Trump Tees Up a New Type of Coup

By Ted Rall

November 11, 2020 4 min read

Donald Trump revolutionized political campaigning. It was by accident. Because he was too lazy to prepare for or memorize a stump speech, he ad-libbed his rallies; TV networks carried them because something he said might prove newsworthy. Because he was cheap, he made appearances at any random dump that would have him for free; he used the money he saved on big-data research that paid off handsomely.

Now the president is attempting to revolutionize the art of the coup d'etat.

Leaders of broad-based popular movements who want to overthrow an existing government usually agitate for revolution in plain sight. Activism attracts new recruits.

A coup is the opposite of a revolution. Coup plotters require secrecy. A coup is usually carried out by a very small group of insiders. Coup schemers are not interested in, or have concluded that they cannot, obtain popular support. They do not seek to transform society. They simply want power. It is an attempt by a minnow to swallow a whale.

Without the protection of millions of adherents and operating outside constitutional norms, politicians and/or military men who plot a coup must take over the government by surprise. Leaders of the outgoing regime have to be in prison or dead, and thus, powerless, before their supporters realize that their nation has been seized by a small faction. A coup d'etat is over before it begins, in the event that some element of the conspiracy comes to light before the zero hour. The classic example of a failed coup is Operation Valkyrie, the 1944 attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler and overthrow of the Nazi government of Germany by a group of military officers. The plot unraveled when Hitler survived a bomb attack and went on the radio.

Successful coups include the 2004 overthrow of democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, whom the CIA kidnapped and spirited away to the Central African Republic, whose former President Ange-Felix Patasse had himself been deposed in a coup a year earlier; the Taliban-supported takeover of Pakistan by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999; and the bizarre 1993 self-coup by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who illegally shelled and dissolved parliament.

All of these events seemingly came out of nowhere. By contrast, Donald Trump is laying the groundwork for a coup attempt in plain sight.

Defying tradition, Trump has refused to concede the election since the Associated Press and other media organizations called the race in favor of Joe Biden on Saturday, Nov. 7. Without presenting evidence of fraud or other wrongdoing, he has failed numerous lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of the vote count.

Most top Republicans are either supporting Trump or remaining silent and refusing to congratulate Biden. "President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor. "Let's not have any lectures. No lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept the preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last one."

Asked whether he planned to congratulate Biden, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., replied, "Nothing to congratulate him about yet." Even as world leaders called to acknowledge Biden's win, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration."

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography "Bernie." You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns by sponsoring his work on Patreon. To find out more about Ted Rall and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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