Hello internet, I’m Jackie Fox and I’d like to start this article with a desperate prayer for America.
In retrospect, one of the defining aspects of the Trump Presidency may end up being the 45th President’s love of coups. As I write this, it’s 2021 and Joe Biden will be the 46th President by the end of the month, but Trump is still trying some deeply corrupt tricks to overthrow his record-breaking democratic loss a few months back.
So far, 2021 hasn’t been kind to the soon to be former President. On January 3rd, audio of Trump begging a Georgia official to swing the state for him was released to the public, raising legal concerns of a quid pro quo, much like the events that led to his impeachment.
Trump starts the call with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, by saying he must’ve won the state based on interesting evidence: “So we’ve spent a lot of time on this, and if we could just go over some of the numbers, I think it’s pretty clear that we won. We won very substantially in Georgia. You even see it by rally size, frankly.”
Then he moves on to his big ask, “The number’s large. We’ll have it for you. But it’s much more than the number of 11,779 that’s — the current margin is only 11,779. Brad, I think you agree with that, right? That’s something I think everyone — at least that’s a number that everyone agrees on. But that’s the difference in the votes. But we’ve had hundreds of thousands of ballots that we’re able to actually — we’ll get you a pretty accurate number. You don’t need much of a number because the number that in theory I lost by the margin would be 11,779.”
He supports his demands with conspiracy theories and faked video evidence that Raffensperger and his lawyer calmly debunk. “Well, I listened to what the president has just said. President Trump, we’ve had several lawsuits, and we’ve had to respond in court to the lawsuits and the contentions. We don’t agree that you have won. And we don’t — I didn’t agree about the 200,000 number that you’d mentioned. I’ll go through that point by point.” As he put it later in the call, “well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.”
Frustrated, Trump resorts to threats of legal action if he doesn’t flip the state for him. “It is more illegal for you than it is for them because, you know what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. And that’s a big risk.” This was followed by a clear restatement of his demands, “so look, all I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state. And flipping the state is a great testament to our country…”
Then, on January 6th, amid challenges to the Congressional procedure that would rubber stamp the election, an angry mob leaves a Trump rally where he filled their heads with an hour of conspiracy theories like the ones in the phone call mentioned above. He starts things off by saying things like, “We will never give up. We will never concede,” and demanding they “show strength” and “demand that Congress do the right thing.” But near the end of his speech, he set the mood for the upcoming riot saying, “we fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” and moments later the crowd converged upon and breached the Capitol building, breaking windows, and fighting the police with fists and flagpoles. Tear gas was deployed by both sides and the mob was ultimately dispersed. By the end of the day, over 50 were arrested, two pipe bombs were disarmed, and four people were dead.
In terms of directly advocating for violence on January 6th, the President’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani takes the cake, demanding of the President’s DC audience a “trial by combat” to overturn the election. It’s easy to see these words as a spark to a powder keg, but I intend to ask where that powder keg came from as well.
With my eyes glued to live video all day long, I saw any number of stunning events that you’d almost have to see to believe. And while we are right to be shocked by this turn of events, everyone saw it coming, yet the DC Police were slow to react, barely holding the invaders in the Capitol Crypt. It seems they only break out the numbers and brutality against crowds that aren’t largely white and male like this one was. To demonstrate this, here’s a video of the police reaction to a protest at the New York Trump Tower on the same day.
It seems the DC Police couldn’t take the threats of insurrection seriously, and no wonder, as they are largely made up of verifiably false conspiracy theories.
The funny thing about the whole coup was that it managed to cow several key Republican and keep them from voting, as they had planned, in favor of the effort to overturn the election and disenfranchise millions of American voters. In the debate before the vote on the Arizona objections, many of those same Republicans gave hastily written speeches to chastise the protesters and rioters in an attempt to save face and let the nation know they’d changed their minds. And yet, six still voted for the measure to overturn the election results in that first vote.
It continues to astound many liberals and leftists that Trump’s base is so willing to accept the narrative that this loss was somehow illegally manufactured. This is not at all surprising when you consider that vast swaths of his Presidency were spent reinforcing the idea to his base.
While it’s an old trope by now, in the context of the Trump administration, the narrative that “socialists” can only win elections through corrupt means resurfaced in 2018 in Venezuela, when Hugo Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro of the United Socialists Party of Venezuela won the election with over two thirds of the total vote representing 46% of registered voters. Trump’s administration was among the first international voices to call the victory illegitimate and put a lot of institutional power behind the effort to overturn the results and seat Juan Guaido. This pressure caused a number of other countries to hop on board with claims of election malpractice. Even as recently as last month, the Trump administration placed sanctions on a Venezuelan firm associated with their parliamentary election after Maduro’s Socialist Party won over two thirds of the vote again, even under the control of the conservatives backing Guaido.
In 2019, US intelligence agencies went through similar motions to discredit the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia. His margin in the first round of voting was enough to win the election outright without needing a runoff, which isn’t common in their electoral system. Some found this overwhelming victory by the Movement for Socialism suspicious, and again, the Trump administration threw its political weight behind having the election disqualified.
Morales, confident in his support, was a good sport about the whole thing and agreed to hold a second vote. This was initially rejected by his opponents, and the election wouldn’t finish playing out until 2020, when a very conservative interim government ran an election barring Morales from running and elected Luis Arce with over 55% of the vote in the first round. This was an even greater margin of victory than the previous election. Interestingly, Luis was the Movement for Socialism’s replacement after Morales was banned, so the election really demonstrated that the Bolivian’s hunger for a socialist president is real. A report by the Organization of American States claimed to have evidence of clear manipulation. This was later proven to be not only false, but apparently a product of a computational error on the part of OAS.
In December of 2020, Venezuela held a parliamentary election in which 91% of the seats available in the National Assembly were won by Maduro’s United Socialist Party in a landslide election, demonstrating again the original vote was likely a valid representation of the will of the people. Despite this, interim President Guaido is still in power, even though no one in Venezuela voted to give him this power over them. This election was a rebuke of the 2018 coup that had placed Guaido into power as well as the many international forces, American included, that helped him gain the legitimacy to pull it off.
Both of these politically convenient coups backed by the Trump White House share a few other commonalities. In each case, the most recent victory was won with over 50% of the total vote, one being as high as 67%. Here in America, that may not seem uncommon, but both countries tend to have more than two presidential candidates per election, so winning a clear majority in the first round is often unheard of. And in both countries, a second election closely matched the results of the first, even after allowing conservatives to take control and supervise the electoral process.
These are resounding victories that illustrate the viability and popular enthusiasm for socialism in Latin America. It might have been impactful to America as a whole, but the only serious coverage of the two elections was done in bad faith by the right wing, while liberal media remained largely silent. While most liberal American media tries to pretend that countries in Latin America aren’t moving toward socialism by omitting news about them entirely, right wing outlets ran story after story about socialist voter fraud in Venezuela and Bolivia, creating this unfounded “socialists cheat to win” narrative within the right.
When you combine this narrative with the idea that Biden is somehow a socialist, you can see how the last few years have primed right wing diehards to see any victory even slightly left of center as being a fabrication, even without hard evidence, because this was the standard presented to them for years by outlets like Fox News and One America News.
Of course, the President’s own words helped as well. I’m not going to dig through his prolific tweets or the continuous stream of him running his mouth to whatever camera will record him, but it’s safe to say there have been a few recurring and dangerous themes in his public statements over the last few years adding to this. He called for civil war if he was defeated, then said repeatedly he could only lose the election if it was rigged against him. He also capitalized on the shady actions of the DNC during their primary to plant the seeds of a narrative of election malfeasance.
Now, I believe there’s some truth to the idea that the DNC did everything in their power to screw Bernie out of the nomination, but it’s not evidence that they later messed with the results of the Presidential election. The primary is theirs to run as they please, so they have built in many ways to legally fix the results, but they hardly have the same relationship with Presidential elections.
Because of the years of rhetorical groundwork those who believed in these stories at the time they were manufactured, “Biden cheated” and “stop the steal” are an easy sell because they believe it has happened time and time again. Maybe the scariest part is that they may really fear their country and their vote is being forcefully taken away from them. I’d be mad too, if I believed that, and I think you would be as well.
This is Trump’s latest and most powerful mind trap. Despite foreign countries attempting to hack our power grid and an ever-accelerating pandemic where a combination of cold weather, new viral mutations, and a lack of support and coordination in getting the vaccines to the public is leading to the highest peaks of COVID-19 in the US, Trump can’t be bothered to do anything more than golf and spread his viral delusions. This Presidential inattention has accelerated the daily death rate of COVID in America to at least one 9/11 per day. Yet he does nothing to save anyone but himself. Actually, while I was writing this, we topped 4,000 daily deaths, meaning I now need a more deadly event than 9/11 to describe what’s happening every day in America right now.
Adding to the perplexity of the average liberal who didn’t hear much about socialist victories in Venezuela or Bolivia is their lack of a context for this movement, which leads them to believe this is something coming out of nowhere instead of a narrative right wing audiences have been being spoon-fed for years now in relation to Latin American elections.
These phenomena highlight the dangers of our disjointed news media, and how propaganda can be built over time to support such a narrative even without any evidence. As I said in my Meme Wars video, a thought virus is most persuasive to someone who shares its language and context, and the foreign coups against socialist victors built for them a context through which to understand Trump’s fictional claims. From that perspective, people’s willingness to believe a thought virus like “stop the steal” hinges on them having been given that context to understand it without needing to see any concrete evidence.
Even beyond that, it should have been clear to us that a man who overturns any international election he doesn’t like would be inclined to do the same when the electorate turned against him. First, it was Venezuela, then Bolivia, and after no one fought him on either coup, those chickens came home to roost here in America, too, and now people are dead because of it.