Barely three weeks into the Trump presidency, and talk has already shifted from resistance and impeachment to the possibility of a military coup. The fact that these discussions are emanating from people on the left demonstrates how much fear and desperation pervades a community that normally favors peace, democracy and rationality.
These, of course, are not normal times. Some people are saying that by appointing White House strategist and white nationalist Steve Bannon to the National Security Council, a coup has already occurred. Still others are hoping the Pentagon steps in and ousts No. 45 and his minions. Most notably comedian Sara Silverman, who was for a coup before she was against it.
Let’s be clear: the prospect of a coup is, at this time, is so remote that the odds are about the same as you winning the lottery while getting struck by lightning.
If the Pentagon removes Trump and his inner circle, it won’t be for the reasons the left wants him out. A coup will not happen because of the elimination of Obamacare, violations of constitutional rights, the building of a massive White Elephant on the Mexican border, the privatization of public schools, the criminalization of abortion or any subjugation of minorities. The generals may or may not care about these issues, but they aren’t going to do something rash about them. Just how this might work out is explained by radical journalist Arun Gupta. Check it out.
The only thing that might instigate a coup is if Trump’s actions pose an imminent threat to national security. Key word is “imminent.” Much of what Trump has ordered in his short time in office has jeopardized American standing in the world and will cause long term damage to national security, but these are not urgent, at least not to the Pentagon. Nevertheless, I’m sure there are top brass in the branches of the military, as well as the CIA, who have thought about a coup. After all, Trump antagonized them during his campaign and then really pissed them off when he appointed Machiavellian white nationalist Steve Bannon to the National Security Council and kicked out the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence. They are none too happy about the Muslim immigration ban, since it jeopardizes troops stationed in the Middle East.
The chair of the Joint Chiefs, Staff Gen. Joesph Dunford, is reportedly furious with Retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn for actively campaigning for Trump. Now Flynn, a wing nut who espouses conspiracy theories, is the head of the NSC. But Dunford’s ire was raised because he believes the military must not be politicized. Dunford is also a close friend of Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Defense. Don’t count on him to lead a coup.
To those of you who prayed for a change of heart and vote among Electoral College electors, recounts in the Rust Belt,and any other quick fix to keep Trump out of office, a coup ain’t gonna happen either. At least not unless Trump takes us to the brink of war. So, well, it could happen.
Just for fun, let’s do a compare and contrast between the Trump regime and a military regime, on the main issues of our time:
Trump: Going full throttle towards the Sixth Extinction with promotion of fossil fuels and the destruction of the EPA.
Pentagon: The Defense Department has done extensive research on the impacts of climate change, concluding it is destabilizing developing countries, which will cause more conflicts in those regions. A military regime could impose stricter carbon controls than we would ever get from an elected Congress.
Trump: Despite campaign rhetoric, all those Wall St. appointments signal a continuation of economic insecurity for the bottom 90%. Labor Secretary nominee opposes any kind of minimum wage.
Pentagon: Probably not a priority, although the Pentagon also has studies showing how income inequality also increases political instability. Probably less doctrinaire than Trump or Ryan. But the military-industrial complex means that the generals have friends among the corporate elite.
Trump: With Betsy DeVos, massive defunding of public education and investment in privately run, frequently fly-by-night charter schools, with the aim of creating Christian madrasses throughout America.
Pentagon: Might promote more funding for public education simply to get more qualified recruits. Also might not, since undereducated people make up a big percentage of military recruits. Several of the members of the Joint Chiefs attended private religious schools.
Trump: A total disaster. His administration wants to roll back the times to about the 1600s. And that might be too generous. Roe v Wade overturned, family planning defunded, workplace discrimination allowed, maybe even promoted.
Pentagon: Now that women have served in the military for decades and proven themselves, could be more enlightened. But there are no women among the Joint Chiefs. They will not waste time with criminalizing abortion or defunding Planned Parenthood.
Trump: Probably will not try to condone slavery until the second term. All other minority rights are in jeopardy.
Pentagon: In the post-World War II era, the military was often better integrated than the rest of America, and minorities were able to move up the ranks. Lately—beginning with the end of the draft—the bulk of those volunteering for military service come from the South and a big percentage of them are racists. So not much hope here.
Trump: Who knows? The Republican Congress is backpedaling now that they have the power to repeal the ACA and while Trump signed an executive order to end it, it’s not that simple. Look for some hodgepodge that will try to make health care more market based but pretend to keep it affordable and preserve the pre-existing condition component. Expect some brutal discrimination as to who gets medical care. Medicare privatization pushed—but will get enormous pushack from voters, including Trump voters.
Pentagon: The VA hospitals will be upgraded and the wait times reduced. Other than that, my guess is that the military won’t touch what is already in place.
Trump: We’ve already seen in Yemen how reckless Ttump/Bannon are. Now Bannon is talking about war in the South China Sea. The neo-cons strategy of limited wars in various hotspots, often done by proxies, could give way to bigger and blunter American forces. The likelihood of using nukes increases. Whether this is bluster or true intent, the risk is not worth taking. More certainly, defense spending goes up bigly.
Pentagon: Depends on which general (or group of top brass) is in command. If a warmonger like Michael Flynn leads the coup, he would be removed by cooler heads in the military. So if those cooler heads decide Trump is too dangerous and thus engineer the coup, the prospects of a major war should be diminished. Another thing, the Defense Department, or at least some of its branches, frequently have proposed budgets to Congress that were lower than what Congress appropriated, because expensive boondoggles in their districts win votes.
Trump: Posing as a populist embodying the “will of the people,” Trump (with overwhelming support of the Republican leadership) imposes a totalitarian tyranny. It’s already in place with Republican control of every branch of government, and more than half of state governments. James Madison wrote in “Federalist No. 47” (Jan. 30, 1788): “The accumulation of all powers, Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” Dissenters inside government are fired, those outside will be put on lists and eventually arrested. At local levels where democracy still flourishes, federal funding will be withheld, and Trump has already threatened martial law in Chicago. We could go on for pages on how the Republican machine (with some help from Democrats) has chipped away at our democratic institutions. Apparently the number of Republicans in Congress who have any amount of courage is less than the number of hits recorded by Ted Nugent. Expect more voter ID laws and other forms of suppression, including on a national level. And expect even less regulation of campaign financing by corporations and the wealthy.
Pentagon: The very definition of a coup is anti-democratic, so don’t expect your voice to be heard at the federal level. But it all depends on how the coup is organized. Do the generals just appropriate the executive branch, or do they dissolve Congress and the Supreme Court (all the while promising new elections and restoration of constitutional government at some indefinite time in the future)? Replacing one form of authoritarian rule with another seems fruitless. Remember, however, the Pentagon brass has no desire to rule the country—a coup’s purpose is to remove the crazies who could start WWIII. While in charge, however, they might fix a few things—maybe carbon caps, maybe moe funding for science.And probably no meddling in state or local government.
More likely, they just take out Trump and Bannon, hand the reins over to Mike Pence and leave Congress alone, which essentially is a de facto impeachment that leaves us still with a plutocracy in charge,
Wishing for a coup is asking some higher power to intervene and save us from the hard work of defeating the new regime. Unfortunately, reclaiming our democratic republic will take more ingenuity, more perseverance and years of hard work. Yet if we all do something, at least once a week, we can win. If we can sustain the energy that has burst forth since the women’s marches on Jan. 21, and focus it on legislation at the state level, winning key congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative seats, and supporting crucial non-governmental organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, we can win. It’s the only way.