June 17, 2024

coming bottom-up coup

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
The coming bottom-up coup
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — The forces aligned to produce the 1/6 attack on the U.S. Capitol are not vanquished. The special committee investigating the attack has done a great job bringing to light these forces, but no one should be lulled into thinking the threat is behind us. As retired U.S. Court of Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig, appointed by Pres. G.W. Bush, said, “Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”
          Right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon flouted the committee’s subpoena and vowed to turn his trial for contempt of Congress into the “misdemeanor from hell” for the government. The audience for his podcast, “War Room,” spiked with his clownish insults, and that was his goal.
          Like the ex-president, Bannon is using his cult-like appeal to install the “Stop the Steal” crowd in positions of influence in state governments throughout the country. Election boards in key swing states report an increase in partisan volunteers spurred by Bannon to “police” the counting of ballots.
          It's called the “precinct” strategy, and it involves stacking the system from the bottom up with officials in a position to affect the outcome of an election.
          At the highest level, the secretary of state is tasked with overseeing the integrity of an election, and it’s no accident that Trump-endorsed candidates are vying for the GOP nomination for this key role in the competitive states Trump will need to win if he runs for president in 2024.
          Not all of these Trumpists will win, but the effort is reminiscent of how the GOP built the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Under the tutelage of then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the conservative Federalist Society, the courts were changed from the bottom up over a long period of time when the other side, meaning the Democrats, was not paying attention.
          This is the same strategy now being applied to taking over state electoral offices that normally get little attention, but in the hands of partisans could make the difference in a close election. The Constitution gives extraordinary power to state legislatures already, and the Supreme Court is getting ready to hear a case out of North Carolina that would grant even more power to local legislators in states where Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers.
          Bannon’s precinct effort is part of this push for power, and it is no secret. The effort to stack the electoral offices in swing states is being done in plain sight. In Michigan, Trump-endorsed election deniers just won the GOP nomination for secretary of state and attorney general. Kristina Karamo, who got her party’s nod for secretary of state, insists Trump won Michigan and that it was leftist agitators who carried out the attack on the Capitol.
          Trump lost Michigan in 2020 by over 150,000 votes, yet she continues to campaign on the Big Lie, telling Bannon’s podcast audience, “If we don’t clean up our election system, we functionally no longer have an operational, constitutional republic left.”. She and Michigan’s attorney-general nominee are regular guests on Bannon’s “War Room.”
          In his final days in office, Trump pardoned a rogue’s gallery of friends and advisors, including Bannon, clearing him of federal charges of defrauding donors to “We Build the Wall.” Bannon still faces state charges for the scheme that solicited donations for the non-existent wall at the Mexican border.
          A graduate of Harvard Law and Georgetown University and a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs, Bannon could have gotten rich any number of legal paths, and he certainly knows better than to push a lie that’s been discredited multiple times.
          He helped get Trump elected, and in those heady early months in the White House, he had an office in the West Wing and lots of media attention as he boasted about the populist takeover. By August, he was gone, banished from the White House for overshadowing the boss.
          Now he’s back in Trump’s good graces. They talked twice on January 5th, after which Bannon told his “War Room” listeners “all hell was going to break loose” on 1/6. Now, that attempted top-down coup is about to be attempted as a bottom-up coup at the precinct level.
          See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2022 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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