Rome was a Republic….Until it Wasn’t

Donald Trump is attempting to carry out a coup — not planning one. Actually attempting to carry it out.

By Anatole d’Ecotopia

The United States of America, in its inception, was every bit as much a production of 18th century classicism as it was 18th century ideals of enlightenment. The nascent republic was very much and very consciously modelled in many ways after the example of the republic that preceded the Roman Empire — and fears that George Washington might succumb to the temptation to set himself up as a dictator were very much expressed as fears that he might try to make himself an “American Caesar”. That this did not occur is as much a testimony to the strong value America once placed in democratic values as to George Washington’s strength of character.

Whatever strengths Donald Trump may possess, “character” is not evident among them. As to the value this country presently places in democracy… seventy million of us just voted for a man who has signalled for months his willingness to fundamentally subvert it.

Let us be clear that Donald Trump is as deficient in humor as he is in character. Any time he has described something as “a joke”, what it really means is that he’s realized he’s gone too far and must resort to the backup strategy of all narcissistic sociopaths: Gaslighting… he didn’t really mean what he said. It was just a joke.

Except it never is.

When Donald Trump averred months ago that there would indeed be a “peaceful transition” — to a second Trump term, with no other outcome considered or planned for — he was no more joking than when current Trumpist Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed the same remark this week… in the aftermath of an electoral defeat Trump refuses to acknowledge, even as the popular vote margin of that defeat grows to over five million votes.

Trump’s continued quixotic quest to somehow find a legal way to repudiate the election results would be foolish on its own, and well-deserving of the contempt widely heaped upon it. But if one considers this effort in conjunction with the continued refusal to begin the transition process and Trump’s current efforts to purge civilian leadership at the Pentagon and replace them with Trump loyalists, a dangerous and fairly obvious pattern begins to emerge.

Donald Trump is attempting to carry out a coup — not planning one. Actually attempting to carry it out. While this does not technically fall within the U.S. Constitution’s definition of “treason”… it should. It is, regardless, grounds for impeachment — or at least would have been in any sane or normal period in U.S. history. Whether or not he is able to succeed may well come down to a question of whether or not the military leadership at the Pentagon remains clear that it is the Constitution to which they swore an oath, not an oath of fealty to Donald Trump.

If not, the last vestiges of America’s basis as a republic will be swept away. Unlike Rome, our transition to empire and corruption will be spared the transitional period of competent dictators like Gaius Julius Caesar, proceeding directly to the era of Caligulas and Neros — since, after all, we’re pretty much already there.

What we will not be spared is the period of civil war that will almost certainly follow Trump’s assertion of dictatorial power, should it occur. If Trump attempts to overturn the will of 75 million Americans by staging a coup in Washington, the “anarchist jurisdictions” he has declared in Portland, Seattle, and New York will be joined by other centers of resistance in virtually every city of consequence in the country. And while one hopes this resistance will be non-violent, that is probably too much to hope for — particularly given the near-certainty that Trump’s redneck white supremist insurgency will finally receive the orders they have anxiously awaited… and no longer need “stand down”.

Even though January 20, 2021, is tantalizingly close… it is equally — and horribly — far away.

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