If you’re not slightly terrified, filled with a state of unease at the present moment, you should be. What’s so special about this moment, you might ask? One can only guess at what must be going on in the mind of U.S. President Donald Trump, as he contemplates his options. Over the past five years, anyone with a sound mind and rational thinking capabilities has been downright alarmed at the president’s autocratic tendencies, his complete inability to understand the basic functioning of our government, and his insistence on using the proverbial broad sword of the military where the surgical precision of political savvy is necessary.
If there was ever a time that many of our fears would be most likely to materialize, this would be it. As President Trump scrambles to buy time and figure out a way to overturn the legitimate election that unseated him, the President who’s shared all of the traditional hallmarks of the autocratic tendency is looking for any way to cling to power. And Trump has a lot of unsavory characters in his orbit these days.
Between Sidney Powell, the lawyer who stood in front of the nation and talked about “releasing the Kraken” before espousing a series of conspiracy theories that sought to explain why Trump lost the election; and Michael Flynn, the disgraced former National Security Advisor who now spends his free time talking about a military coup on live TV; it’s safe to say the better characters in Trump’s inner orbit have jumped ship.
Senators like Mitt Romney have long stood against Trump’s antics. And now even Bill Barr, Trump’s hand-picked attorney general is fleeing and making statements that distance himself from the President’s lies and undemocratic pronouncements.
It seems like just days ago I was reporting on Michael Flynn’s live TV interview where he said the President could just install the military in the battleground states where he didn’t win, force them to hold another election — one where Trump, not Biden would win — and thus steal the election from the duly elected President-elect Joe Biden. That was bad enough.
But the three members of Trump’s dark inner circle had a meeting Friday morning, Trump, Powell, and Michael Flynn, where they discussed Sidney Powell being elected to the position of a special council to uncover perceived election interference, interference that there’s zero evidence for (and all evidence points in the opposite direction). But beyond this, Flynn apparently may have raised the point of implementing martial law, using the military to functionally enact an American coup.
While Senator Romney and others decried the meeting and said there’s no way possible any of this would fly, it is alarming to stop and think, “We’re here.” We’re at this point, the do-or-die moment, as Trump stands before the American Rubicon, barely treading above water in his last 700 hours in office (at the time of this writing). He’s likely desperate, confused, and volatile.
This may very well be the first moment in Trump’s life where he’s met a problem he can’t buy, lie, or cheat his way out of. The voters have spoken. His sentence has been finalized. He’s committed to being a one-term President who oversaw several of the biggest catastrophes in American history. Not only that, he stoked the flames of each, from COVID-19 denialism to anti-mask rhetoric, to fanning the flames of the George Floyd protests and sending in unmarked federal troops to clash with protestors (and rioters, to be fair) in the streets.
Make no mistake, the stuff Michael Flynn has been talking about over the last few weeks are dangerous. He said Trump could give the order to steal voting machines in order to hold a new election, a mock election, functionally undoing the vote of the American People.
And Trump asked about the idea, poking around for details that might help him in his quest to remain president at all costs. Trump seems to have forgotten the raging pandemic that’s claimed over 300,000 American lives.
One has to wonder what’s going through the minds of these people. Can they not accept the fact that they lost? For me, it’s hard to put myself into the mental state of the kind of person who would burn down the Republic because they couldn’t handle losing, but it seems that Trump, Flynn, Powell, and the surprising (read: alarming) amount of followers who’ve still clung to the Trump brand like a fading trend they’d invested their life savings on, are just those kinds of people. Incapable of accepting reality as it is.
The Republican Party Chair of Arizona is even urging Trump, in those words, to “cross the Rubicon,” an obvious reference to Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon River and starting of the Roman Civil War of 49 B.C. This is just one more statement in a long lineage of Confederate apologetics and civil war rhetoric. None of this is new for much of the Republican base. It makes me wonder…
What are they really thinking? What are they really planning? And could it really work? For what it’s worth, I think we have a good hunch about what the answer might be to the first two questions. And fortunately, to the last question, I think it’s just about next to impossible. Trump would have to find military generals willing to carry out such commands in his name. Here we’d have a draft dodger ordering career military to essentially undo the American nation. Something tells me that conversation wouldn’t go over so well.
There is also the problem of checks and balances, something that was thankfully built right into the American system. “He’s leaving Washington with a whole series of conspiracy theories and things that are so nutty and loopy that people are shaking their head wondering what in the world has gotten into this man,” said Senator Romney about these final weeks of the Trump presidency.
Romney followed up by saying, “It’s not going to happen. That’s going nowhere. And I understand the president is casting about trying to find some way to have a different result than the one that was delivered by the American people, but it’s really sad in a lot of respects and embarrassing.”
I can’t see how this doesn’t inch us closer and closer toward the moment where they finally declare themselves, along with their own social media networks like Parler, their own media channels with partisan facts, and entire ecosystem of hyper-partisan eco chambers, to be a separate country altogether. Or, even worse, to be “the real United States.” But the real question still lingers…
Where does this all go? What does this point to? Will it just be a fracture in the Republican Party, a surface-level shift as the party rebounds post-Trump? Or does this signify a larger, deeper fracture in our society as a whole? Time will tell, but I suspect that with the separation of truth and dogma as such with hyper-partisan media, it’ll be more of the latter. Assuming Trump can’t pull something off. But it’s scary that Trump’s military coup moment has arrived and the discussions about such a coup are literally underway.