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The Age of Constitutional Coups

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The second stage came with Brazil's right-wing Supreme Court upholding of the conviction of Brazil's highly popular former president Lula da Silva's conviction for corruption despite an egregious lack of credible evidence. The decision was meant to prevent Lula from participating in the 2018 presidential election, which he easily would have won. The "case" against Lula was "a clear attempt to prevent a return of Workers' Party government." As Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mike Weisbrot explained in The New York Times in January of 2018:

"... Brazil's right-wing knows that it wouldn't stand a chance against Lula in this year's elections, just as it twice lost elections to Lula before, and then twice more to Dilma. So, as with Dilma, they are using other means to keep him out of office...This latest move to circumvent democratic process and keep a popular candidate out of office is another serious blow to Brazil's democratic institutions... It's the second in a one-two punch, the first being the unconstitutional impeachment and removal of elected president Dilma Rousseff in 2016 for something that had been done by previous administrations and was not even a crime...Democracy and the rule of law are eroding rapidly in Brazil, and Lula's pending imprisonment has hastened this deterioration."

The leading beneficiary of Lula's incarceration was the Satanic eco-exterminist Bolsonaro, who was "democratically elected" with the nation's favorite politician safely behind bars last October. While he is an unabashed fan of the military coup that overthrew Brazil's elected government in 1964, Bolsonaro has seized power in legal and parliamentary-judicial ways, no military junta required. He is currently trying to Make Brazil Great Again through Geocide: by escalating the capitalist agro-industrial destruction of the Amazon Rain Forest, on which the planet depends for oxygen and carbon absorption.

Superpower Itself

Then there's the deplorable neofascist Donald Trump and his right-wing government, protected by white-nationalist control of the U.S. Senate and the much of the federal judiciary. Trump is a friend, admirer an ally of his fellow environmental criminal Bolsonaro. He is friendly also with Duda, and Orban along with other authoritarian heads of state (including nominally communist leaders) the world over. An aspiring fascist strongman who is only half-joking when he quips about wanting to be president-for-life and who says that any attempts to remove him from office could spark violence from his loyal "tough guys" (cops, soldiers, and "bikers"), the demented Twitter addict Donito Assolini likes to demonize his opponents and critics (and the media in general) as "radical Left enemies of the people" and dastardly foes of "America." He turns truth upside down and twists reality on an epic scale and regular basis. He tells his hate-filled Amerikaner supporters "don't believe what you see and hear" that is, to take all their information from he Chosen One and his right-wing political and media friends.

The widely loathed racist, sexist, sadist, Nativist, and malignant narcissist Trump received votes from just a quarter of U.S. adults in 2016. Having lost the popular election by three million tallies to the highly unpopular Hillary Clinton, he owes his installation and continued presence in the White House largely to the anti-democratic Electoral College and to the absurdly un-representative apportionment of the U.S. Senate. Both these fully legal constitutional mechanisms wildly exaggerate the political voice of the nation's most racist, backwards, rural and right-wing regions. Also contributing to Trump's victory: technically legal racist voter suppression in Republican-controlled battleground states; the appointed-for-life Supreme Court's determination that wealthy corporations and individuals can squelch the political influence of the non-wealthy majority; the stupidity, elitism, and cringing neoliberal corporatism of the dismal, dollar-drenched 2016 Clinton campaign.

The right-wing composition of the presidentially appointed and Senate-approved Supreme Court and broader federal bench have helped Trump enact policies that are widely opposed by the populace. Along the way, the extreme partisan gerrymandering of the House of Representatives, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, permitted Trump to pass a plutocratic tax cut that was rejected by most of the population in December of 2017. The ridiculously right-wing composition of the preposterously rural- and white-weighted U.S. Senate (where the predominantly Republican and rural, 94% white state of Wyoming, home to less than 600,000 people, has the same number of representatives as the liberal-Democratic and 38% white state of California, home to 40 million) combines with the veto power of the presidency to mean that none of numerous liberal and progressive federal policies supported by most Americans have the slightest chance of becoming law.

The Senate's constitutionally enabled right-wing composition, far to the starboard side of national policy opinion and party identification, means that Trump cannot be removed through the impeachment process. So what if he has committed numerous felonies and constitutional violations in office? Removal requires a two-thirds vote in the US Senate under the Constitution.

At the outer reaches of authoritarian but fully constitutional farcicality, it is technically irrelevant under the American system that 70 percent of the population reasonably supports banning the sale and possession of military-style assault weapons, lethal tools of mass destruction that are periodically used by maniacs to mow down innocent mass-shooting victims.

The notion of changing the U.S. Constitution to overcome such democracy deficits is fantastic given the harsh limits the Constitution's Article V puts on "We the People's" ability to amend the nation's excessively venerated and explicitly and purposefully authoritarian constitution.

As the nation transitions into full-on immersion in its latest absurdly prolonged super-expensive big money-major party-corporate media(ted)-candidate-centered presidential electoral extravaganza, it is worth bearing in mind that the United States does not select its presidents on basis of a democratic popular vote. The nation's Senate apportionment regime pollutes the ridiculous democracy-flunking Electoral College, wherein a state's number of votes (Electors) equals its number of House members (which diverges with total population) plus its number of Senators (always two). These Electors trump the national popular vote. U.S. presidents are elected by getting 270 Electoral College votes. And in all but a few states, those Electoral votes are awarded on an all-or-nothing first-past-the-post basis to the candidate with the most votes in each state.

The total popular vote beyond a winning majority or plurality in a state is irrelevant. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren would get no more Electoral College votes for beating Trump 90%-10% in a high-turnout race in California than they would for beating him 50.2% to 49.8% in a low-turnout race there. This is openly absurd from a democratic perspective.

Since most states are either reliably Democratic (especially those where urban and minority voters make a large share of the electorate) or reliably Republican (especially those where rural and white voters are more highly represented), the presidential campaign tends to focus almost completely on a relatively small number of contested and therefore "battleground" states. The 2020 presidential election will be wildly over-focused on just 10 of the nation's 50 states, 10 states that together contain one third of the United States' population: Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.

The Democratic presidential primary race might be the closest thing to a national presidential race, but it is absurdly time-staggered in ways that grant ridiculously out-sized weight to early Caucus and primary states Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and now California. In this and other ways factor in openly plutocratic campaign finance, corporate ownership of the media, racist voter suppression, the absence of a simple direct national popular vote, and the absurdly long and expensive nature of the process and the whole endless quadrennial spectacular is quite the authoritarian fiasco.

No military coup was required to put the neofascist madman Trump in the world's most powerful office. Strange as it sounds to say, however, military action of some kind may be required to remove him from office if he loses on the next holy, absurdly time-staggered once-every-4-years day when the Constitution says "We the People" get our "input" on executive branch policy by choosing between presidential candidates typically selected in advance by the nation's constitutionally protected but unelected dictatorship of money. From the beginning of his presidency, Trump has been setting the stage for the claim that a re-election vote that doesn't go his way must be fraudulent. He is a strong candidate to refuse to accept defeat.

Thankfully, Trump is a deeply unimpressive and widely unpopular president, too lacking in competence and maturity to garner majority support. He is too venal, stupid, childish, and personally corrupt, viewing politics almost solely through the lens of self-gratification and personal enrichment, to be a disciplined and heartfelt champion of fascist ideology and politics. The United States may not be so fortunate the next time its constitutional and capitalist order buttressed by a persistently inauthentic, Wall Street -- and Council on Foreign Relations-captive party (the Democrats) hands the presidency to an authoritarian white nationalist.

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Paul Street ( and is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (2004), Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (2007), Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (more...)
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