To listen to the anti-Donald Trump crowd tell it, the president had perfectly laid the groundwork to stage a “coup” to keep power if he lost on Election Day.
He had filled the United States Supreme Court with three conservative justices and packed federal courts with nearly 300 conservative judges, who would ostensibly rule in his favour regarding any election-related lawsuits, Trump’s opponents believed.
He would steamroll state-level Republicans across the country to bend to his will to overturn election results.
He would send in the US military to protect him while he conducted this coup.
And also there for a massive assist would be his reliable ally, Attorney General William Barr, who would work the levers of the Justice Department to help keep his boss in the Oval Office.
It didn’t quite turn out that way.
One by one, each of those scenarios failed to come to pass.
The Supreme Court has to date taken a hands-off approach after Election Day, and judges all over the country – including those appointed by Trump – have tossed his lawsuits out of court.
State officials – including numerous Republicans – from Georgia to Michigan to Arizona to Pennsylvania have steadfastly bucked the president’s calls for conducting investigations, delaying vote certifications and overturning election results.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman made it clear before the election that the military would have no involvement in a transfer of power.
And one of the last straws, Barr, also strayed from the “coup” playbook on Tuesday.
After suggesting before the election that mail-in ballots were susceptible to fraud, and directing his department post-election to look into “substantial allegations” regarding election fraud and irregularities, Barr said that his investigators and the FBI turned up nothing that would change the election’s outcome.
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the Associated Press.
What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a playbook on how not to run a successful coup.
When a legion of elected and appointed officials, including those who are seen as deeply loyal to a president or whose political futures could be derailed by a president, go about their business with respect to the integrity of their jobs and not in fealty to the guy at the top, that is the antithesis of a coup.
Pundits and historians will unpack all of this in the coming months and years. The debate will rage about whether Trump’s opponents were overreacting when formulating their “coup” theory, whether the structure of the US system is too sound for a president to pull off such a stunt, whether Trump and his gang of attorneys led by Rudy Giuliani were simply a gang that could not shoot straight, or some combination of all of this.
What will not be up for argument, however, is that anti-Trumpers’ fears of a “coup” not only failed to come to pass, it failed spectacularly, perhaps giving the next president looking to cling to power some pause before making another attempt at this part of Trump’s political playbook.