Good News for the Coup

“The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”

Joseph Stalin could always be counted on to be blunt. His minister of justice once confirmed that the USSR’s constitution protected “freedom of expression,” but added that it did not protect “freedom after expression.” Rich nuance.

In the game of realpolitik, supporters of Donald Trump’s return to the White House in 2024 are in secure territory as they focus their efforts on controlling those who count and certify votes. Broadly speaking, the goal of the multiform offensive is this: If Joe Biden gets the exact same number of votes next time that he did in 2020, electoral officials will invalidate his victory in key states. That is why a number of new laws now give state legislatures the right to invalidate elections, on top of making it more difficult for traditionally Democratic voters to vote.

Never before has the elected position of secretary of state attracted so much attention — but that is who certifies the results. Republicans are on the offensive to get candidates elected in 2022who believe in the “big lie” that Biden’s election is illegitimate. Trump personally backs actors of the future coup and contributes financially to their campaigns. We also note a record influx of “Trumpian” militants serving as local election observers. Such jobs, performed until recently by kind retirees, now come with heightened powers of oversight.

In order to succeed, Republicans will have to gain control of Congress in 2022. Since the Democrats only have a nine-seat majority in the House, only five seats will have to swing to the right in order to get there. One useful technique is to redraw the electoral map in order to create more safe seats. Because Republicans, on the state level, control twice as many redistricting processes as Democrats, it’s practically a done deal. If the vote is the same as in 2020, redistricting already gives them six more seats, according to The New York Times, and Florida and Georgia have not even started yet — two states where prospects look good. “The floor for Republicans has been raised,” brags the chairman of the House Republicans’ campaign committee.

It is also necessary that the Republican majority be true Trumpians and that they accept the election as legitimate despite the cheating. The purging of the handful of Republicans who still have a democratic spine is in full swing. The Republican Party of Wyoming, for example, voted to no longer consider Liz Cheney a member. The others will lose in the primaries. It is essential because, if the electoral college is tied, the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the right to pick the president.

This has the mechanisms of a coup, but it is also a state of mind. Trumpian insanity will have to creep into the minds of all the party’s supporters. David Brooks, a moderate conservative, came back from a conference of elite Republicans convinced that this transition had already taken place. Democrats are no longer presented as political adversaries with mistaken ideas, like Ronald Reagan and John McCain thought. Henceforth, they are enemies. “We’re confronted by a systematic effort to dismantle our culture, our society, our traditions, our economy and our way of life,” says (for example) Sen. Marco Rubio, who until recently criticized Trump’s exaggerations.

Brooks was struck by the enthusiastic applause that the following remarks from the director of one of the leading right-wing think tanks, Rachel Bovard, drew: “Woke elites — increasingly the mainstream left of this country — do not want what we want. What they want is to destroy us. Not only will they use every power at their disposal to achieve their goal,” but they are already doing that by “dominating every cultural, intellectual and political institution.” We also need to know that in this apocalyptic vision of the world, the enemies are at once the rioters out of the Black Lives Matter movement and the billionaires who control Wall Street.

Along with the vilification of their adversaries is the normalization of political violence. These past few days, young Kyle Rittenhouse has become the darling of the right wing. His feat: having been acquitted of murder. He arrived, a minor, at a Black Lives Matter protest with an assault rifle. Taken to task, he killed two and injured one. For the right, Rittenhouse is a hero, a role model. At the same time, Congressional Republicans have all defended the right of one of their own to depict himself, in a cartoon, assassinating a famous Democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That is where we are at.

Perhaps all this prep work is useless. Biden’s waning popularity is such that the most recent polls have the Republicans winning in 2022, even without cheating. Even when asked to choose between Biden and Trump for president, the electorate is torn. But why risk it? If Trump wins in 2024, he wins. If he loses, he also wins.

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