26th Jan 2021


What does Trump's 'coup' mean for Europe?

  • Donald Trump's latest gambit was to call on his supporters to form a massive protest in Washington DC on 6 January, the day the electoral college votes are to be counted at Congress (Photo: Jeff Cirillo)

The Republican party might have lost its majority in the Senate, and president Donald Trump still refuses to accept the results of the presidential elections.

He is even still holding on to the illusion that he can still overturn the results.

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Trump's latest gambit was announced last week, when Trump called on his supporters to form a massive protest in Washington DC on 6 January, the day the electoral college votes are to be counted at Congress.

Had this being done by the leader of Turkey, or of my homeland Egypt, it would be called and dealt with as an attempted coup.

In case this wasn't 'coup-ish' enough, the Washington Post released Trump's recorded call with Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, where former pressured the later to "find him 11,780 votes" in order to overturn the results of the election in Georgia.

Many in the US establishment frame his actions only as "childish antics". Is this true, or should we take the coup attempt that Trump is making more seriously?

The long answer would be yes.

Trump's actions are a blow to the integrity of the US democracy and to democracy in general.

It will have geopolitical implications on democracy worldwide, especially in Europe, with the rise of alt-right movements and similar strongmen in Hungary and Poland.

It is clear that authoritarian leaders all over the world are watching very closely every step Trump is taking and how the American system is reacting to it.

Where strongmen have been following the example of Putin in the past, now Trump has become the one to follow in his attempt to defy one of the strongest democratic traditions in the world.

The short answer is also yes, absolutely, everyone needs to take this Trump's attempted coup seriously, especially in the US.

His actions are so unprecedented, that ten former defence secretaries are worried about the military being dragged into an election dispute. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff at the Pentagon, had to clarify in a speech that the US military serves only the constitution, neither a president nor government.

Helpful incompetence

If the establishment isn't worried, then it might be good to remember that this is the same political establishment that wasn't worried about a Trump win and refused to take him seriously four years ago either.

The truth is it's only thanks to Trump's complete faith in his re-election as well as his gross incompetence at governance, that he didn't manage to steal this election or stage his coup.

Trump has failed to stabilise his White House and cabinet with appointees that lasted his entire term in office.

He left many of the political appointments positions in his administration unfilled, while seeing a historic number of firings and resignations of his top officials and aides. Had Trump been more focused, and managed to instil loyalists there, and elsewhere in his administration, it would have been a completely different America.

Many in the establishment have claimed that the Trump legal challenges and recount efforts are just another Trumpian graft to make money.

Or they focus on the conman aspects of Trump, instead of his authoritarian tendencies and trademark vengeful ruthlessness against anyone he thinks betrayed him, like the Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell at the moment.

In order for McConnell to maintain his power, Republicans had to win the two Georgia run-off elections, one day before the electoral college certification and his protest.

While historically Republicans were favoured to win run-off elections in Georgia, Trump and his surrogates have done everything in their power to undermine republican voters' faith in the Georgia's election system, calling for a voter boycott until the Georgia election issues are addressed.

The Republican leadership has been sending its Georgia voters mixed messages: the elections system can't be trusted and your votes will be stolen, and you must come and vote in the elections so we can keep the majority in the Senate. The result of this strategy is now a disaster for the entire Republican party, but not necessarily for Trump.

Will Trump run again?

Given that the outgoing president is still incredibly popular amongst Republicans, garnering more votes than any other republican presidential candidate in history, he is still the party's leader and its most likely presidential candidate in the 2024 elections, a truth that probably fuels Ted Cruz and his compatriots in Congress challenging the electoral college count for Trump.

Staying on Trump's side seems like the most politically safe option for them to stay in power and fulfil their political ambitions, especially that he could easily make a comeback next election.

While an unimaginable scenario for all of the Trump haters, him engineering a comeback would be incredibly simple.

He will uphold the grievance that the election was stolen to maintain his hold on his loyalist voters, while betting on Biden's failure to effectively resolve any of the huge challenges facing him, as well as reverse a Covid-induced economic stagnation.

As frustration and despondency spread amongst the American population, the rosier the days of his 'Trump Economy' will look like in hindsight.

If Trump runs again and wins, it will be his final term, without the prospect of re-election.

This will surely motivate him to ensure he never leaves office again. It is fair bet that he would start dismantling the super fragile US government institutions and its system of checks and balances from day one.

Given his age of 74 years old, his mental health, 'Trump fatigue' and many legal challenges, it is possible, but not probable.

That being said, if he is still alive, healthy, free and tweeting politics by 2023, I think we all can officially start to worry. Not only for the American democracy, but for democracies in Europe and the rest of the world.

Author bio

Mahmoud Salem is an Egyptian writer, and a political and cybersecurity analyst.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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