally ill or maybe Mao only became insane as he tried to correct his failing policies with more failing policies, until we got to the truly injurious Cultural Revolution. In this era China, as had happened in Russia, placed those who had been on the bottom on top as officials and those who had been on the top became the workers. So you had farmers, without any education, unable to read or write, in charge of a whole village of people. These untrained leaders become defensive and dictatorial. The upper classes made very poor farmers. Although we think that “turn-around is fair play, and that it makes a certain moral sense, it was a terrible failure. People starved. People were so intimidated they found sneaky ways to undermine those in charge. People were beaten and imprisoned. Many left the country if they could find a way and some died trying.

Democracies and Our Republican Coup

Revolutions that put democratic governments in place fared slightly better. Still when we wish for revolution in this country I want to know exactly what we will get when it is done. Will it take a revolution to overcome this coup that I have been writing about for the past six years? The one where the Republicans took over all three branches of government so they can have their way with the American people. What will it be like now that Donald has “trumped” their coup? Will he let the Republicans do as they wish? He seems delighted to do just that and more by dismantling our Federal agencies. When we have no affordable health care, when we have to work in an America with no labor unions to protect us, no laws about wages, no safety net if the economy slows, when we have no allies, what will life be like for people who once considered themselves in charge of their own fate and enfranchised in a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” With all these changes in governance how could we expect our society to be as it is now?

What Effect Will these Aberrations in Government Have on our Society

There does not seem to be any place for “we the people” in our government after the coup. Unless we agree with those in power we have no input in governance except through resistance. We are now a one party government, the other major party basically powerless. It looks as if America will no longer be a society that will nurture us all and provide opportunities for us all.

I believe that Donald Trump could only be President in an America where the Constitution has been trashed, hollowed out by people who found every way to exploit the flexibility our forefathers left in the document. The Republicans did the gut work to take over the government and their agenda seemed quite extreme to me. Then Donald stepped in and usurped all that the propaganda war, the gerrymandering, the purchase of state and local governments had accomplished, and went further when and he brought in his enforcers, the “alt-right”, so extreme that they had always been sidelined by nearly everyone.

This is now a “take no prisoners” government, a “my way or the highway government,” and they are vengeful and selfish. This time I think “we the people” may be in real trouble. We may find a meaner government produces a meaner society and guess who will bear the brunt of that? All of the big money is with those who have taken over our government. It is sort of a revolution in reverse.

After looking at the new budget, after looking at the new bill on education, and the new health care nonplan it is clear that these guys (don’t ever doubt that the men are in charge) intend our nation to be that old thing we fought so hard against – a military-industrial complex, and we will be the grist for the mills.

If all the programs that people depend on to lift up the less fortunate or the temporarily-down-on-their-luck are cut to the bone and our Federal government lavishes all its funds and energies on the military and the corporations, our society will be changed beyond recognition. It will be a DINO, a Democracy In Name Only. And we will be the ones behind the wall this time. I so did not want to go here. Of course we have to resist. We have to fight, fight, fight – to the bitter end. But I don’t see how we will win. In the end we may have to hunker down and try to make it through to the other side of this nastiness. Only experiencing it will convince the “faithful” of their misplaced loyalty.