aNewDomain – “Sometimes you have to go above the written law,” Fawn Hall explained to a Congressional committee investigating the Iran-Contra Affair.
Doubtless Hall learned that mantra on the limits of democratic government from some older, wiser conservative apparatchik who assumed that Ms. Hall wouldn’t repeat the ruling class credo.
Hall’s comments are relevant considering the doomed 2016 U.S. presidential election, which amounted to a coup d’etat.
It was a very American coup d’état, of course. It was a bloodless coup, set up not to save lives but the US economy in general and the American dollar’s status as the world’s only reserve currency.
It doesn’t really matter all that much if the votes in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Michigan turn out to be rigged.
The fix was in when FBI director James Comey announced, just 10 days before Election Day, that he was re-opening the Clinton email investigation. That was all it took to convince millions of Americans who were inclined to vote for Clinton to stop Trump to decide that Clinton wasn’t any better than Trump and to just stay home. Democracy at its finest.
We’ve had other American coup d’etats. Here are a few coups in America that happened in recent years.
Bush vs Gore in 2000
Maybe George W. Bush really, really did win Florida. The Supreme Court seemed to think he did. But that’s almost irrelevant now. The election was thrown by the governing class’s longstanding refusal to eliminate the Electoral College, which has evolved into a handy elitist tool for the preservation of entrenched power.
Al Gore won the popular vote. But, because every state gets two electors based on its two senators, this means that a vote for president in a small population state counts for more than a vote for president in a large population state.
Do the math.
Wyoming, the least populous state, gets three electors: one for its single House seat and 2 electors for each its two Senators. Divide Wyoming’s population by its electors, you get one elector representing 195,369 people.
California, the most populous state, gets 55 electors – 53 electors for its House seats and 2 electors for its two Senators. If you divide California’s population by its electors, you get one elector representing 711,724 people.
But electoral votes count equally.
Is it really the “voice of the people” when one elector represents less than 200,000 people while another elector represents nearly three quarters of a million people?
You can see how this catastrophe magnifies itself when you notice that the large states tend to be progressive while the small states tend to be conservative.
While the country’s population isn’t conservative, the country will consistently have conservative governments – and that’s without even messing with voter’s minds using fake news stories.
I assume some conservative voter is all set to send me a blistering note about the Federalist papers.
I won’t bore you with the details, but if you read the Federalist papers, you’ll notice that nearly all the assumed conditions about the electors from Federalist No. 68, among others, have not been true for many years. So, even in its initial conception, the Electoral College is bankrupt.
In addition, what might have made sense 228 years ago in a country with a population of less than four million people makes no sense in a country with 325 million people. Well, it makes “sense” – but it’s not democratic.
The electoral college thwarted not only a would-be Pres. Clinton and would-be Pres. Gore, but also would-be presidents like Tilden, Jackson (the first time), and Pres. Cleveland (the second time). Except for Jackson, the electoral college has always worked against the relatively more progressive candidate, emphasis on “relatively.”
Hmm. What does that suggest?
Arnie’s Army Takes Over California
In 2002, California Gov. Gray Davis won re-election. Davis was the state’s first Democratic governor in 16 years.
Davis must have been separated at birth from Hillary Clinton and Al Gore. He was a moderate who upset conservatives while not igniting progressives, and he was a technocrat who seemed aloof to many.
Sometimes you just have to go above the written law, especially when opportunity comes knocking.
Six months after Davis’ second inauguration, a recall petition started, slowly at first when led by Rep. Darrell Issa, but then accelerating to dizzying speeds when rumors circulated that Arnold Schwarzenegger might run.
Davis took the heat for an energy crisis actually orchestrated by Enron and other energy companies, which snowballed into a huge state budget deficit. This was exactly the sort of crisis not best handled by a technocrat like Davis but by a politician who could take to the bully pulpit.
Meanwhile, the media fell in love with the idea of Schwarzenegger as governor even before he announced his candidacy.
Schwarzenegger finally announced his candidacy on the Tonight Show. Of course. Where else?
Schwarzenegger hardly had to campaign for office given all the breathless press he received free of charge. It was just impossible to not love the idea of the “Gubernator,” a media-created term early in the recall campaign before Schwarzenegger became governor.
In a contest with 135 other candidates, Schwarzenegger managed to obtain a sufficient plurality to be declared winner.
Who knows how many other American coup d’états have played out without widespread public awareness. Recently, The New Yorker did a story on a Nov. 10, 1898 coup d’état, as “perpetrated by a gang of white-supremacist Democrats in Wilmington, North Carolina, who were intent on reclaiming power from the recently elected, biracial Republican government.” Read about that here.
And there was the Bankers’ Plot against Franklin Roosevelt, which has to be dismissed in order to maintain the façade of normalcy.
The 1960 Kennedy-Nixon Election
The 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election might well have been another coup d’état, given that Kennedy won by razor thin margins in Texas and Illinois. This was the infamous election where a number of dead people in Chicago somehow managed to vote for Kennedy.
It’s a pity that the controversy behind the 1960 election was never resolved because it seems to have been used as an excuse for political retributions by Conservatives since Watergate.
Conservatives never forget a slight – and sometimes you just have to go above the written law. Conservatives also assume that progressives will either forget all about them, kumbaya away their disappointment, or just go shopping.
We’re told daily now that it’s time to heal. Hardly.
And the counter coup … or was it The Coup in Chief?
The right-wing junta announced that it was staging a coup — just in case you missed it — while calling it a “counter coup.”
You might think Steve Pieczenik in the video below speaks from an unstable fringe, but he is a former deputy assistant secretary of state, has served in numerous administrations, and was reportedly a member of the Council of Foreign Relations as recently as 2012. And the video was recorded days before the election and not afterwards.
That video has been watched more than three million times. You might re-assess your general opinion of WikiLeaks after seeing it.
Democracy at its finest.
For aNewDomain, I’m Tom Ewing.
Cover image: Chilean coup memorial by No machine-readable author provided. Keriluamox assumed (based on copyright claims). No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link. Inside images: JonathanBosco.com, All Rights Reserved; Al Gore wins, via YouTube, All Rights Reserved; Flickr.com, All Rights Reserved; The White House Historical Association. All Rights Reserved; White House photo by Eric Draper, public domain, All Rights Reserved;