The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The January 6th Fools & Basic Coup Lessons

The January 6th invasion of Congress included people with zip ties and paramilitary equipment. While there were a lot of idiots there, there was a core which had a plan of capturing important people like Pelosi, and they came fairly close. There’s no question that Trump abetted it, but the Secret Service refused to drive him to the capital and the effort failed.

As it happens, I know and like someone who was there, though obviously they have different politics than I do. I talked to them briefly about it and one thing was clear.

They genuinely believed and believe the election was stolen. Now both sides cheat, though as far as I can tell the Republicans do so more, and Democratic election finangling is primarily meant to exclude progressives and left-wing populists from running. But the point is that if you believe an election was stolen, and you take steps, even violent steps, to fix that you, consider yourself a patriot trying to save democracy.

Now, of course, the people who encouraged the occupation of Congress may well not have believed that the election was stolen (we’ll leave Trump out, he’s delusional and there’s no way to know what he really thinks.) But a lot of the people who were there genuinely believed it was.

These people didn’t understand Trump. The main thing I pointed out to my acquaintance, was that Trump betrayed them. He could have pardoned them before he left, and he didn’t. They were loyal to him, and he was not loyal to them. He was also a fool, because if he had pardoned them, they’d be there for him in his next attempt, and most of them now won’t be, in large part because most of them are going to prison.

You come for the king, you’d best win. If you’re going to invade Congress, well, you’d better succeed. These people didn’t think things thru, and neither did Trump. As I wrote early in Trump’s reign, he might want to do a coup, but he was too incompetent to pull it off, and so it was. The only chance of it happening is if it was run by someone more competent under him, but Trump had a habit of getting rid of his most able lackeys, like Bannon.

There needed to be a plan to call in paramilitary forces who would have wanted another Trump term, and a chance to reform America. The most (dis)loyal of these are the border guards, who are brutal brownshirt thugs and there needed to be more doubt about the election to give cover to politicians and business leaders.

Some work has been done on this since 2001. A lot of electoral officers were replaced by Trump loyalists who will certify based on politics, not vote counts, and judges, likewise, have been systematically replaced when possible.

But bottom line, Trump didn’t have enough enforcer class or elite backing, and he didn’t have enough right wing radical support either. There should have been much more simultaneous action at the state level. The goal would be to force the issue to a supreme court controlled by Republicans and get some legitimacy, as was done in 2000 (which, according to the numbers I saw and ran back in the day, was a Democratic victory.)

Trump’s a boob in many ways. He has (non moral) virtues, but he’s fundamentally scattered and somewhat stupid. That doesn’t mean he isn’t effective, however, and thinking that smart and effective a synonyms is a mistake too many people continue to make.

You don’t need a majority to succeed at a coup, 70% of the population can be against you, but you do need a chunk of the enforcer class on your side with the rest unwilling to stop you or so much of a minority they can be crushed. You do need support from an elite faction, and you do need about 30% of the population on your side.

I leave it to readers to decide what the risk is in the US.

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  1. StewartM

    We’re still at great risk.

    I have a former coworker who pooh-poohs this as being a ‘coup’ simply because ‘they had no guns’. Well, some of them *did* have guns. Moreover, Hitler’s first putsch in 1923 was likewise amateurish, and likewise didn’t have many guns, thinking that the police wouldn’t fire on them because they were on their side.

    Since then, they are preparing to ‘do it right the next time’. And while yes, the low-level coup participants were prosecuted, Merrick Garland has moved with painful slowness against Trump. I re-iterate what I wrote before, when I came home from work in the middle of the day to retrieve something, and saw that my state version of the FBI had raided one of my neighbors’ home, breaking down the front door to get inside. Yet when it’s one of our elites, our LEOs ‘negotiate’ with them over what evidence they will provide instead of just making a raid to seize it and put them in handcuffs.

    That is an inversion of justice, if anything you cut the peons slack and ‘negotiate’ with them while moving against the rich and powerful with speed and ruthlessness. Moreover, in most cases against the peons (DEA, child porn raids) such raids are done where is no one’s life and health at-risk so there is no justification for this type of Law enforcement behavior.

  2. bruce wilder

    both sides cheat, though as far as I can tell the Republicans do so more, and Democratic election finangling is primarily meant to exclude progressives and left-wing populists from running.

    I see the Dem establishment’s alliance with the so-called intelligence community as absolutely anti-democratic. Hillary Clinton was actively seeking to turn Electors in 2016. Russiagate was shameful. And, now we have the obviously senile Biden, in whose name some faction drives the world toward nuclear war. It is a little more serious than excluding from power some fatuous leftists.

    Republicans generally have played their age-old game of weighting the deck in favor of big business and the wealthy by playing on race and religion and misdirected resentments. The Dems have largely out-competed the Republicans for the financial support of the ultra-wealthy and the biggest of big business by going at the electoral game in a different way, a way that has completely subverted the best instincts of what used to be left. If you’re an idealist like me, it does not make much difference if you’re being outvoted in North Carolina thru racial gerrymanders bought and paid for by a few wealthy individuals or if your erstwhile allies are putting Ukrainian flags on their Instagram accounts and advocating for universal censorship.

  3. Michael Levine

    Just a few things on Trump.

    Trump was trained in business, politics and media by Roy Cohn, the man he called at least once a day every single day until he died.

    Cohn has been referred to as both Trump’s best friend and mentor.

    Roy Cohn was involved in generations-spanning deep politics. He was a despicable guy in action, though by many accounts a very sensitive man on a personal level.

    Himself gay, he outed other men for political ends that led to said men killing themselves, or being killed. This was obviously at a time when gayness was much less tolerated in the west.

    In addition to all the other dastardly deeds this criminal was involved with, Cohn also destroyed his great-uncle Lionel’s toy train empire – just for good measure.

    Trump’s largest campaign and election funders were casino mogul Sheldon Adelson – who said all he cares about is Israel, Steven Roth – who bailed Trump out of bankruptcy, Marcus Bernard of the Home Depot empire, and Paul Singer, who is involved in all manner of financial chicanery. The latter three are also quite enamored with Israel.

    Ian mentioned Steve Bannon, whose history goes back decades, but who was working with Andrew Breitbart on behalf of Trump in the years leading up to Trump’s election run. Breitbart and his media were/are naked Israel ideologues and partisans.

    An attorney who had worked for a consortium of bankers/financiers Trump was in debt to was interviewed on CNN – I believe – a few years back. He said that rather than “kill” Trump – by cutting off necessary financing and media opportunities – they decided to use Trump for their interests. The lawyer basically says this out loud on CNN. Thus the explosion in media opportunities and appearances on news shows in the early-mid 2000’s.

    I am currently unable to find the video.

  4. Jorge

    Elections in general cannot be thrown in America in the administration of voting and vote-counting. We don’t have an “election” in the US, we have a decentralized arrangement of thousands of local elections run by hundreds of thousands of people. Some of those elections are outright thrown, and more are slightly nobbled. But, the same people do this every election. It’s just part of the background scenery of American Life.

    A story: years ago, there was an election in San Francisco to start a public power company and deny PG&E their monopoly. The measure lost. After the election, ballot box lids floated onshore. Maybe they were real ballot box lids, maybe it was a dirty trick to cast doubt on the election.

    We have had several instances of national and state elections thrown by various power players by manipulation before the election, but it’s fantastically hard to steal an actual election.

  5. VietnamVet

    January 6th was closer than seen in corporate media hindsight. If Mike Pence got in the Limo and was kept quiet for a couple days who knows what would have happened if the 2020 election results were not confirmed by Congress. The multiyear sentences show the current rulers do consider it significant. The basic problem is the USA is de-industrialized, depleted and re-fighting WWI in Ukraine. There is no way out. If there is peace and strong borders, the 1970’s malaise will hit with full force in North America without sufficient cheap energy to keep the wheels spinning. In Europe if one side or the other breaks though the defenses in depth into the rear echelon, the other will use tactical weapons to stop them. Every war game ever run indicates that once nuclear weapons are used the other side will fire their strategic weapons to avoid their loss. If you are going to die, they damn too will die.

    The current system works by exploiting labor and the earth’s resources and not paying the external costs of its corruption, crime and pollution as the rich hoover up all the wealth available. The current global rulers don’t give a damn if low class Americans live or die. The bills are coming due.

  6. Curt Kastens

    Scripting of “incidents” or manufacturing history. Does this belong on the open thread or here because both incidents are scripted in advacne events and therefore just as fake as reality tv attempts to change a government.
    I have been watching Scott Ritter and Larry Johnson talk about how the Wagner Incident had no chance of success. But they do not talk about how this event was scripted far in advance. Why do they refuse to point this out. Do I need to repeat again all of the clues that the Wagner incident was scripted far in advance?? Whether Progrozin was manipulated or a willing participant I can not say for sure.
    The January 6th incident falls in to exactly the same catagory. This whole event was scripted by the deep state (MIC) far in advance of the actual event. I can not say for sure what the primary motive was for doing this. But I suspect one of the secondary motives was to make Mike Pence look reasonable.

  7. davers

    On Jan-6 there was a quick reaction force of guys waiting in a park across the Potomac River from the Capitol building. Their truck beds held large metal tool boxes sufficient to hold an arsenal of long guns. The engines were idling. They were parked on a boat ramp, and had at least one boat in the water.

  8. Mark Level

    As usual, great post by Ian and good responses from most commenters. Most broadly, I agree with Bruce– Trump never had a serious chance of success, his m.o. for leadership is too inconsistent and shambolic. His stooges are stupid followers who will hand their will & bank accounts over to an obvious con man (for which a few low-level toadies had to serve jail time for J6 hijinks, though for the most part in this case I don’t see the prosecutions as “political”). . . .but back to agreeing with Bruce. When Trump won I wasn’t that bothered because I knew the election either went to Organized Evil (the Clinton crew) or Disorganized Evil (the Trump Zion-Financial scam crime family), & in many (but not all) cases disorganized evil is less bad. (Both being bad in intention, but disorganized less likely to “succeed” in the long run.) If we had a Hillary term then, the current Slavic Civil war created by the NeoCons might’ve begun then, & we well into WW III, not on the brink as we are now. (Coked up Zelensky keeps crowing that the Russians are about to bomb the Zaporozhiye Nuclear Plant they took very early in the war, which would be a false flag as they would no more bomb their own plant than they did Nordstream (sorry Tallifer), most of the radiation would blow East into Russia and not West toward Ukraine, Poland, etc. But of course Chickenhawk Lindsay Graham & Zionist senator Blumenthal proposed a law that if ANY radiation is leaked in that region it’s NATzO Article 15 and World War III is here, let the nukes fly!! Many have warned of the clear false flag, let’s hope even the Neocons recognize rolling that die is not likely to pay off?) If there is a coup in this country it will come from the Usual $uspects, the Oligarch and Military-Industrial goons allied with Clintonism & “pragmatic, orderly Evil.” The RePug queer-bashers are too obsessed with their endless culture war to do a targeted strike, & when they’re not fulminating about bashing queers or trannies or forcing them into closets, they are, like big time R. fundraiser, pundit & political agent Matt Schlapp, running around and grabbing their subordinates’ dicks to demonstrate their own hypocrisy and sex obsessions.

  9. Soredemos

    Or, just like the recent thread about a civil war that I scoffed at, this is melodramatic hyperbole and there was never any coup attempt, not even a badly planned and executed one. Just a parade of idiots that turned into a riot when capitol police didn’t take the potential threat seriously, and the parade of idiots were themselves very surprised when they actually got into the building. A few clowns getting restraining gear together and mixing in with the crowd with very vague plans to ‘do something’ does not to my mind constitute a coup attempt.

    I’ll echo Lambert Strether over at MC: Myanmar was a coup. This was a farcical parade.

  10. Willy

    When idealists vote “no Dem no GOP”, we wind up with rule by a Supreme Court friendly to plutocratic interests and unpopular far right causes. Seems a busted strategy for leftism so far. But maybe somebody’s playing 4D chess? Do tell.

    I believe the topic was basic coup lessons from whatever the hell January 6th was. I’d add that Trump lost most military when he didn’t push back hard on that “losers and suckers” rumor. He lost his secret service by treating them more like servants than praetorian guards. He never should’ve held that Bible upside down. Not lied so goddamned obviously and often. Plus after Hitler got his 30% followers to target the Jews there was a lucrative payoff by stealing all their stuff, while Trump’s “enemies” ain’t got much to steal. And finally, his target supplicants the evangelicals, seem a cowardly bunch unlikely to willingly sacrifice life and limb in some Trumpian putsch, only their reputations via Twitter.

    There’d been some talk about DeSantis being the smarter fascist we’d better look out for. But he doesn’t have Mussolini’s style at the podium. And then that war against Mickey Mouse. The stupid stunts against the weak. And the white go-go boots thing. Maybe somebody needs to fire his strongman consultant?

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