How Trump’s attempted coup could still succeed

The former president’s attempted coup is not stopping. He still refuses to concede and continues to rile up supporters with his bogus claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Tens of millions of Americans believe him.

Last Sunday, at a Republican event in Franklin, North Carolina, Congressman Madison Cawthorn, repeating Trump’s big lie, called the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 “political hostages.”

Cawthorn also advised the crowd to begin stockpiling ammunition for what he said is likely to be American-versus-American “bloodshed” over unfavorable election results.

“Much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs,” he said, “there’s nothing I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American.”

On Tuesday, Texas Republicans passed a strict voter law based on Trump’s big lie—imposing new ID requirements on people seeking to vote by mail and criminal penalties on election officials who send unsolicited mail-in ballot applications, empowering partisan poll watchers, and banning drive-through and 24-hour voting.

This year, at least 18 other states have enacted 30 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote, based on Trump’s lie.

On Thursday, at Trump’s instigation, Pennsylvania Republicans launched an investigation soliciting sworn testimony on election “irregularities,” scheduling the first hearing for next week.

Arizona’s Republican “audit” will report its results any day, but there’s little question what they’ll show. The CEO of the Cyber Ninjas, the firm hired to conduct it, has publicly questioned the election results, and the audit team consists of Trump supporters and is funded by a group led by Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The Republican chair of the Wisconsin state assembly’s campaigns and elections committee has begun “a full, cyber-forensic audit” akin to Arizona’s. Trump’s first White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, saysWisconsin Republicans are prepared to spend $680,000 on it.

These so-called audits won’t alter the outcome of the 2020 election. Their point is to cast further doubt on its legitimacy and justify additional state measures to suppress votes and alter future elections.

It’s a vicious cycle. As Trump continues to stoke his base with his big lie that the election was stolen, Republican lawmakers—out to advance their careers and entrench the GOP—are adding fuel to the fire, pushing more Americans into Trump’s paranoid nightmare.

The three top candidates to succeed Richard Burr in North Carolina all denounced the senator’s vote to convict Trump in his last impeachment trial. The four leading candidates to succeed Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania all embraced Trump’s call for an “audit” of election results.

A leading contender for Senate seat being vacated by Richard Shelby in Alabama is Representative Mo Brooks, best known for urging the crowd at Trump’s rally preceding the Capitol riot to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” Brooks has been endorsed by Trump.

Yet even as Trump’s attempted coup gains traction, most of the rest of America continues to sleep. We’ve become so outrage-fatigued by his antics, and so preoccupied with the more immediate threats of the Delta variant and climate-fueled wildfires and hurricanes, that we prefer not to know.

A month ago it was reported that during his last weeks in office Trump tried to strong-arm the Justice Department to falsely declare that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent, even threatening to fire the acting attorney general if he didn’t: “Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the [Republican] Congressmen.”

The news barely registered on America’s collective mind. The Olympics and negotiations over the infrastructure bill got more coverage.

A top Trump adviser now says Trump is “definitely running” for president in 2024, even though the 14th Amendment to the Constitution bars anyone from holding office who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the nation.

Federal legislation that would preempt state voter suppression laws is bogged down in the Senate. Biden hasn’t made it a top priority. A House select committee to investigate the January 6 Capitol riot and Trump’s possible role is barely off the ground. The U.S Justice Department has made no move to indict the former president for anything.

But unless Trump and his co-conspirators are held accountable for the damage they have inflicted and continue to inflict on American democracy, and unless Senate Democrats and Biden soon enact national voting rights legislation, Trump’s attempted coup could eventually succeed.

It is imperative that America wake up.

This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.

Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His film, Inequality for All, was released in 2013. Follow him on Twitter: @RBReich.

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