There is some evidence that Trump might be at least contemplating declaring martial law and trying to stay in power long enough to conduct new elections in those places where he’s contesting the results. Michael Flynn, Sydney Powell and others seem to be in his ear suggesting that he do this. And I suspect that he has so convinced himself of his stolen election narrative that he would think himself justified in this attempt. I strongly suspect that the military, who he’d need on his side in order to pursue this path, would balk. Since Trump doesn’t understand really how these things actually work, he’s likely declare martial law prior to determining whether the military is on his side. After all, he thinks those below him in government simply work for him and so will do anything, no matter how crazy, that he tells them to do. If he declared martial law and the military refused to follow, there would be no more clarifying event than this. All those who’ve been saying that he’s a fascist-in-waiting would be proven right. Next time, we’d have to take more seriously the very real danger that demagogues pose to our regime. Trump’s full intentions and his profound danger to our constitutional order would finally be made perfectly clear to anyone with sufficient integrity simply to open their eyes even a little bit. Moreover, he’d look weak and foolish, incapable of commanding the military–the presidency’s most powerful asset. It would almost guarantee that he could not run in 2024. And the dialectical nature of politics would also clarify, I suspect, that there’s something very dangerous about us having granted the presidency itself, not just Trump but all of the presidents of the couple of decades, so much power and having such a weak Congress. It’s possible that we reconsider that arrangement and encourage and reward members of Congress who stand up for their institution rather than just their party. Just as Congress was stronger in the wake of Watergate than it had been before, so too it’s possible it would be stronger after Trump’s failed coup.
Of course, there’s always the danger that the military doesn’t balk at this, but I’m tempted to say, in that case, perhaps there might even be something good about the revolutionary reaction that would demand of the people. It would require people in the streets standing up against the coup. At the risk of sounding too Jeffersonian, such a revolutionary reaction from the people might not be the worst thing. We’ve lost any real sense of civic virtue. Perhaps a real reaction to Trump’s coup might help us recover that some. Of course, in this case, the danger is that precisely because we’ve lost any real civic virtue, we react not by taking to the streets but by writing lots of angry op-eds, preferring to go on with our private lives rather than insisting on self-government.
12 thoughts on “Maybe a Trump-led failed coup wouldn’t be the worst thing?”
Taking the liberty of reposting here a comment by the great political theorist, William Connolly from Johns Hopkins that he posted on my Facebook thread dealing with this topic.
“It is perfectly clear that Trump has not given up on the hope of a coup. Only if he thinks he can’t get away with it will he desist. I do not think it wise, however, to say martial law would clarify things. Some modes of clarity, to me, are toooo dangerous. We must put all our moral and material energies into the drive to usher him out and then to expose him even more after he has gone. I know it is frustrating when the balance of power liberals, after the fact, say that what did not happen could not have happened. But they were totally surprised he won in 2016, just for starters. It could not happen….”
I agree with Bill Connolly. And I think this issue will highlight another brewing disagreement that I want to reason through with Ben — the post Trump political world. I will be laying out a case for as robust a Reconstruction as is possible in the circumstances of polarization and division. Ironically, Ben seems to be less risk averse than I am in the present moment but, in my view, oblivious to the risks of the future — as in, for example, being so cavalier about truth commissions.
Jeff, I think what you say last points back to what I’m trying to wrestle with. That is, how do we expunge Trump’s influence while still making possible some kind of reunification between the two sides in America. I don’t see how truth commissions accomplish anything along those lines except further division–a division so deep I think war not only possible but likely. If Trump is still around and being humiliated by what his followers will see as elites imposing “truth commissions,” I don’t see why his followers would stand for it. I suspect that those calling for truth commissions don’t appreciate the extent to which red America hates blue America and why they hate it. There seems to be the opinion that only if Facebook and Twitter blocked enough fraudulent posts and only if they knew the truth about Trump would they come around. But that mistakes the supposed solution for the cause. It’s precisely this notion that they can be manipulated by those above them which they’re rebelling against. The point is that they’re tired of being condescended to and being told how to think by those who seem to think themselves their betters. And the fact is that they’re not entirely wrong about this. It’s been socially acceptable in blue America long before Trump to make fun of the “white trash” in “flyover country.” This is to say that the “us” “them” distinction that Trump seized upon existed in blue America before Trump. Trump understood that there was a market for this resentment at being kept out of the prosperity of blue America and then also being mocked. Trump has been able to manipulate that base into a fever of resentment. But that manipulation will only get worse after he leaves the office. Real violence and war is possible on the horizon. That’s why I suggested in my previous essay that Biden should pardon Trump in order to diffuse this danger.
I have to think more before I write a better response. So I won’t get into the details yet. But I have noticed that you seem to care too much about what Trump supporters think. I would not go so far to say that I don’t care at all about what they think — just that your prudential instincts about what constitutional maintenance requires are very different from mine. When I think it through I will lay it out. I will start with the pardon issue — where your essay is terrific on the theory (and needed in the contemporary debate for that) and weaker on the prudential issue of whether to use the pardon and under what conditions and circumstances.
I do want to mention one more point because re-reading your post, I realized that what is referred to as truth commissions but could be called something else has nothing to do with the opinions and behaviors of ordinary citizens. Rather, it has to do with giving incentives to political appointees and civil servants, people who served or are still serving in government, to testify about what actually happened in the Trump administration. And it would also be connected to record preservation.
I’ll wait for the more extended reply you promised. My only brief suggestion regarding these “truth commissions” is that they not be called that. Sounds very ominous.
You two have really had a big dose of the Kool-Aide.
Why would you want to “expunge” the Trump influence? By making this statement, you are doing what you claim that you do not want by silencing voices.
We should have more voices and more ideas.
The two of you who have engaged in this intercourse are exhibiting the elitist blue America views that you say have disenfranchised the “fly-over country” and “white trash” America.
I do not live in a “fly-over state,” nor am I “white trash” America having an advanced degree myself. Your intercourse depicts nothing but an elitists’ bubble. Have you noticed that no one other than the contributors and myself even comment on any of your posts?
Wake up and realize that there is a wide patch of America, in both urban and rural areas, this is feed-up with this pompous attitude.
ALL OPINIONS MATTER! I understand that this is your site and as such, your opinions matter most here, but that is not what we should be prompting as a nation. All voices should be heard.
I appreciate your feedback. I’m sorry that you consider our attitude “pompous.” I do not think that was the intent. We were only trying to engage in a discussion about an important question. You’ve commented before and I think both of us have responded to you seriously without being dismissive. I’m not sure what more we can do. There’s a comment component to this site precisely so that we can hear other opinions. What’s more, in contrast to other sites, we try to respond to those opinions and engage in a discussion with those who’ve put in the time to comment. Not sure why you’ve chosen to be rude, instead of simply telling us your opinion. Rudeness is not a productive way to have a discussion. I know the internet’s anonymity permits a striking amount of rudeness but you might think more about the way you treat people. Neither of us have treated you badly by having an intellectual discussion, even as you appear to believe we have.
Once again, Dr. Kleinerman, you are reading my words but not understanding them.
I apologize if you have found any of my comments to be rude. That was never my intention, as I believe it was never your intention to offend with your postings, however, you have. I have stated my opinions and it is unfortunate that you take my opinions as insults and rudeness. I do not agree with you and most of your contributors, but disagreement is not rudeness. Additionally, constructive criticism and sarcasm are also not rude, but simple mechanisms to express opinions. I find it ironic that you and your contributors can make denigrating comments about certain groups of our populous expecting no reproach, however, when there is push-back, it is considered rude.
Both your and Dr. Tulis’s attitudes are of the “intellectual elite” and as such are pompous and dismissive of the general public, and this is my opinion and my opinion only. You and Dr. Tulis, even more so than yourself, have an obvious bias and that your political views are left leaning. Although many of your own pieces have a centrist view, the view is definitely anti-Trump.
Although I am not a “Trumper” nor did I vote for him, your pieces have suggested a placation of the Trump supporters simply to find some harmony within our nation. I wholeheartedly disagree with this sentiment. Voices should be heard and not placated. Opinions should be voiced. There should not be silence simply because the opinion does not agree with the vocal (and I use the word vocal because is might not be the mainstream.)
People who come from the rural areas and the “fly-over country” have wants, desires, views, and opinions that matter. They should be heard.
You can continue to have a site where you discuss with simply a few, or you can have a site that engages all from the nation to express opinions.
I went to your site because you stated it was going to provide opinions and knowledge from a constitutional standpoint. I wanted to engage in dialogue. I did not expect to agree with every opinion, but that is what brings about conversation, intercourse, and respectful discourse. Instead, my comments have mainly been dismissed. I have been insulted, and told that I am rude. Once again, I can disagree with your opinions, that does not make me rude. Instead, I find you rude and dismissive of any views other than your own.
Additionally, as far as hiding behind the Internet, I have done none of the such. As Editor of this site, you can clearly see who I am when I post a comment. For my own reasons, I have chosen not to have my full name posted.
I’ll just highlight the rude comments that make discourse difficult. First of all, what you’re calling “sarcasm” just comes off as rudeness on the internet, insofar as I don’t know you and can’t hear tone. So both “You two have really had a big dose of the Kool-Aide.” and “this is feed-up with this pompous attitude” are simply rude. I think you have misunderstood the point of this site. We are not opinion columnists. We are academics trying to engage with current politics while, at the time, broadening and deepening the conversation. We’d like to reach as many as we can but not at the expense of sacrificing the point of this site. We are funded by a foundation dedicated to preserving and protecting American ideals and institutions. As such, we have an obligation to connect our arguments to intellectual arguments that appear to offend you as elitist. I think we always try to explain these arguments in a way that makes sense to the reader. As for dismissing people or placating them, I’m trying to think through the kind of politics necessary to achieve unity again. That requires honesty about where we are and where we need to be. And it’s precisely the desires, views, and opinions of fly-over country that I’m trying to think through and take seriously. I think Trump is a ridiculous and dangerous man. But I’m trying to avoid the temptation to reject all of his supporters as ridiculous and dangerous. Although, that being said, I do think those supporters begging him on Twitter or Parler to instate martial law are dangerous. Finally, you’re right this website has been anti-Trump. I’ve said this to you before but it’s hard to be a website devoted to constitutionalism and not reject a man whose comments and behavior pose a fundamental danger to constitutional government.
Dr. Kleinerman, I would also like to note that even the authors of the Federalist Papers chose not to pen their names directly on the documents.
I’m not blaming you for not using your name. I’m just noting that the anonymity of the internet permits a brazenness that would be different were it not anonymous.
We stumbled over here different web address and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to finding out about your web page for a second time.