You Know We Just Went Through a Failed Coup Attempt, Right?
“That it didn’t work does not mean it didn’t happen.” — Ezra Klein
When I heard the news that Joe Biden had won the 2020 election, President Trump was golfing in Virginia.
Later, after watching Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speak to the nation, I listened to a podcast episode about Joe Biden on The Ezra Klein Show. And it was only then that I realized what we’ve really just gone through — and what we just survived as a nation: a failed coup attempt.
Klein said, “So that is it. That is it. Donald Trump has lost the presidency. Joe Biden is the president-elect. I don’t know what to say about the last week, y’all. It is strange living through a coup attempt, because that is what we lived through.”
Klein went on to say, “The current president — the head of the current regime — did not want to allow an election to end his power. And he tried in the ways he knew how, using the megaphone he has and the supporters he has, to try to stop the election from being a check on him. We’ve lived through a coup attempt.”
Klein concluded by saying, “We have lived through a president and his family trying to burn down the country’s political system as opposed to be rejected by it. It is the absolute instantiation of ‘If they can’t have America then nobody can.’ That it didn’t work does not mean it didn’t happen.”
Klein is co-founder and editor-at-large of Vox. He’s also an American journalist, blogger, and political commentator, as well as a former columnist for The Washington Post and an associate editor of The American Prospect.
His words help me understand why it feels like I’ve been hit by a truck … and why my nerves are tattered and frayed … and why, though my relief is deep and real, I look and feel like I’ve aged ten years as shockwaves still reverberate with every beat of my heart.
Coup d’état /kōō/: A sudden decisive exercise of force in politics
It’s been about 24 hours since Biden was named president-elect, yet I still receive urgent messages from the Trump Re-Election campaign, insisting the fight isn’t over, suggesting they’ll expose malicious wrongdoing, insisting that Democrats are thieves, pleading for defense-fund donations, declaring the president’s victory was stolen, and that this election has not been called. It all sounds /kōō/kōō/, if you ask me.
I didn’t recognize what was happening as a coup attempt. Instead, as a mom and former early childhood educator, I kept telling myself, “Trump and his people want things their way, and when they don’t get it, they hold their breath and cry.” In this case, Trump’s “breath-holding” presented as a refusal to concede. His “crying” presented as a demand to grind our democratic process to a stop.
I shouldn’t have been so blind. When questioned about his handling of the U.S. response to the global pandemic, Trump asserted on April 13, 2020, that, “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that’s the way it’s gotta be.” When pushed, Trump shows us how his mind works.
He’s being pushed now to face a long-overdue reckoning. Trump does not, in fact, have total authority. As citizens, our voices matter, and we have exercised them in historic ways. For four years, President Trump has dominated and destabilized us. We, the People, have now responded. It is time for President Trump to finally listen, to do the right thing, and to concede the election.
The current president — the head of the current regime — did not want to allow an election to end his power. And he tried in the ways he knew how, using the megaphone he has and the supporters he has, to try to stop the election from being a check on him. We’ve lived through a coup attempt. — Ezra Klein
Christine Wolf is a political journalist. Her biography about two former members of the United States Congress comes out in 2021. To follow Christine, visit www.christinewolf.com.