Opinion

This Is a Putsch

Donald Trump’s supporters are trying to prevent a peaceful transfer of power.

Paris France riot
Rioters attack police in the Place de la Concorde of Paris during the attempted overthrow of the French government on February 6, 1934 (Wikimedia Commons)

I’m not sure how to describe what’s happening in Washington DC today as anything other than an attempted coup.

It’s like Berlin 1920 or Paris 1934. Right-wing militias, egged on by conservative politicians, storm parliament in an attempt to topple a democratically elected government. In this case, a president-elect: Joe Biden.

Republicans, including the outgoing president, have for weeks alleged that the November election was stolen. Conservative media have uncritically amplified those lies.

Before his supporters stormed the Capitol, Trump gave a speech outside the White House in which he said:

Our country has had enough and we will not take it any more. … We will never give up. We will never concede.

Short of marching up to Capitol Hill himself, Trump could scarcely have done more to encourage the putsch, which succeeded in delaying the certification of Biden’s election victory.

The fact that some of it looks silly — overweight goons in second-hand body armor proclaiming Trump the winner of the election from the dais of an evacuated Senate chamber and posing for pictures in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ransacked office — doesn’t make it any less serious. General Erich Ludendorff and the Nazis thought they could somehow overthrow the government of Weimar Germany from a Munich beer hall in 1923. Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero tried to seize power in Spain by holding members of parliament hostage in 1981. They failed, but they also poisoned fragile democracies, in Germany’s case fatally.

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