A Very American Coup


When I studied American Politics in my A-levels, I always wondered what a Coup in the United States would look like. How it would happen, who will take power and what would be the justification be.  I guess the past week, I had an answer. 

We should be blunt with our words on the event of the Capitol. On Wednesday, we saw nothing short of a Fascist Insurrection attempt to overthrow and challenge the democratic legitimacy of the Presidential Election in November. All perpetrated by a President who had no other care in the world other than to keep power by any means necessary, and carried out by White Supremacists who would do anything to make it so.

I wanted to say “We never saw it coming”. But if you are saying that, you were never paying any attention. To be quite honest, an event like this was as predictable as things could get.

This is the culmination of a Trump Administration that has spent the past four years burning the Democratic Norms that many take for granted. From calling the investigation into his ties to Russia a “WITCH HUNT” to calling for his political opponents’ arrest. From his continually naming of the Press as the “Enemy of the people”, to the coddling up to the Authoritarian strongmen of the world; to Putin, Erdogan, Orban, Bolsonaro.

All of this lead to the behaviour of Donald Trump during and after the Presidential Elections. Throughout the whole political campaign, we saw the President set the scene to undermine the democratic will of the people in the eventuality of his defeat. He talked about how COVID-19 was sensationalised to destroy him, questioned the validity of mail-in ballots as a scam, and when his allies finally dared to admit his defeat called them weak and disloyal.

It’s essential to name it as it is, authoritarian and undemocratic at its core. But to say it is Anti-American is misleading. Donald Trump didn’t happen under a vacuum but is perpetrated by a political system that enabled him. The worse sides of Trump were encouraged by a Republican Party that condone the actions that he took and was willing to join him in eroding the public faith in democracy for Political gain.

They were joined by a Corporate Media who on the Liberal side kept the Camera rolling on Trump early on for clicks and views until it was too late, to a Conservative media who kept defending his worst fascist tendencies and egged him on the go further.

I wanted to say “We never saw it coming”. But if you are saying that, you were never paying any attention.

And let’s not forget the police’s response to this insurrection compared to the horrible crackdown to the Black Lives Matter protests within the summer. Rather than the rubber bullets, tear gas, batons we saw over the summer. Instead, we saw a police force who took selfies with the rioters, carefully hold the hands of rioters down the capitol’s steps and even opening the gates to let the people in. All of this only showed in realtime the White Privilege and supremacy of the American Criminal Justice System.  

Joe Biden was utterly right to point this out and say that it was “totally unacceptable”. The President-elect explicitly bringing Racial Justice at multiple fronts should be something for the Labour Movement- and the Leadership- could learn from (Whether the new Administration would achieve change is another thing). But Biden was wrong to say this isn’t America. This was a very American coup.

This insurrection should be a stark warning to us in Britain. Because where America leads today, Britain follows tomorrow. As COVID-19 cases continue to rally across the country, we see a concerning rise of disinformation and lies perpetrated by some in power. And let’s also mention how the events within the US in the past will further embolden the Far-Right here in the UK. Four years after the death of Jo Cox and almost two years after the plot to kill Rosie Cooper we should be worried how the response to the coup could reverberate to this nation and our Democracy. Especially as QAnon conspiracies theories have started to take a concerning grip within the UK. 

With GB News’s establishment as a “UK Fox News”, we should be prepared to fight a corporate media that would continue to enable and encourage this Tory Government’s worse tendencies. And finally, while Trump may be going, those who were inspired by his rampant Authoritarianismn still remain here, and the actions we saw over the administration could get worse here before it gets better.

And for those who think that what happened in Washinton DC couldn’t happen here. Remember that Boris Johnson tried to shut down Parliament when things were not going his way. 

The Labour Party and broader movement have so much to learn from Joe Biden and the Democrats’ victory. Especially in the championing and organising of the Black Votes that helped them to important victories (especially in Georgia). But it also must heed the warnings from the events we saw in the past week.

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