The GOP Is Staging Chaos On the Way To a Coup

Everyone needs to be ready.

Two news stories story that almost speak for themselves without the need for commentary.

First, the 4-3 conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court has made a bizarre, nonsensical ruling that will throw Wisconsin’s entire election into disarray for no good reason.

Then the Wisconsin Supreme Court stepped in. On Thursday afternoon, by a 4–3 vote divided along partisan lines, the court issued a strange, cryptic order that could throw the election into chaos. The conservative majority directed the Wisconsin Elections Commission to turn over a massive amount of information it did not actually have. These justices then halted the mailing of more absentee ballots while they consider nullifying every ballot that has been printed or mailed and forcing the state to start over. Their stunning eleventh-hour intervention could force election officials into an impossible position: either comply with the court’s order or violate both state and federal law.

Essentially, the Green Party failed to submit proper documents in Wisconsin. They refused to state reasons, or to seek redress in a timely manner. Then they asked the state at the last minute to place the Green Party on the ballot, anyway, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of ballots had already gone out to voters.

A responsible court would have rejected this challenge for two reasons: Hawkins and Walker waited an unreasonably long time to bring it, and it has no plausible legal basis. But instead of dismissing the case, the infamously irresponsible court ordered the commission to reveal who has requested absentee ballots, who has been mailed a ballot already, and when these ballots were mailed. It also demanded to know who requested the ballots to be printed, implying the existence of some conspiracy to rush them out. In the meantime, the conservative majority effectively shut down the state’s election machinery, suspending the printing of more absentee ballots. Its order suggests that four justices are seriously considering a decision in favor of the Green Party. Such a ruling would compel the state to throw out every existing ballot and begin the entire, grueling, monthslong process anew.

There is no plausible rationale for the decision, and no way to implement it in a manner that won’t throw the election into chaos. The Wisconsin Supreme Court was made very well aware of this, and the conservative Koch-purchased majority choose this course of action, anyway. Nor was the cynical Green Party acting alone:

Hawkins suggested in an interview that Trump supporters had helped the Green Party ticket with its legal claim before the state Supreme Court. The party’s petition was filed by attorneys from the Milwaukee-based von Briesen & Roper law firm, which has a history of representing Wisconsin Republicans.

“You get help where you can find it,” Hawkins told The Washington Post when asked whether Republicans had financed the legal action. “They have their reasons and we have ours.”

If the presidential election is at all close, everything may hinge on the outcome in Wisconsin. And if Wisconsin is beset by legal challenges from thousands of voters casting legally received ballots prior to a court order demanding that different ballots be sent, even if those ballots go out later than the legally mandated deadline, you have a recipe for a chaos of litigation that will ultimately only be resolved by Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s pardoned felonious close advisor and Russia-Wikileaks conduit Roger Stone just told Alex Jones that Trump should seize total power in a coup should he lose the election:

Roger Stone is making baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election and is urging Donald Trump to consider several draconian measures to stay in power, including having federal authorities seize ballots in Nevada, having FBI agents and Republican state officials “physically” block voting under the pretext of preventing voter fraud, using martial law or the Insurrection Act to carry out widespread arrests, and nationalizing state police forces.

We know that Trump listens to Stone as the closest person he still has in his orbit to his beloved Roy Cohn, and cares enough about him to have sprung him out of jail. And he’s recommending this course of action:

Beyond Nevada, Stone recommended that Trump consider several actions to retain his power. Stone recommended that Trump appoint former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) as a special counsel “with the specific task of forming an Election Day operation using the FBI, federal marshals, and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity.”

Stone also urged Trump to consider declaring “martial law” or invoking the Insurrection Act and then using his powers to arrest Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, “the Clintons” and “anybody else who can be proven to be involved in illegal activity.”

Even if Trump doesn’t actively take any of these measures—and there is a great deal of evidence that he might—right-wing groups may well take some of these matters into their own hands.

The context for all of this upheaval is that conservatives know they have lost the argument and the culture. The nation’s greatest problems, from police racism to inequality to climate change to the pandemic itself, simply do not lend themselves to conservative “solutions.” Conservatism itself would have to change to adapt to the moment, and it is unwilling to do so.

Meanwhile, the Right is losing the culture wars, evangelicals are declining as a percentage of the population, and older social conservatives are aging out of the electorate, replaced by young progressives. White supremacists know that whites are declining as a percentage of the population, Black Lives Matter is broadly popular, and the country is also slowly coming to grips with some of the consequences of toxic masculinity. Universal healthcare, taxing the rich and even previously radical solutions like an income floor funded by taxes on Wall Street speculation are increasingly mainstream.

And finally, they know that the consequence of McConnell’s brinksmanship and Trump’s norm destruction is that Democrats are increasingly unafraid to actually wield power and govern in a way that finally maximizes majoritarian power: eliminating the filibuster, adding states to the union, bypassing the Electoral College, changing the composition and size of the courts, enacting broad voter rights and gerrymandering reforms, and much else. If they do, the conservative movement as it currently exists may not be able to hold national power again–not because the Democrats staged a coup, but rather because they simply undercut the apartheid structures that prevented the voice of the majority from being heard and implemented into law.

The conservative response to all this is to create as much chaos as possible, with a view toward seizing power in a coup—thereby short-circuiting the consequences of failing to secure the legitimacy of popular will.

The Republican Party has become the Chaos Party. And it will take all citizen hands on deck to resist them, overwhelm them at the ballot box, and move the country forward in a stable and more progressive direction.

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David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.