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

Trump Will Leave and Will Not Launch a Coup

I keep seeing this talking point that “Trump will not leave voluntarily.”

How exactly would he stay?

Trump has not taken the steps necessary for a military coup: The man hasn’t even been filling all the vacancies properly. The military will not support him if he tries to stay after losing an election.

Trump doesn’t have the right personality or skill set for this. I’m not one of those who denies Trump all competency: The man stayed rich, slept with beautiful women, and won the US presidency. He’s good at getting what he wants.

But the man who will end US Democracy is not yet in the White House, and it isn’t Trump. He is not organized enough, he does not keep loyal lieutenants and he cannot delegate properly.

Trump will leave when his time is up. If for some reason he tries to stay, he will not have the support to do so.

The US is in the danger zone for a Caesar, no question. It may well happen. It just won’t be Trump.

Wait for the competent, genuinely charismatic authoritarian or demagogue.

Running around spewing nonsense about Trump makes people in “the boy who cried wolf mode,” and when or if the actual threat happens, they will not be taken seriously. Thanks to their spewing, no one may be.


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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 20, 2019


Why Buttigieg Beats Harris and Beto to Be the DNC’s Champion


  1. Herman

    Talk about Trump refusing to leave office is just partisan blah blah. I heard the same thing from Republicans about Obama and from Democrats about George W. Bush. If dictatorship ever comes to the United States my bet is on an outright military coup. Many Americans would likely support it because the military is one of the very few institutions with any credibility and popularity among the people, and that includes both Republicans and Democrats.

    Support for military rule is even higher among young Americans, which is more evidence that we cannot just rely on generational change to save us.

  2. Joseph Wolz

    The problem isn’t Trump, it’s the people he’s activated (for lack of a better term). We’re going to see some major paramilitary activity around the election, and while there won’t be a coup in the name of Trump, there might be an insurgency.

    I’m much more worried about a slow boil civil war like Syria had a year before it went blooie.

  3. alyosha

    When Trump gained office, he launched a slow motion coup, knowingly or unknowingly. It was said when he gained office, that he was an autocrat without an autocracy. That’s beginning to change. Several data points:

    – a Republican Senate that’s demonstrated it’s not interested in doing its Constitutional duty
    – the attorney general, William Barr, has proven to be Trump’s long desired fixer, who, like the Senate, will look the other way. He acts as Trump’s attorney r/t the attorney for the US.
    – a Treasury Secretary who’s stalling on releasing Trump’s tax returns (even though the law about this could not be clearer)

    Trump has every motivation to stay in power as long as possible, to avoid prosecution. And the longer he stays in, the deeper the corruption sets in. You don’t need a military for any of this, in fact it’s better if you can do all of this without them.

    It’s really much deeper than Trump, who is a happy accident for the money power that runs this country. Were he not so good to them, his chances in 2020 would be much less.

  4. NR

    I can’t fathom the mindset that looks at all the authoritarian things done by Trump and his supporters since taking office, yet still believes that in a year and a half he’ll allow a free and fair election.

  5. alyosha

    …in a year and a half he’ll allow a free and fair election.

    The trick is not needing to do anything drastic, like canceling the election. They’ll just lean hard on the various voter suppression techniques already in place. They can already count on the nearly impossible to remove advantage conferred upon them by the electoral college.

  6. Effem

    Just another symptom of TDS

  7. Bill Hicks

    I’ve always thought Pence was the more dangerous figure that Trump. He’s a true believer who really thinks he’s doing God’s work. Personally, I hope Trump’s ticker holds out for however long he has left.

  8. edwin

    I agree with Ian – Trump is not going to remain.

    There is no crisis in the right wing that would support a coup. Even a win by left liberal Bernie Sanders isn’t that big of a crisis. I rather doubt that Bernie Sanders would be anywhere close to as radical as Donald Trump is. If he was that might participate some sort of right wing crisis. Bernie Sanders is no Mike Gravel.

    The US has a well warn path on how to deal with troublemakers. Coups, as in Salvador Allende aren’t likely to happen except perhaps on a very slow scale over decades of incremental destruction. Assassinations, though are the American way.

    As far as fair elections go, since when has the US had fair elections? Since when has the US been a democracy?

    The Electoral College has to go in a democratic system, but in its current system it plays an important role. It forces presidential candidates to appeal to the entire country, including small states. It actively helps to prevent tyranny of the majority, something Ms. Clinton attempted to inflict on the deplorables living in the flyover states.

    It seems to me that all the talk about getting rid of the Electoral Collage is all about changing the rules so the “right” people win, and not about making the system more fare or more representative.

  9. S Brennan


    Trump Derangement Syndrome, though it encompasses a much larger portion* of the populace is just like the much smaller faction of the US that had Obama Derangement Syndrome, both groups talk nonsense and prevented serious discussion of actual policy.

    Fortunately, Trump, who, according to TDS’s sufferers, is the worst human ever far..not started a regime change war. Obama by contrast, had already accomplished regime change in Honduras, Libya and was working on Syria not to mention Ukraine but, his rhetoric was so smooth it was all good with his supporters. Why I bet those brown skinned people didn’t even complain as their families were murdered and their countries destroyed.

    *This is due to the heavy hand of DeepState’s broadcast outlets backing Obama’s neoliberalism and neocolonialism while making clear that voters were out of line in not supporting the DeepState’s candidate Hillary.

  10. S Brennan

    Agree with this comment by Bill Hicks

    “I’ve always thought Pence was the more dangerous figure that Trump”

    And this comment by Edwin

    “It seems to me that all the talk about getting rid of the Electoral Collage is all about changing the rules so the “right” people win, and not about making the system more fare or more representative.”

  11. alyosha

    Whether the Electoral College is about allowing the right people to win is besides the point.

    How fair is it, when it repeatedly denies the will of the majority? In every other contest, “majority rules” – except for presidential elections, and that’s because of the EC.

  12. maurice h crumbly

    Hillary Clinton may have won the popular vote, but if you do the math, she only won 15% of the counties. That kind of gave me some pause on getting rid of the electoral college. Without the electoral college, that kind of resembles the way the Federal reserve is set up, where only a small class of the population has a say in the way the country\’s economy is run. I may not agree with the outcome, but I don\’t want to nullify anyone\’s vote.

  13. Hugh

    I agree with alyosha. The so-called “right” people are what most of us call the majority.

    Regime change? Senseless war? Anyone heard of Yemen. And why change regimes when you can suck up to dictators like MBS in Saudi Arabia, Putin in Russia, and Kim Jong-un in North Korea? Or an apartheid regime like Israel run by a corrupt fascist like Netanyahu?

    I think Trump would have no problem with a coup. He is just too big an idiot to organize one. As Dana Milbank said of the Mueller report, it showed that Trump was “Too stupid to conspire. Too incompetent to obstruct.” Parenthetically, I would note that the law doesn’t care if your conspiracy or obstruction was successful. Only that you tried. And Trump did try multiple times.

    It’s also important to remember that being smart and relentless self-promotion are not the same thing. Trump is just another spoiled rich kid who started out with everything and whose daddy still had to bail him with hundreds of millions of dollars because about the only genius Trump ever showed was a rare ability to go bankrupt.

    It’s not that Trump was smart or even clever. His “success” in our political system has almost everything to do with its degeneracy and almost nothing to do with him.

  14. S Brennan

    Alyosha; when you say this:

    “How fair is it, when it repeatedly denies the will of the majority?”

    You make clear that you know nothing of the US Bill of Rights contained inside the US Constitution. Had you ever familiarized yourself with it’s contents, [as is the DUTY of every US Citizen], you’d know, in the US, the majority can not,[legally], override the rights of minorities.

    Because you’re unable to understand this very basic point let me point out to you that every advance in civil rights is codified there. That and under Supreme Court rulings, that affirm the principle that a majority can not, except through constitution change, abrogate the rights of minorities. All racial, sexual and hopefully, after this summer, transgendered enjoy their limited freedom based on the antipodal of your delusional desires.

    You think your self liberal, you are not, your thoughts are no different that the fascist thinking that infected the world in the 1930’s. It’s sad, very sad.

  15. alyosha

    The concept of “fairness” I write about transcends the Bill of Rights, and will be around long after the Bill of Rights is dust. It’s known to every child. It’s extremely basic.

    Countless disputes, including nearly all elections, are resolved thru majority rule. Period. Deal with it. You don’t need to make it complicated.

  16. bruce wilder

    Politics gets complicated, alyosha. Deal with that.

    A majority could decide to be very unfair to a minority. That they form a majority does not make unfair, fair.

    Democratic government does not begin or end with majority-rule. It starts with reason and deliberation over policy choices framed as general rules and public goods.

    Politics as some wag put it is one long dispute over who gets what when. When politics veers away from general rules and principles that apply to everyone, agreed to by a majority, and becomes instead domination by one persistent faction of some other or all others, democracy has failed, even if the dominating faction is able to mobilize support from a majority.

    The electoral college was a dumb idea, poorly conceived in several respects, but it has had a couple of major benefits in shaping the country’s politics. It has made the political strategy of running up a big vote in one region in Presidential politics at least, a non-starter. You cannot win a Presidential election by stuffing ballot boxes in one large state alone. Nor by promising that one small group of states great benefits at the expense of other states. There is an incentive in the Electoral College to assemble a majority from many disparate places without unduly offending or exciting the rest: in short, it necessitates coalition building of a broad national sort.

    I am sure Hillary Clinton is righteously proud of representing the cosmopolitan areas that have benefited from globalization, financialization, free trade and the rest and I am equally sure she feels no responsibility for the de-industrialization of the Midwest that benefited her good friends at Goldman Sachs. Opioid epidemic — not her fault! She should have shown up in Wisconsin and tried harder to appeal to marginal voters who were not prosperous suburban women like her self.

    The electoral college defines a constitutional majority in a peculiar way, but it is not on its face an a priori unfair definition. And, it shapes the political strategies used to gain that majority in ways that encourage democratic appeals for broad support on general principles.

  17. Herman

    The Electoral College doesn’t really help small states. Candidates concentrate on swing states, which are not necessarily small states.

    CGP Grey did a pretty good video on the problems with the Electoral College.

  18. Chiron

    People should be more interested of what groups brought someone’s like Trump to power, years ago I met a woman who worked for think tanks in Washignton and she said Trump candidacy was a war between the American elites, those who wanted the Iran deal and those who went nuclear with Trump.

    Immigration was a subject that both parties didn’t want to talk about but Trump was allowed to throw red meat to White Americans who didn’t want more brown people, suddendly a NYC real estate magnate became the champion of the (white) poor people.

    Everybody in Washington and the media knows that isn’t Putin for who Trump answer to, but Netanyahu, Adelson and Kushner.

  19. @alyosha
    Too bad that history and civics are not taught in schools any more. “Majority rules?” No. This nation is not governed by the people, it is governed, in all respects, by the states. The states are governed by the people, but the nation is a federation of states, and all issues are decided by a consensus of states.

    Laws are passed by a vote of the states in Congress. Judges are confirmed by a consensus of states in the Senate. Treaties are confirmed by a consensus of states in the Senate. Amendments to the constitution are ratified by state legislatures. It is entirely reasonable and consistent for the president to be elected by a consensus, not of the national population, but of the states.

    All of that is reflected in the very name: The United States of America.

  20. someofparts

    So, once we get rid of Trump, our problems are solved and we return to our normal practice of free and fair elections?

    I have some lovely beachfront property in Asheville that you really must see.

  21. someofparts

    Speaking of honest politics and trustworthy leaders, it looks like my right to comment at Daily Kos was revoked for posting something critical of AIPAC.

  22. bruce wilder

    There is definitely a large element of projection contained in Trump Derangement Syndrome. That by itself threatens something.

  23. bruce wilder

    @ Chiron

    U.S. politics is very much top -> down: elite-driven in both parties, where the interests of the mega-rich and business corporations prevail on policy, while politicians and their media consultants and allies manipulate the electorate and public opinion shamelessly and relentlessly.

    Trump is simply a con man, who was willing to say anything, even occasionally the truth, and that was enough for people sufficiently despairing of the status quo to take a chance on him disrupting said status quo.

    The deep problem with American politics isn’t Trump’s incompetence and corruption, but the unacknowledged corruption and incompetence of 90% of everyone else: not just politicians, but political pundits and reporters, media consultants and policy entrepreneurs. It is telling that Paul Manafort was convicted not for his activities on behalf of Trump, but for his contributions to the manipulation of Ukrainian politics. The same day Manafort was first indicted, Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton’s campaign chair, resigned from the firm he helped found because he was in much the same business, as was one of Bernie Sanders’ 2o16 top media consultants. Biden is apparently on tape bragging about how he intimidated Ukrainian officials into shutting down an anti-corruption probe that might have touched his son. Talk about a swamp!

  24. Hugh

    Thanks for all the mental gymnastics as to why one person one vote is unrepresentative while the wildly anti-democratic electoral college is representative for some fantasyland definition of representation that has nothing to do with representation. Maybe we should repeal the 17th Amendment which mandated the direct election of Senators and go back to electors for them as well. And as we don’t really care that some votes count more than others, maybe we could just count some votes as 3/5 that of others.

  25. Willy

    Part of Krauthammers problem with his “Derangement Syndrome”, was his inability to clearly convey what he meant to average voters, who then ran with the term to disparage anybody with legitimate concerns about most powerful person on the planet (which he had). But what did he care when it’s such a good time to be a sports media pundit.

  26. ponderer

    Wow, suggest Trump isn’t going to become a dictator and the thread winds up with Hugh arguing for the re institution of slavery. Majority rule is never a good idea by itself. It ends up with almost half the population disenfranchised. This happens in every state every day if your not in the majority. The United States is the oldest national government, flawed though it may be, and the rights of its citizens under constant attack. The constitution protects from the tyranny of majority rule. In 2016 the majority wanted hot war with Russia, well the majority of the people who bothered to vote.

  27. @Hugh, “the wildly anti-democratic electoral college is representative for some fantasyland definition of representation that has nothing to do with representation.”

    Anti-democratic has nothing to do with it. The governance of this nation is not a democracy, and the national popular vote is meaningless. The Electoral College has everything to do with representation, as it is entirely representative of a consensus of states. This nation is a federation of states and the nation as a whole is governed by the states. It is the states, not the people, who pass laws, confirm judges, ratify treaties, amend the constitution and elect the president.

  28. nihil obstet

    We have highly emotional fantasies about how the president will act because we experience politics as show business. We watch shows about it on TV, we read about it on the internet, and then we play theatrical critic with our friends. Same as Game of Thrones for those who do that kind of thing. And we imagine how the plot will play out.

    It’s different, I think, for people who actually work on issues and try to get legislation passed or repealed.

  29. different clue

    Sometimes fellow commenter Hugh uses glittering rhetorical tricks to change subjects and misdirect commenters into wasting time chasing into one of Hugh’s choices of decoy box-canyons.
    Hugh’s “mental gymnastics” comment and accusations is a specimen of this pure bad-faith trickery. It is better to just not get lured into addressing it at “face value”.

    Sometimes Hugh does better than this and writes valuable comments. As do we all, sometimes.

  30. Hugh

    Sounds like a bunch of white guys arguing for the tyranny of the minority, i.e. them. And seriously, who gives a flying fuck about states. I thought the Civil War resolved the issue of the states, that they were administrative districts, not quasi-nation states. But even more bizarrely, here they are being treated as some kind of more than human beings that show up in Washington to make laws and so forth.

    Our country is screwed up because the needs and aspirations of the many are ignored, and what I see here is people arguing for a system that guarantees it will stay that way.

  31. Jeff Martin

    Discussion of the Electoral College and federal structure of American government oscillates between moralism (one man, one vote, ergo, we should have a national popular vote) and civics-class recitations of the reasons we have those structures. The insuperable problem with the national popular vote in a country like the US, with a first-past-the-post two-party system, increasing polarization, and the dominance of the parties by the malefactors of great wealth, is that it utterly ignores power dynamics. It has no conception of countervailing power, and therefore no conception of what might motivate any numerical majority to concern itself with vast swathes of the country.

    The countervailing power to the malefactors of great wealth was once the labour movement, whence the assiduousness with which the neoliberals destroyed it. Similarly, given the fact that the very industries benefited by the neoliberal turn – essentially, the FIRE sector plus Big Tech – are concentrated in the Clinton Archipelago, the abolition of the Electoral College would permit those geographically narrow slices of the country, and the interests concentrated in them, to elect national governments, cycle upon cycle upon cycle, without regard to the very different material interests of the rest of the country.

    It’s no counterpoint to suggest that the policies of Blue America would benefit the entire country, and that people in Red America would be persuaded of them once they began to experience those benefits, because – apart from some aspects of the Green New Deal – most of the policies of Blue America amount to a combination of, “your good jobs are gone, so retrain for some STEM job in one of a handful of blue cities, and in the meantime, we’ve expanded some health care benefits”, and this is neither politically appealing nor even economically sustainable in the medium term (you cannot build an entire national economy on FIRE + the FAANGs). You need to actually make *stuff*, and to have a healthy natural resource economy, and that requires economic diversification both sectorally and geographically. The small handful of legitimate progressives/democratic socialists in Congress notwithstanding, the power elite of the Democratic Party have no interest in pursuing comprehensive, structural programmes for the betterment of ‘flyover country’; their actually-existing policy orientation, essentially, is that the people of those regions will earn their thin chance at prosperity when they become like the people of the Clinton Archipelago: STEM, FIRE PMC strivers and aspirants. It is merely a kinder version of the sneering condescension of Kevin Williamson with regard to flyover country: those communities deserve to die, and like the right-wing version, it presupposes the inevitability of these fundamentally apolitical economic forces, that just sort of happen, like acts of nature.

    The Electoral College should be abolished if and only if America switches to a multiparty parliamentary system with proportional representation; and that can happen if and only if a Constitutional Convention can be held without unleashing every retrograde fantasy of the right wing and the neoliberals (like the balanced budget amendment). Barring those conditions, the only strategy is the one Sanders is pursuing: appeal to people in every region of the country on the basis of their concrete material interests, and endeavour to mobilize the vast numbers of potential voters who have hitherto been too downscale and too alienated to engage in the political process. But doing an end-run around the Electoral College will, all at once, entrench our political polarization, exacerbate every ruinous economic trend of the past 40 years, and hasten the coming of whatever societal fracture/collapse awaits us. And no discourse about fairness will change that one iota.

  32. NoPolitician

    The Constitution protects the *rights* of the minority from the majority, but that does not mean that the majority does not rule and/or govern. Maybe it seems that way because Republicans have framed all governance through the lens of “rights” – “health care laws violate the rights of people who want something different”, etc., but that is a perversion of the constitution and

    The US is no longer a country with functional national government. It has been 9 years since meaningful legislation has been passed (January 2009, when Scott Brown replaced Ted Kennedy’s proxy, making 41 Republican senators), with the exception of the Trump tax cuts. It is likely to remain that way for a generation. Republicans have broken the government via their strategy of obstruction.

  33. ponderer

    The government works fine for those at the top. See Ian’s latest article about the poor being poor because the rich are rich. Neither party has any interest in the 99%. Republicans voters don’t mind obstruction, when the government functions it usually means misery for the populace between the coasts. Repeal of New Deal era benefits and regulations has been the “progress” of the last 40 years or so. If you want positive change, 51% is not going to be enough to cut it. You can broaden your base or learn to live with how things are. That’s just life. As long as the “majority” focuses on screwing some other demographic more than raising them all up, this is where we will stay. On the edge of the precipice.

  34. Gunther Behn

    As much as Trump dominates the media with his bloated personality, he is still the figurehead for opportunistic billionaires, and the racist, authoritarian trash which flowed into niches of influence in the government he ‘runs’.

    The one major power group benefiting more than any other from Trump’s apotheosis — and Pence’s — are conservative evangelicals. Like ISIS, like the Buddhists of Myanmar, they answer only to their notion of a god. They want more political power, no longer subservient to ‘politics as usual’. They dream of Theocracy, of a Great Cleansing, as America is ‘brought back to god’.

    The far-right evangelical movement has metastasized since the late 1970’s, enough to be in a position to take control of conservative American politics. They feel they have something real to lose. How far they will go to protect it is an open question.

    But if the Right felt sufficiently threatened (say, by the election of a socialist, or a homosexual, to the Presidency), we shouldn’t be worried about the Proud Boys moving to take control of a fractured, weakened central government.

  35. StewartM

    Just saying, Ian, for a possible contrarian viewpoint, Micheal Cohen does not agree with you. And I would think he knows Trump pretty danged well.

  36. russell1200

    Trump will sign an extended contract to host a reality tv program, with some of the proceeds to be contributed to the General Fund, that will extend well past his tenure at the White House.

    Thus we will have Trump in the White House long after his presidency. It will be so successful, that the proceeds will pay off our deficit, and America will be great again.

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