Even a Failed Coup Can Destroy Democracy — Indi Warned Us
Many of us “sort of” knew that, but it kept “failing.” It seemed that a “real coup” never materialized. Trump kept doing dumb things and each one seemed to fail. As activists, we worked on the Georgia Senate race and held our breath waiting for January 20th.
Indi described what happened after the “failed coup” in his own country Sri Lanka. The story started with naive foolishness:
“The minority party threw chili powder at everyone in Parliament and took over by farce.”
The Sri Lankan courts threw the fools out. The people cheered thinking they’d averted a coup and all was well. What Indi shared next is jaw-dropping:
“The legitimate government came back but it was divided and weak. Four months later, on Easter Sunday, some assholes attacked multiple churches and hotels, killing 269 of us. Our nation was shattered. Mobs began attacking innocent Muslims. It was out of control. The coup broke our government, and four months later, that broke us.”
Eventually, the Chili Powder Coup did succeed. The original attempt, as lame as it was, broke their government enough to throw it off balance. The instability allowed a previously identified (but ignored) terrorist cell to mobilize into action with murderous attacks that triggered more mayhem. It seems from Indi’s article, that while those who attempted to overtake Parliament were thrown out, they were not held accountable. Hence, within months the country was in chaos, the minority that originally tried to take over did finally succeed and are now in charge.
In the United States Trump told his Big Lie from the beginning — the lie that he had won the election. He kept telling that lie and we let him. Most of the media told the truth. Even the right-wing media acknowledged Biden’s win initially, but later flipped to support the falsehood and questioned the validity of the election.
We worried about what the 45th president might do while still in power. He did some bad shit but we started to relax when we rang in the new year without a cataclysmic event. We won the two Georgia senate seats and thought maybe we were home free.
Then the unthinkable happened.
On January 6, 2021, the Capitol was stormed by violent insurrectionists trying to stop the certification of electoral votes for Joe Biden. We watched it happen in real-time yet were not aware of how serious it was, how there were plans to murder the Vice President and members of Congress. On January 6th we had no idea how close we came to a successful coup.
It wasn’t until weeks later that evidence began to surface about how carefully planned and coordinated the violent insurrection had been.
Publishing this piece on a new platform in January 2022, I can add that the findings of the January 6th Committee and the media, are beyond what we ever imagined, and were indeed an attempted coup.
Embedded below is Indi’s “I told you so” video message to us. I mean that in a good way. He tried his damnedest to wake us up but we were clueless. I’m not sure if everything he says is accurate or if I agree with it, but the essence of his message about what we refused to see and the damage it caused is undeniable.
Like many of us have been doing, Mr. Samarajiva calls out our inability to see what’s been happening in plain sight. He calls out the minimizing and reluctance of the media to use accurate terms, and even when the behavior of Trump and his cohorts reached critical mass, a refusal to call a coup a coup.
Even though we were also warned by authoritarianism scholars and nonviolent activists who had seen coups averted in other countries, it seemed even they didn’t fully get it. While they warned us that the threat was not yet over, they didn’t tell us what could happen after a power grab failed.
Some warned that there was far more to the problem than Trump. Many of us knew that. I knew there was much work to be done to shore up democracy, but I had no idea of what we might face. I had no idea the majority of GOP members in Congress would join in trying to destroy the U.S. government.
How silly of me…why would I not see this coming when the GOP has been preaching anti-government messages since Ronald Reagan first told us “government is the problem.”
On January 6th we couldn’t believe what we were seeing — our Capitol building being breached, terrorists waltzing in, the friggin confederate flag paraded through the building, insurrectionists sitting in the Speaker of the House’s office with their feet up on her desk, taking selfies…then waltzing back out with souvenirs, including the Speaker’s lectern and laptop.
We realized it could’ve been far worse — there could’ve been a blood bath that left our own Senators and Representatives dead on the floor of the House. We heaved a sigh of relief but called for immediate consequences for all involved. Whew! We dodged another coup bullet! Not.
The GOP Has Gone Bonkers (that’s putting it nicely)
It might have been a miracle that the House of Representatives came back into session the evening of January 6, 2020, after a life-threatening traumatic day.
What was most shocking was that just hours later, after the horrendous seditious attack, 147 GOP members of the House still voted to not accept the electoral votes!
It might have been a miracle that Vice President Pence along side of Speaker Nancy Pelosi certified the election results, but it happened.
Two GOP Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley continue to insist that the ex-president won the election and continue to support his lies. And yet the media and public officials still (a year later) do not identify any members of Congress as guilty of sedition. Not yet at least.
Perhaps most troubling was that newly-elected members of Congress have been spewing insane conspiracy theories and covertly threatening the lives of other members of Congress.
Information continues to surface about who was involved in the planning and funding of the 1/6 insurrection as well as numerous other components of the attempted coup.
Republicans initially expressed outrage, but just as they did with the election itself, within days almost all are participating in the gaslighting, minimizing what happened and insisted that impeachment would be divisive.
There’s much to tell but Indi’s predictions have been coming true in ways that even those of us who were tuned-in could never have imagined.
A year later as I re-publish this piece with a few revisions, some have been indicted and many subpoenaed, now including the former president’s cabinet members and his children. Many are refusing to cooperate and it’s unclear what the Department of Justice is pursuing but the January 6th Committee is making progress and leaving no stone unturned.
Part of What Got Us Here is the GOP’s War on Government
It’s essential to examine the Republican party’s role in pitting Americans against their government. This article from July 2016 makes the case that the GOP’s anti-government messaging got us Donald Trump.
The Republicans waged a 3-decade war on government. They got Trump.
Outside contributors’ opinions and analysis of the most important issues in politics, science, and culture. Trumpism…
Co-authors of the article above, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote a book titled It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism.
In 2012 they stated: “The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier in American politics — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
In 2012 these authors said the Republican party was dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. The legitimacy! That’s what they are up to now.
How was the GOP’s contempt for Democrats and their obstructionism not seen as the seeds of tyranny? Mann and Ornstein saw it. They mention “asymmetric polarization” and “the Republican Party implacably refusing to allow anything that might help the Democrats politically, no matter the cost.” That translates to a desire to destroy the Democratic party come hell or high water.
I outline the GOP’s obstruction and ruthless power-seeking in my piece: “The GOP’s Decades-Long Domestic Abuse of the Democratic Party”
What we totally missed was the pervasiveness of the GOP’s desire for control. As Indi said in his video above, what other countries call a coup.
We’ve been barking up the wrong authoritarian. It’s been right under the surface for years…an anti-government campaign humming along for decades under the guise of “no big government.” When what they really want is “no government” at all, at least not one with more than their party.
The United States Doesn’t Hold its Highest Officials Accountable
Indi’s key message, and that’s why there continues to be corruption and why the criminal public officials keep coming back and are getting bolder.
President Nixon resigned but was then pardoned for Watergate.
When the Reagan administration sold arms to Iran and funded the Contras some went to jail. But Reagan suffered no consequences for Iran-Contra.
Ronald Reagan is revered to this day by most Republicans (at least one member of the Lincoln Project) and some Democrats because no one remembers (or cares about) that criminal activity. We don’t even call it that — it’s known as “The Iran-Contra Affair.” Someone on the GOP branding committee got a big fat bonus for this one.
That “affair” is described in Wikipedia:
“The Iran–Contra affair, was a political scandal that occurred during the second term of the Reagan Administration. Senior administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to the Khomeini government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo. The administration hoped to use the proceeds to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Under the Boland Amendment, funding of the Contras by the government had been prohibited by Congress.”
The Wikipedia page lists 13 indictments of those involved and continues:
“President George H. W. Bush pardoned five administration officials who had been found guilty. They were: Elliott Abrams; Duane Clarridge; Alan Fiers; Clair George; and Robert McFarlane. Bush also pardoned Caspar Weinberger. Attorney General William Barr advised the President on these pardons.”
Attorney General William Barr — blast from the (corrupt) past!
Barr was Trump’s Attorney General and conveniently resigned two weeks before the insurrection at the Capitol.
No Consequences for Reagan Related to Iran-Contra Crimes
Lawrence Walsh was the United States Deputy Attorney General who investigated the Iran–Contra Affair.
This Brown University page states “Walsh concluded that he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the president (Reagan) knew the specific criminal elements of the Affairs or made criminal lies about what had occurred.”
I also discovered the “Reagan administration scandals” Wikipedia page.
Reagan administration scandals
The presidency of Ronald Reagan in the United States was marked by numerous scandals, resulting in the investigation…
The United States likes to call them scandals rather than corruption or the crimes that they were. I guess we’re trying to fool the rest of the world into thinking we’re an upstanding democracy. Gaslighting anyone?
The Reagan administration “scandals” included: (from Wikipedia)
- Department of Housing and Urban Development grant rigging — low-income housing bids favored GOP donors to Reagan’s campaign.
- Lobbying scandals — two members of the admin did illegal lobbying.
- EPA scandals — 20 EPA employees were removed. Agency officials resigned amidst charges, ranging from being influenced by industry groups to rewarding or punishing employees based on political beliefs.
- Savings & loan crisis — 747 institutions failed and had to be rescued with $160 billion in taxpayer dollars. Reagan’s “elimination of loopholes” in the tax code…bankrupted many real estate developments which used this tax break as a premise, which in turn bankrupted 747 Savings and Loans, thus requiring the FDIC to cover their losses with taxpayer money.
- Operation Ill Wind — a 1986 investigation by the FBI into corruption (accepting bribes) by gov & military officials, private defense contractors.
- Wedtech Scandal — Wedtech Corp convicted — Defense contract bribery.
- Debategate — in 1980 presidential election, President Jimmy Carter’s briefing papers in prep for the October 28, 1980, debate were acquired by Reagan’s team. This was not divulged to the public until June 1983.
There you have it. No crimes — just scandals.
Actually, there is accountability, but only by Republicans against Democrats. Democrats protect their own as well when it comes to impeachment conviction, but let’s be honest about the range of issues that are impeachable.
President Bill Clinton was impeached for covering up a blow job. Okay, it was more than that. At the time I didn’t consider it all that serious but later was most appalled by the abuse of Monica Lewinsky — by Clinton, by the investigation and hearings, by the media, by comics and by the American public. Clinton was not convicted by the Senate — all 45 Democrats found him not guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. 45 Republicans found him guilty of perjury and 10 Republicans found him not guilty. 50 Republicans found him guilty of obstruction of justice and 5 Republicans found him not guilty. Yes, it was mostly a political vote, but by today’s standards covering up an affair is peanuts compared to the impeachment crimes of the 45th president.
Republicans were relentless against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in relation to the 2012 Benghazi attack. Her role was investigated for years by five House Committees, two bipartisan Senate Committees, and one House Select Committee. Hillary Clinton cooperated and testified.
The result? Republicans could find no wrongdoing.
Summarized by the Associated Press on November 21, 2014:
“A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.”
In spite of finding no wrongdoing, “Benghazi!” is still a rallying cry from right-wing media and many in the GOP, and by Trump supporters who have no idea that an investigation found nothing. Sadly, if we showed them the report they wouldn’t believe it anyway.
Senate Committee Investigated Trump/Russia & Found Stuff
You probably don’t know this but the Select Senate Intelligence Committee that investigated Trump and Russia found a thousand pages worth of national security threats. This was a separate investigation and wasn’t released until a year after the Mueller Report.
Read it yourself. It’s published for all to see and it will blow your mind: Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on Russian Active Measures Campaign and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election. Volume 5: Counterintelligence Threats and Vulnerabilities.
It’s long but easy to skim. Within minutes you’ll see the role of the Trump campaign. Paul Manafort and others even have their own chapters.
The report was released in August 2020, that month when no one reads much news. It was also during the pandemic and got almost no media attention.
Democrats should have been screaming about the content of the report. But as usual, they barely said a peep.
The report is scathing and makes these recommendations:
- Review and Enforce the Foreign Agent Registrations Act
- Recognize Russia’s Non-traditional Intelligence Actors Influence
- Protect Campaigns & Government Employees from Foreign Influence
- Bolster Resources to Uncover Influence Campaigns
- Strengthen Congressional Authority to Challenge Executive Privilege
The Republican Senators of the committee stated this conclusion:
“As is evident to those who read all five volumes of the Committee’s report, the Russian government inappropriately meddled in our 2016 general election in many ways but then-Candidate Trump was not complicit. After more than three years of investigation, we can now say with no doubt, there was no collusion.”
The Democratic Senators of the committee stated this conclusion:
“It is our conclusion, that the Russian intelligence services’ assault on the integrity of the 2016 U.S. electoral process and Trump and his associates’ participation in and enabling of this Russian activity, represents one of the single most grave counterintelligence threats to national security in the modem era.”
What did Congress do about the Senate Intel Committee recommendations?
The House of Representatives introduced and passed Bill H.R.2722 — SAFE Act on June 27, 2019 (Only one Republican, Rep. Brian Mast of Florida — voted for it) Then it went to the Senate to die, thanks to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who refused to bring it to the floor for a vote. President Trump and the GOP didn’t have much concern for election security when they had the opportunity to beef it up.
Not passing the SAFE Act was a huge missed opportunity. It would have protected us against the real dangers —not of “voter fraud” which is essentially non-existent, but from election fraud which is a concern.
Now, back to the Coup…
Trump’s series of coup attempts and the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol are the result of decades of no accountability for White House corruption as well as the GOP’s anti-government and anti-tax campaigns.
Heather Cox Richardson’s January 31, 2021 Letters from an American opened with “The most prominent story these days is that the Republican Party is sliding toward a full-on embrace of authoritarianism.”
I agree with Richardson and believe we are hanging by a thread against an authoritarian takeover.
Indi Samarajiva’s final words to us: “When you weaken your government, you lose governance…and government is protecting you.”
Lack of oversight and accountability allowed Trump to weaken our already weak government. He gutted our institutions, shrugged off norms, and violated the rule of law almost daily to enrich himself and do favors for cronies and his favorite dictators.
With our weakened government and blatant defiance of Republicans who are clearly a party only interested in power, Indi offers us one final wish…
We’re sure going to need it.
This was originally published on Feb. 2, 2021 on another platform.