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Guardrails on the drunk man’s autobahn

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Adam Serwer has a very cogent and terrifying write-up of That Thing That Happened that we’re somehow not supposed to remember happened a few months ago.

1. Trump tried to pressure secretaries of state to not certify.

Trump held early leads in vote counts in several states—not because he was ever actually ahead but because of discrepancies between when states count mail-in ballots and Election Day ballots. This so-called blue shift was written about long in advance of Election Day, and was partially the result of Trump’s own attacks on voting by mail. Nevertheless, Trump made this a key part of his election conspiracy theories (as many predicted he would), insisting that Democrats were somehow inserting fraudulent ballots into the vote count in the presidential election (something they apparently forgot to do in close House and Senate races, in which Democrats did worse than polls had anticipated).  . . .

2. Trump tried to pressure state legislatures to overturn the results.

Trump personally attempted to coerce state legislators to overturn election results in a few states that voted for Biden, on the dubious legal theory that such legislatures could simply ignore the results of the popular vote in their own states. In Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia, Trump publicly urged Republican-controlled statehouses to “intervene to declare him the winner” and tweeted, “Hopefully the Courts and/or Legislatures will have the COURAGE to do what has to be done to maintain the integrity of our Elections, and the United States of America itself.” . . .

3. Trump tried to get the courts to overturn the results.

The embattled attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, filed an absurd lawsuit demanding that the Supreme Court void the election results in Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, four states Biden won. The large majority of the Republican delegation in Congress, as well as nearly 20 Republican state attorneys general, supported this attempt to get the conservative-controlled Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 election results by fiat. . . .

4. Trump tried to pressure Mike Pence to overturn the results.

It is hard to pick the most ridiculous means of executing a coup, but insisting that the vice president has the power to unilaterally decide who won an election is up there. Trump publicly hounded Pence to reject the results prior to the traditionally ceremonial electoral-vote count in Congress, and Pence reportedly took that demand seriously enough to seek advice from Dan Quayle on the matter, “asking if there were any grounds to pause the certification because of ongoing legal challenges,” according to Costa and Woodward. That this got so far is profoundly disturbing, but even more disturbing is Eastman’s memo, which shows that the Trump team had thought very deliberately about how this scheme would work. . . .

5. When all else failed, Trump tried to get a mob to overturn the results.

At the rally prior to the vote count in Congress, Trump urged the crowd to act, saying, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” The explicit goal of the rally and subsequent riot was to pressure Congress, and Pence in particular, into overturning the election results. Trump told his followers, “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.” . . .

Those who attempted to subvert democracy have faced few political or legal consequences. As is typical, some rioters are facing prosecution while the elites who tried to overthrow the election through more bureaucratic or procedural means remain in good standing with their peers. The failure to impose accountability for an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order will encourage further such efforts.

Meanwhile, those rare Republicans who did stand up against this attempt to destroy American democracy are the only ones dealing with real political consequences from their party, facing primary challenges, being forced into retirement, or being stripped of their leadership positions. Republican officials who were unwilling to use their office to overturn the election results are seeing challenges from Trump devotees who will, should the opportunity arise again.

If Trump had succeeded, many of those downplaying the former president’s actions would today be rationalizing an American coup. No, you see, George Washington and James Madison intended for Donald Trump to be president for life. Read the Constitution.

Serwer’s last point is really unimpeachable.

We need to be ready for the next time — and there will be a next time, probably in a little more than three years from today.

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