Is the US in the Middle of a Coup?
Via Australian author Charles Firth:
Zunger’s point is that last weekend the White House and Department of Homeland Security happily ignored court orders related to the Muslim ban, and there was no real consequence to it.
If Mr Trump’s inner circle gets good at going around the conventional processes, the result is essentially coup-like: Congress and the Supreme Court can try to oppose him all it likes, but if he’s willing to just keep going around the normal processes, there is not a lot they can do.
This is normally accompanied by a Kleptocratic approach to the nation’s finances. Kleptocracy is “rule by thieves”. The argument that Zunger presents is that Mr Trump’s refusal to divest himself of assets shows a proclivity to use the office to enrich himself and his family.
But coup or not, Zunger has identified some tendencies in Mr Trump’s leadership style are worth exploring.
By finding ways to exercise power unchallenged, Mr Trump’s inner circle were able to enact an unconstitutional order. And the only lesson that they derived from it is that it actually doesn’t matter how unconstitutional something they do is, as long as they go around the Departments that will object, they can get it done.
The list goes on. Mr Trump issued an extraordinary 20 executive orders in his first 10 days. If you read through them, they are hilariously amateurish in their drafting.
I know this sounds like a joke, but one of the orders — honestly — declared the day of his inauguration The National Day of Patriotic Devotion. I’m not making it up. The Order itself reads like a decree from Kim Jong Un.
We’re not making this stuff up.
As you read through them, it becomes clear they have not gone through the conventional methods for drafting executive orders — which involves showing them to the relevant department for input. At times they are vague, at other times the wording is flowery. They are not the work of experts.
The White House has confirmed to multiple reporters that they have been drafted by Mr Trump’s inner circle, and released without any input from the Departments that are expected to carry them out.
Again, this might be incompetence — many of his inner circle have no previous experience in government. But it might also be they simply don’t care about what the Departments think about his orders. Or worse, they know exactly what they think, and are seeking ways to avoid that scrutiny.
But if Mr Trump is prepared to go around his departments and media, ignore diplomatic protocols and sideline the US Military, will he really obey the will of Congress and the Supreme Court when they start trying to put limits on his power?
What it means is that much of the conventional thinking about how Mr Trump’s presidency will play out needs to be completely rethought. It’s no use running off to a court to get the President’s order declared unconstitutional if the President plans on ignoring the court’s declaration. It’s no use hoping the military will place roadblocks on his latest National Security plan, because they’re no longer on the committee.
The rule book for how power is exercised in the US is currently being torn up. The question is whether what it’s replaced with will be in any way democratic.
If the Republicans in Congress try to block Mr Trump from getting his way on something, he’s likely to just go around them. If the past two weeks are any guide, the conventional institutions are unlikely to provide much of a buffer from a President intent on ignoring them.
In the meantime, Mr Trump will continue to build parallel institutions, that mean that should the support from all the institutions evaporate, he can still carry on.
Do also read Yonatan Zunger’s ‘When Villains Aren’t Super
Further Reflections on “Trial Balloon for a Coup?”’
And Ruth Ben-Ghiat (who is an expert on fascism) ‘Donald Trump and Steve Bannon’s coup in the making’
Here’s our story on Bannon’s worldview. Sees a global “war” against Islam, now turning US policy to meet it. https://t.co/0iCLZb0C9j
Bannon is using Trump to advance his own ideology, like Cromwell used the Tudors (or Rasputin used the tsars…) https://t.co/1mKgXcI23d
All we are saying is give a CIA coup a chance.
— Jake Turk (@71djt) February 3, 2017