Interesting. Increasingly now, I am seeing articles suggesting that we have moved into a new era of American democracy, an era that may well spell the ending of what we have come to believe is our entire system of constitutional democracy. This new era could I suppose be characterized as a form of the classic coup d’etat, except it seems both less remarkable and more catastrophic. Let me explain.
What exactly is meant by the term coup d’etat?
Coup d’état, also called Coup, is the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group. The chief prerequisite for a coup is control of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and other military elements. Unlike a revolution, which is usually achieved by large numbers of people working for basic social, economic, and political change, a coup is a change in power from the top that merely results in the abrupt replacement of leading government personnel. A coup rarely alters a nation’s fundamental social and economic policies, nor does it significantly redistribute power among competing political groups.
What we have been observing within our government, especially within our Executive branch, is a rather sudden change in the behavior of our senior-most executive—the President. President Trump seems not to grasp the fundamentals of our system, and more specifically the nature of the Executive. The President appears to believe he is not, or rather should not be bounded in any way by other forces within our government. He thinks he is able to do whatever pops into his head. Moreover, he thinks he should be able to do whatever he pleases without any criticism of any kind, from any quarter.
Because our Press believes contrary to that belief, being guided by that First Amendment thing, an endless series of back and forth critiques have been occurring since Trump’s first day in office. He does something. Someone in the Press comments, generally to criticize, and Trump sends out a series of Tweets at 3:00 AM, and the game is on. Note though, unlike in the past, this President does not change anything he is doing or planning on doing. He simply rants, accuses the Press of being FAKE NEWS, or FAILING NYTIMES, and then goes about his business. Then the Press continues its criticism, and Trump continues his early morning rants.
What we might have observed in the past, with really any of our Presidents, is some consultation by the President with other Congressional leaders, or with his counselors, and then some modification to his behavior. But because this President understands no boundaries—he seems literally to believe he can do whatever he wants to do—a change in his behavior is never one of his options. We might observe changes over time, but it really seems to be that he has simply lost interest in one thing and is now attracted to something else. Pressure of a critical nature seems not to be a motivating factor in moving him in one direction or another.
Now, how does that approach on his part begin to describe a coup?
Well, if we assume that a coup is a change in power at the top of a government, one that includes control of the armed forces, and, often replacement of people at the top of government, then we may be witnessing such a change. Note, coup’s often involve violence, and thus far we have escaped any violence. I say “thus far” because Trump himself has often thrown out challenges to his loving audiences to resort to violence against people who disagree with him. He almost seems to thrive on the prospect of violence. His admiration of authoritarians like Putin, Duterte, and Kim Jung Un, suggests he may even be yearning for an opportunity to use “his” armed forces against “his” opposition. He also seems unconscious regarding our precious civil liberties. If they get in his way, he seems not to mind brushing them aside even crudely.
Then we come to his most common characteristic—his hatred of the free press. Apparently only Fox News escapes his constant anger at the news media. But Fox is an entirely adoring “news” media, since Rupert Murdoch, that billionaire media mogul who hates almost everybody, seems to favor the Trumps of the world. Fox is an entirely scripted fake news network that in fact is simply a PR outlet for the Republican Party, or for whichever political party Rupert happens to favor, in whatever nation he is trying to corrupt. Remember, Trump is completely narcissistic, so he cannot stand any criticism of him or his actions—that is, no criticism, none. When he inevitably receives criticism—so many stupidities, so little time—he appears to lose his cool altogether. He apparently is incapable of writing anything beyond his 140 character Twitter onslaughts, but he uses that approach preferably at 3:00 AM—I guess he cannot sleep. So, he tweets vicious tirades in 140 character beats. He apparently believes he can browbeat the actual press, so that they will stop criticizing him. Oddly, that never seems to work. The actual press seems to greet his maniacal tirades with a mixture of bemusement and awe—awe at the thought that an actual sitting president could act that stupidly. The press is independent of him--who knew?
But lurking behind his twitter tirades is this thought that he will, by God, control them, one way or another. He labels them “Fake News”, or “Failing NYTimes”, as though that will stop them. Because nobody seems to be capable of reining him in, it can only be a matter of time before he tries to move beyond simply tirading his way out of his press problems, and perhaps move into some actual First Amendment meddling, to put the actual free press out of business.
That is the way of authoritarians everywhere—see all of his best buds, Putin, Kim, Duterte, act to control their press. Those they cannot control, they kill. We will see how closely Trump adheres to that model. Remember, he cares nothing about the results of his actions, so long as he gets his way.
It has become abundantly clear that Trump is a man out of control. At least in theory, our system of government is based on checks and balances among and between the three branches of government—the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial. The President is not supposed to be able to simple act out his madness in any way he chooses. Theoretically, there are potential checks on his behavior. But the GOP control over the legislative branch, their control of many state governments, and their apparent control of the judicial systems throughout the country, means that no one is acting to control Trump. They could, if they chose, try to rein him in, but they seem to prefer not acting in that direction. To the point, that I have now designated the GOP as a dead beast, replaced by something I call the Castrati Republic, with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell acting as the chief Castrati. The Castrati, as you may remember, were male singers, who had been castrated to maintain their high voices. I now characterize the GOP leadership as castrati, i.e., castrated males, whether they can sing or not.
So, Trump, as a result, has no apparent control over his increasingly weird behavior. And because we are not as a nation, used to such weird behavior on the part of our Presidents, we do not seem to know how to react. And therein lies the problem that may eventually produce an actual coup d’etat. Not knowing how to react, is being understood by Trump to mean approval. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what produced the glorious Third Reich during the 1930s Germany. Trump seems headed at least in that direction. How far he moves, and at what risk to the world and to our formerly glorious republic remains an open question. He has already alienated most of the civilized world. Whether he acts to destroy that which he fails to comprehend is the big question. If someone does not stop him, we may well find out, and we may not like the answer.