Congress’ approval of election results
The Coup-a-meter measures a specific kind of danger: how close we are to an active coup. Just as a speedometer cannot tell you the temperature, right now the Coup-o-meter is not the best way to gauge the current threat to our democracy.
It is true that the President is actively working to overturn the 2020 election results. Trump’s actions on his call with Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger were an illegal attempt to defraud the citizens of Georgia and deprive them of their votes. Trump has stated his intention to overturn election results that were not in his favor since before the election and he continues to look for collaborators who will help him do so. For Republicans, the challenge over the past two months has been finding ways to appear as if they are moving toward overturning the election without ever actually reaching that point. To do so, they have relied on lawsuits, recounts, and audits that they knew would fail but which would put off the inevitable: having to tell Trump that he lost the November election.
Wednesday, Republicans will interrupt the ceremonial electoral vote count. Doing so will have as much effect on the transition to a Biden administration as interrupting his inauguration on January 20th would have: none. But the point of this exercise is not to stop the transition, it is to put off the day when Trump turns on the members of his own party.
But if Trump is attempting to overturn the election, why not call this a coup? This is not a semantic argument: Tactics that are appropriate for one situation are often counterproductive in another. A coup is a rapid seizure of power that builds momentum and requires an immediate and broad response to overturn it. A general strike and mass demonstrations have proven to be effective tactics when fighting a coup, which is why our friends at Choose Democracy spent weeks training thousands of people around the country in these methods. But because this is not a coup, employing these tactics could backfire. If Trump has signaled anything in the past few months, it is that he is itching for a fight. Large street battles between those supporting and opposing Trump might well be the one thing that would justify domestic use of the military. Unlike the theatrics being employed by Republicans in Congress, military action could interrupt the peaceful transition of power.
There are good reasons not to be distracted by the current circus. The true goals of the Republican leadership are the same as they were last year and the year before that: depriving citizens of their right to vote. The current maelstrom of misinformation created by Trump will be put to use by Republicans in the coming months to limit early and mail-in voting, purge voter rolls, and enact voter ID laws. These are the threats to democracy that we face, and we should not let the interruption of ceremonies distract us from them.