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Trumpism and the Brooks Brothers riot

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Since Donald Trump’s conduct cannot possibly be defended on the merits, the core argument being advanced by Republican propaganda outlets and many Republican public officials is that following the constitutional procedures of impeachment constitutes a coup d’etat. But from Jeb!’s racist vote suppression to the riots intended to stop vote counts to a wholly lawless Supreme Court stay and opinion, it’s also true that the 2000 elections were the prototype for all of this:

So what does Hemingway mean when she wants Republicans to stop being polite and start getting real? She cites as a model the infamous Brooks Brothers riot from 2000. During that episode, Republican staffers disrupted the vote recount in Miami-Dade, a process that they feared would increase the vote count for Al Gore. (It later turned out that Miami-Dade had few uncounted Gore votes.) Hemingway justifies the riot as a necessary response to a one-sided recount. Of course, if she were correct that the county was ignoring countable Republican ballots, there would have been legal remedies available. Instead, Republican staffers used mob tactics.

“The media attacks were written, not coincidentally, after the mini-protest was shown to have worked,” she argues, as if only media bias could explain why journalists covered an event shortly after it occurred. “Within hours, the Democrat-led board admitted that they couldn’t comply with state law by the Sunday deadline and stopped their attempted vote harvesting scheme.”

Whatever the ethics of her position, Hemingway is correct to cite this episode as a milestone in the ideological evolution that has brought the party toward Trumpism. Its increasingly right-wing character has been mixed with a conviction that Democratic elections are inherently fraudulent, and that extra-legal processes can be justified as countermeasures. Whether wise or not, the Constitution grants Congress indisputable authority to hold impeachment proceedings. Yet Trump has had little trouble bringing along with him the great mass of voters and elected officials to the position that it is illegitimate as process, a literal coup.

“If this coup succeeds — whether through impeachment proceedings, or through an election that (if the last three years are any indication) the other side is clearly willing to steal by hook or by crook — the nation will cease to be a constitutional, democratic republic,” she warns. Notice that Hemingway is casually endorsing the widespread Republican assumption that Democrats must steal elections in order to win. Since the perfidy of the president’s enemies is taken for granted, and the evidentiary standards for charges against them nonexistent, any Trump defeat is a coup. Trump himself has been stoking that lie since before the 2016 election. If he is impeached, and even if he simply loses reelection, Trump will call it a coup, and a large number of his followers will treat it as such.


It will get worse before it gets better.

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