To rephrase the old meme often attributed to Santayana, “Those who do not prepare for the worst, are doomed to experience it.” During the past few weeks, He Who Is Not My President has:
1. Moved federal troops into Portland Oregon ostensibly to protect Federal property from Black Lives Matter protestors. Neither the governor of the State nor the Mayor of the city requested any Federal assistance in controlling the protestors The troops are mostly unidentified and are arresting and removing protestors often far from Federal properties.
2. Threatened to also send troops to Chicago and other Democratic-controlled cities.
3. Announced he may or may not accept the results of the election should he lose.
In response to these actions, some have claimed that Trump might be planning not to step down if he loses the election in November and attempts to remain in power through the use of arms if necessary. Others have argued that such fears are overreactions and their potential for success almost impossible. While I may agree that many of those claiming the potential of a coup is imminent are probably overreacting, I disagree, however, with those who seem to claim it is well-nigh impossible because of provisions of the law will prevent it or confidence that those that may appear empowered to act in a situation like this will do so. If in 2015 someone said that there would be a president who would use the presidency openly to line his and his family’s pockets, would avoid impeachment in the face of incontrovertible evidence he attempted to bribe a foreign government using duly authorized taxpayer money to invent evidence against a potential political opponent or any of the dozens of other transgressions he has committed, most of us would find that absurd because there were laws against that sort of behavior and those empowered to deal with such issues would certainly do so.
Now, we all must not forget that it has been reputed that this is a man who kept a copy of Mein
Kampf on the nightstand by his bed and despite the fact He does not read much if anything at all. Even if he did not. Someone in the Administration must have. Or perhaps it is just a fact that a totalitarian Putsch that happens naturally. If I were a modern right-wing conspiracy theorist and this was being done by say, Obama or Biden or Hillary, I would allege this was being done in preparation for a coup should they lose the election. Now, I may or may not qualify as a conspiracy theorist but not taking these hints seriously is foolish and not preparing deadly.
What happens if on November 3 or sometime shortly thereafter he declares the election invalid and his “irregulars” like the Boogaloo Boys, KKK, and others riot in the streets? Or more likely riot in the streets after he declares the election invalid. He then claims a state of emergency and releases military forces to patrol the streets. It is not a question of what will you do then, but what do we need to do now? We have only about 100 days.
Some knowledgeable people have told me that my worry is misplaced, the nation’s General Staff has been well trained to handle situations like this. But, coups are often led not by the Generals but the Colonels.
One thing we certainly ought to be doing now and until January and later if necessary is support the peaceful protest going on now and in the future wherever these, so-called Federal troops are called in over the objection of the Governors and Mayors involved -- including personal participation
One thing I think would be for the Governors of the states affected to call out the state’s police force and National Guard troops in order to protect from Federal suppression those exercising their First Amendment rights. After all, wasn’t one of the purposes of the Second Amendment to provide states with a means of protecting themselves from oppression by the Federal government.
It is not a question of whether it is a remote possibility or an imminent threat but are we prepared for the worst. What do you plan to do now?
Given the importance of this issue and the comments received so far I thought I would add something from the other side:
My friend Terry served in the military, including a stint as Professor of Military History at West Point. He was also co-author of a textbook on US military history. Distressed by the concerns expresses by some of a possible coup of some sort by the current president wrote a letter to the NY Times expressing his belief that based on their history, the military itself will resist such misuse.
A MILITARY COUP TO KEEP TRUMP IN OFFICE.? ITS HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL NONSENSE
Paul Krugman recently lamented in the New York Times :
“The United States could follow the path of Hungary into an authoritarian one-party state”; “Today’s Republican Party” would cheer on a “Trumpian power grab even if it amounted to a military coup”. and that as a result, we are in “dire political straits”.
This may make hearts flutter but it is really historical and political nonsense. The United States is not now, nor has it ever been, with one possible exception at the end of the Revolutionary War, in danger of a military coup. And certainly not to maintain a defeated President in office beyond his elected term, as a number of leading politicians fear.
The key to understanding the successful American experiment starts with a victorious General: George Washington. At the end of the Revolutionary War, the victorious Continental Army, the progenitor of the United States Army, (US Army flags proudly carry the battle ribbons of the Revolutionary War), had no future. It also had not been paid for months, going on years. The highly educated, for its time, officer corps also had not been paid. These intelligent, powerful, young men had won a war and were dead broke, with families in economic distress, if not facing starvation. These men were in charge of the only organized institution in the former thirteen colonies that represented the entire United States. It was a lethal and effective instrument of national power.
The elected government of the United States, the Continental Congress, had no Chief Executive, was without funds because it had no taxing authority and existed only at the sufferance of the thirteen State legislatures. States reluctantly sent it money to pay for the war. The War was won, the States had their own problems and The Congress and the Army were on their own.
The problem for the country was that the Army was the country’s only disciplined, armed force and was armed to the teeth, with thousands of men in artillery, infantry, and cavalry regiments. The only other armed forces were part-time soldiers organized in state militias that had neither the training nor the experience to stand up to a disciplined and trained professional army such as the Continentals had become.
And the Continentals were very unhappy.
They were loyal to one man: their victorious General, George Washington, who had organized and led them through great hardships to victory. He had begged the powers that be for their food, clothing, arms, and shelter. He had succored them in defeat and celebrated them in victory. And now they demanded that he take over the country and govern as an undisputed Prince or King. Under similar circumstances, Napoleon Bonaparte twenty years later would become Emperor of the French.
But George Washington not only refused but lost his famous temper and castigated his troops for being disloyal to the American Democracy that they had fought and died for. He told them that his loyalty was to The Congress that had given him his commission as Commander in Chief of the Army and that he would return his Commission to The Congress within a matter of weeks. He told his officers and men to return to their families, their farms, and their shops and enjoy the liberty that they won with their comrades blood. And in the most important Initial act that occurred in the history of the United States, he voluntarily resigned his commission as Commander in Chief in person to The Congress. The moment is captured in a large scale painting by John Trumbull and hangs today in the US Capitol rotunda.
Why is this story so important: Because it is taught with great reverence and firmness to all of the succeeding generations of West Point cadets, Annapolis midshipmen and Air Force cadets at all of our military academies. It is the foundation of the Country’s trust in our Armed Forces. It binds the generations of military professionals who have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. And that means the Constitutional provisions to elect a President every four years and install and honor the President-Elect in his new office. If necessary that will be enforced, if required, by the Armed Forces. And there is plenty of historical precedent for such action.
In 1861 when the coming of Civil War threatened the inauguration of President-Elect Abraham Lincoln, General Winfield Scott, a Southerner from Virginia, victor of the Mexican War and Commander in Chief of the United States Army, mobilized regiments of infantry and artillery in Washington to ensure the peaceful inauguration of Lincoln. In 1876, outgoing President Ulysses S. Grant mobilized the troops to ensure that the duly elected President, Rutherford B. Hayes, who had been elected by the House of Representatives by the slimmest of margins, be sworn in as President. There are numerous other examples in American history of the military honoring the requirements of the Constitution and obeying the law, not a particular man.
The recent reaction of the military professionals, both active duty and retired, to President Donald Trump’s threat to impose martial law by invoking, illegally and unconstitutionally, the Insurrection Act of 1807 to restore “law and order” to suppress peaceful protests, demonstrates the profound abhorrence of the military leadership and ranks to a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Americans to peacefully assemble and protest their government. This abhorrence underscores the obvious: the United States Military serves the constitutionally elected leaders of the country only in their legal roles. Not in actions that may be manifestly contrary to the Constitution.
A President-Elect in January 2021, whoever it may be, will command the Military’s loyalty and devotion. If directed, they will install and defend the duly elected President “against all enemies, foreign or domestic”. And that includes an outgoing President Trump.
I hope the Times prints this letter on its editorial page. The military’s historic loyalty to the Constitution needs to be revealed to all Americans, but to the Military itself to remind them of their over two hundred year loyalty, not to an individual or a political philosophy but to the Constitution. However, I cannot remain sanguine that his argument that the history of the US military’s defense of the constitution is adequate to withstand the possible coming constitutional storm. History is rife with countries and their militaries' commitment and loyalty to a specific organizing principle only to have that commitment and more importantly their understanding of the organizing principle to be confused as a result of disagreement over its meanings. Today, the politics in America is only too often a disagreement over the meaning of provisions in the document. For example, Attorney General Barr’s interpretation of the almost unlimited Constitutional power of the president. A position that appears a majority of the Supreme Court seems sympathetic to. How can we expect the military’s loyalty to a Constitution which the people of the country disagree as to its meaning?