Comedian Sarah Silverman recently tweeted that her 10 million followers should "wake up & join the resistance" to President Donald Trump, adding, "Once the military is w/us fascists get overthrown. Mad king & his handlers go bye bye." That would be a military coup, and it's not as crazy as it might sound.
There's practically no precedent for domestic political intervention by the military. I say "practically" because in 1933, General Smedley Butler testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities that a group of wealthy businessmen was plotting to form a right-wing veterans' organization and to use it to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt and install Butler as president. There was never any proof of the plot, and most media outlets dismissed it as a hoax. Still, some foreign observers of American politics think that now, all these years later, a coup is a possibility.
I recently received an email from a friend who is a senior official in Greece's left-wing government. He said that he and many of his colleagues -- cabinet and subcabinet-level officials -- have been "extremely anxious about the events unfolding after the election of Donald Trump." Many of his colleagues, he said, "believe that a coup is in the making to overthrow Trump. This would serve to prevent his rapprochement with Russia, it would pacify his opponents in the Middle East, and it would ease the tensions we are already seeing between the United States and China." Furthermore, my friend said, a majority of Americans voted against Trump in the election. That might make a coup more palatable to many Americans.
Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) once told me that the greatest day in American history was August 9, 1974. On that day at noon, Richard Nixon resigned and left Washington and Gerald Ford was inaugurated as president. There were no riots. There were no tanks in the streets. There was no declaration of martial law. It was business as usual. The Constitution worked exactly the way it was supposed to.
I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I don't believe there is going to be a coup against Trump, military or otherwise. I don't believe that anybody is actively planning a coup. But just the fact that people are talking about it is alarming. Usurpations of power by force are not the American way.
With that said, we have a president who steamrolls over Congress and rules by executive order, a president who dismisses the country's most highly-respected newspapers of record as "fake news," a president who race-baits federal judges whose decisions he doesn't like, a president who advocates the use of police violence against peaceful demonstrators on university campuses, a president who refuses to separate from his business interests as he makes until millions of dollars because of his governmental position.
The only way forward is to resist. We have to stay in the streets. We have to keep up the momentum in the movement that seems to be coming out of the demonstrations we've seen and participated in since the inauguration. We have to focus on voter registration and turnout. We have to push our elected officials to bottle up the Trump agenda in Congress. But what we don't have to do is encourage a coup. Replacing one fascist with a group of others isn't the answer.
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