• A Slow-Motion Coup

    We all know what a coup looks like – we have seen them often enough in benighted counties around the world.

    They usually begin with the appearance of armed troops in the street, with people being arrested and taken away, with radio and television studios and newspaper offices being closed, with opposition leaders being imprisoned and put on trial, with the newly dominant leader making speeches to proclaim his victory.

    We are less used to, and therefore less likely to recognise for what it is, a coup that takes place in slow motion – one that takes place in small stages and is brought about by inertia rather than aggression, contempt for the law rather than violence – yet that is what we may be witnessing in the US.

    How else are we to characterise the attempts by Donald Trump to maintain himself in power by refusing to accept the result of a democratic election? What is surely clear is that he is asserting his right to exercise power, even though that flies in the face of the people’s choice.

    He is refusing to comply with the rules and precedents established by the US constitution, and he is doing so by sitting tight and defying others to remove him. He continues to assert that he won the election and to rely on the unwillingness of his Republican colleagues to gainsay him.

    He is preparing for an eventual showdown by removing (from the Pentagon, for example,) those unlikely to support his claims and replacing them with others who will be more compliant. He is exploiting the interest of other Republicans in hanging on to power, and their fear of losing his support.

    What more do we need to convince us that we are seeing a coup that is unfolding in slow motion and that depends for its success, not on decisive action, but on craven inaction? As Edmund Burke famously said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”

    Trump’s Republicans may or may not be good men (or women), but they are – sure as hell – quite happy to do nothing.