I woke up to the regular politics round of newspapers and newsletters on Wednesday morning, as with most mornings: the Politico Playbook, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. The news was all about the runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday, which evidently provided Democrats with control of the Senate, other stories concerned the current pandemic and the prospect of post-pandemic commuting.
One paper caught my attention: David Nakamura’s Washington Post report, “It was an assassination attempt to add the protests and petitions to count the votes at Elections College.” The piece cited some liberal pundits and historians saying it was clear, but the thesis is that as of Tuesday “this still does not meet the official academic definition of the coup attempt.”
Any of the experts cited in the article encouraged calm and also indicated that they were alarmist when they suggested that demonstrators could be self-fulfilling. I have addressed this and another event and begun to explore and interpret political ideas every day. I was looking forward to taking code off in Stata and R data analyses and reviewing it from time to time to ensure that voting took place as automated, if a little more drastically, as planned. I also looked forward to the outcome.
Writing about it a couple of hours after, Capitol Building was stormed by rebellion incited by President Donald Trump. Because of security risks, the House and the Senate all stopped counting. Shots were allegedly fired. A photograph of a rioter taking the chair of the speaker indicates that the Capitol is primarily employed. C-SPAN claims that senior legislative leadership are positioned in a “unreported place.” Reporters decline to reveal their positions on — very fair — grounds that it could risk their protection. It deployed the National Guard.
At this point, it is undeniable. The US witnesses a coup – a strong attempt to wrest authority out of the legal system. The president has forced the procedure of certifying his dismissal from office to be delayed. The constitutional mechanics have been suspended. Americans are in danger of losing representative rule to an unprecedented degree except in the civil war, where secession itself has either delayed elections or a power transfer between presidents.
In other words the moment that we face as Americans corresponds more favorably to the coup d’etat of August 1991, which aimed to oust President Boris Yeltsin and Russian Parliamentary Offices, from the head of the Soviet Union, or in the 1993 armed conflicts.
But before that moment a chorus of voices told us that we should not be worried.
BREAKING: A source tells me The Defense Department has just denied a request by DC officials to deploy the National Guard to the US Capitol.— Aaron C. Davis (@byaaroncdavis) January 6, 2021
For political scientists working on subjects such as coups and institutional erosion, many of whom were quoted in the postal report, the past years have been a booming industry. Became apparently unfathomable in the seas of democracy in the United States, journalists and readers agreed that traditional horse-race coverage is not ready for political interpretation.
But as tensions rose, there was a strong rift between those who felt that structures would eventually save us—the restoration of the United States’ political traditions—and those who knew we might face a time that would end with such severity.
So what really went wrong?
U.S. Political Experts Think Coups Always Involve Paramilitary Forces
Much of that was an exemplary dedication to the dignity of research, which we as scientists had guidelines for what was perceived as a coup. The Codebook of the Center for Systemic Peace (CSP) states: “Democratic movements, opposing forces’ victories in civil wars and people’s uprisings are not considered coups of state, even though they can lead to a significant shift in the central authority.
However, the events of Wednesday was a coup attempt (so far). The CSP codebook describes a coup as “a forceful occupation by dissident/opposing faction within the governing or political elites of the country of the executive branch and the policies of the previous regime, even though not necessary in the nature of the regime or mode of governance.” The goal of mobile people and their instigators can be difficult to ascertain, but the organisers of the online-forum “pro-Trump” pro-movement were articulate and strongly determined, as Trump did, to reverse the election outcome and keep Trump in office.
(And, no, you don’t need to get involved militarily with a coup – but a new ruling by all 10 former U.S. Secretaries of Defense living warn the military of staying in their barracks and civil protection indicates that there might be grounds to think about this.)
But, in most cases, optimists are hesitant to see what is on their hand, rather than because data confirms it, has little to do with intellectual credibility and better to do with wish-making predictions. Coups and paramilitary groups are axiomatic things that happen to U.S. political scientists.
Their research is in line with the mainstream of comparative politics, study of international citizens and not US politics (with the exception of the tiny tribe of political experts from the USA who know the past of conflict in the history of the country). Before Wednesday, Americanists were modeling the election results, not whether their consequences were important—these problems were important for others.
In a risky process, the United States is in. There are several weeks left for the monthly change, which was marked as risky by America’s fragility of democracy. The Chairman is still in charge. If President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, this is likely to be kept in a better position than the Capitol’s once sacrosanct steps.
As paranoid as I was about the possibility of significant issues, I succumbed. I took my dog for a stroll to my D.C. on Monday morning, after reading the post report. The neighborhood (and, sure, the luxury of not reporting my place I’ll take advantage of). We went through a hotel, which had some outside townsmen, not masks. One of them congratulated my dog that she was gorgeous. I just thanked them. I thanked them. In America, it was another glorious day.
They marched to the Capitol wearing their Trump caps.