Guest column: Republicans continue hard push for a soft coup
Subpoenas issued by the select committee investigating the January 6 domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol are showing preliminary results. Numerous White House documents have been forwarded to the former president for his review before they can be obtained by the committee.
Common-sense tells us the attack would have never happened if Trump had not made false claims of election fraud. Legally, this seems to provide a prima facie case for the former president’s culpability.
While the committee investigation is sure to reveal more incriminating details about the former president’s involvement in the violent coup attempt, his ongoing attempts to execute a “soft coup” are public record.
In contrast to the failed violent attempt to retain power, a “soft coup” describes the use of a conspiracy to take power through legal, nonviolent means.
Months before any votes had been cast, the former president began complaining about a “rigged election.” Trump made it clear he would not accept the results of the election unless he was declared the winner.
When it became clear that Joe Biden won the election, the former president filed dozens of lawsuits claiming fraud. At least 86 judges agreed there was no evidence of significant fraud or error in the election.
Nevertheless, Trump blatantly denied the legitimacy of the American judicial system by continuing claiming the election was “rigged.”
Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that dozens of Republican members of Congress also denied the legitimacy of our judicial branch of government by echoing false claims of election fraud.
After he was unable to influence any of the judges, even those he himself appointed, to support his false claims, Trump began trying to pressure Secretaries of State in several states not to certify the results.
Those officials resisted political pressure, and in at least one case a threat of criminal charges, to do the job entrusted to them by the people of their respective states.
Failing to successfully bully Secretaries of State, Trump publicly tried to coerce Republican-led state legislatures to ignore the will of the voters and create alternate slates of electors.
Rebuffed by state legislators that had the integrity to abide by the rule of law, the former president tried to influence the Department of Justice to declare the election “corrupt,” telling officials to leave the rest to him and his Republican friends in Congress.
However, DOJ officials were not interested in taking part in a plot to overthrow the government.
Grasping at straws, Trump continued his pleas to Mike Pence to overturn the election. Trump reportedly asked Pence if it wouldn’t be almost cool to have that power. When Pence responded
that no one person should have that much power, Trump told him he “wouldn’t be his friend anymore” if he didn’t overturn the election.
While Trump had been rejected by most in his attempts to overthrow the government, he found allies in Congress and in White nationalist hate groups.
Dozens of Republican members of Congress continued echoing Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud, which undoubtedly helped incite the violent attack on January 6.
Even more disturbing is the fact that 147 members of Congress voted against certifying election results. Those votes supported the violent attack and helped build a foundation for the current soft coup attempt.
Today, Republican members of Congress continue to promote false claims of election fraud.
Despite spending untold millions on attorneys and investigators to find voter fraud, those attempts have consistently found elections to be above reproach.
Even the highly touted Arizona election audit conducted by the Cyber Ninjas failed to find any evidence of significant voter fraud. Nevertheless, more audits are underway.
While these audits will find no evidence of significant fraud or error in our elections, they plant the seeds of doubt in American democracy, an essential ingredient for a soft coup.
Many years ago, conservative Republicans characterized themselves as the “silent majority,” basically arguing they spoke for all Americans.
Today, a very vocal minority is convinced they speak for all Americans. That minority, including Republican members of Congress, is intent on regaining power by any means necessary, including a soft coup.
According to the Brennan Center, “More than 400 bills with provisions that restrict voting access have been introduced in 49 states in the 2021 legislative sessions.”
Extensive analysis shows these laws overwhelmingly impact voters of color and blue-collar voters. Those laws also make it easier for officials to overturn elections.
Making it easier for elected officials to overturn elections may make a violent coup less likely, but it adds another tool to the box as Republicans continue their hard push for a soft coup.
Congress has the power to reject these efforts by passing federal voter protection laws.
Failing that, a soft coup may well succeed.
— Tony Choate has lived in the Ardmore area for more than 50 years. He earned his master's degree in political science from Purdue University after earning a bachelor's degree in legal studies from East Central University. He worked for several years as an adjunct instructor for Murray State College, teaching courses in American history and American government and politics.