An American Coup

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

By Alex Yeo

"Trump has been impeached twice, first for colluding with a foreign power to sway an election, and now for inciting a riot/coup. What does all this mean?"

On January 6th, Fascism came to the US Capitol, the seat of Congress and an icon of democracy.

A mob of armed Trump supporters, Fascists and White Supremacists among them, stormed the US Capitol because the President they nigh-on worship did everything short of giving them his express permission. Improvised Explosive Devices were found at the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Some people had cable ties, showing an intent to take hostages. These people were, regardless of semantic labels, terrorists engaging in an attempt to overthrow the US Government at worst and delay the inevitable at best.

This is the result of lies, of propaganda, of a movement and a figurehead both equally detached from reality. Throughout this article, I will not be toning down words, nor appeasing those who claim there are bad people on both sides; the people who engaged in this violence were right-wing domestic terrorists - pure and simple.

Yet they were treated to a less severe police presence at the Capitol, during a hugely important meeting of Congress, than Black Lives Matter protestors were at the Lincoln Memorial. The contrast between actual peaceful protestors being brutalised and domestic terrorists being able to storm an icon of democracy is a shocking indictment on America.

Trump has been impeached twice, first for colluding with a foreign power to sway an election, and now for inciting a riot/coup. What does all this mean?

American Authoritarianism

In a previous article, I wrote:

Donald Trump has lost. In his last year in office, he has made over 50% of Republican voters doubt the integrity of US elections and divided the nation even further. But this is not some outlying trend - a certain part of America’s population was waiting for someone like Trump. They may, in his absence, find someone else more extreme to prop up and represent them.

Things have obviously, and yet shockingly predictably, gotten worse. Not only do a considerable number of Americans believe the election was stolen, but a frightening number within this group is willing to commit violence. I do not refer just to the people who attempted the coup, but those who since then have expressed a willingness to commit violence in the name of Donald Trump and their twisted caricature of America.

This is the character of an emerging American Authoritarianism - an Authoritarianism disguised, which has been actively disguising itself since 2015-2016 and the emergence of the so-called Alt-Right. Authoritarianism marked by a fanatical devotion to a fictional version of their country and a rabid conservatism in the cloak of revolution, with a sense of denial of the world around them.

Trumpism has reached its inevitable destination. It has graduated from being a mere populist movement to an Authoritarian one.

End of the beginning

In the 1930s, Father Charles Coughlin, a Roman Catholic Priest in America, began steering toward Fascism, founding a political party and hosting a radio show that, especially towards the late 1930s, endorsed the beliefs of Mussolini and Hitler. When war broke out in 1939, President Roosevelt banned the show and forbade circulation of Coughlin’s newspaper.

It is hard not to see a parallel with the saga leading up to Trump’s impeachment, though the circumstances are of course rather different. The restriction of Trump’s social media presence, as well as that of his most rabid followers, is long overdue. In normal circumstances, such a deplatforming may cause concerns of free speech to arise - but the events of the 6th have shown that we are well beyond those concerns now.

Trump is now the first President to be impeached twice. At the time of writing, it seems that Trump will be tried after his Presidency in a Democrat-controlled Senate. He and his supporters have had their most prominent way of disseminating their beliefs taken away from them. Yet this is not the end of the Trump saga.

Donald Trump Impeachment
Trump has become the first president in history to be impeached twice

It is certain that, if he gets his way, Trump will try running again in 2024. Given how much damage to faith in democracy he was able to do in a few months, let alone throughout his entire Presidency, it is worrying to think of what he and his supporters may do next. The “stolen election” narrative was obvious since the start of the campaign as a backup in case he lost - what comes next? Will, in their minds, the whole system be rigged against them? Will a further loss solidify in their minds their belief of the “deep state” being out to get them? Only time will tell.

The Trump Saga up to this point has coincided with, and indeed, arguably accelerated, a global decline of democracy. Democracy is under threat from illiberal movements such as Trumpism, from a surge in misinformation, such as those conspiracies about it being Antifa dispelled by Trump apologists, and from growing inequalities and hatred, as denied and spewed by Trumpists.

"The “stolen election” narrative was obvious since the start of the campaign as a backup in case he lost - what comes next?"

Trump never cared about making sure every vote was counted - his phone call to Georgian officials makes it clear he only ever cared about disenfranchising voters to his benefit if that wasn’t already clearly the case. The post-election events in America have damaged democracy in such a manner that, due to our highly-connected world, the damage will be felt globally for quite some time.

The Twilight of Democracy continues. It is vital that we start to think about how we can improve Democracy and make it less susceptible to this kind of damage. Democracy needs to change, and the American Coup shows just how urgent we all need it to.

Alex Yeo is a monthly contributor for Demographica. Formerly a Master's Student at the University of Glasgow, he specialises in Russian and Eastern European politics, society and culture, specifically in the Caucasus. He has further interest in Authoritarianism, Democracy, Islam and Islamism (and the misunderstandings thereof) and World Politics in general. He is currently in the process of applying for a PhD.


Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company.

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