Commentary

Robert Reich: Beware the slow motion coup | Opinion

April 25, 2022 6:00 am

Trump strategist Steve Bannon. Photo courtesy Media Matters Twitter.

This commentary was originally published by Inequality Media. 

The same people behind the January 6 insurrection are now trying to overthrow the government in a slow-motion coup.

If they succeed, you can kiss our democracy goodbye.

President Trump ultimately failed to overturn the 2020 election because a few election officials — secretaries of state in particular — rightfully certified the results despite heavy pressure from him and his enablers to overturn them.

In 37 states, the secretaries of state are the chief elections officers. That means they oversee elections and voter registration. In 2020, they held the United States’ rickety democracy together by certifying Joe Biden’s win.

But what happens if secretaries of state won’t protect democracy?

In most states, they are elected. And it’s precisely those elections that Trump and his cronies are targeting.

Trump’s choice in Georgia is Jody Hice, who voted against certifying the 2020 election in the Georgia House.

His choice in Michigan is Kristina Karamo, who falsely claimed to have witnessed election fraud as a pollster.

In Arizona, Trump has endorsed Mark Finchem, a QAnon-supporting member of the Oath Keepers militia who participated in the January 6 insurrection.

At least 20 other candidates now running for secretary of state do not believe in the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

They’re part of a quiet movement kicked off by former Trump advisor Steve Bannon.

The plan is to take over the machinery of our democracy from the ground up — so that in the 2024 presidential election, only Trump loyalists will be certifying elections.

As Bannon put it: “We’re taking action. And that action is we’re taking over school boards, we’re taking over the Republican Party through the precinct committee strategy. We’re taking over all the elections.”

Thousands of Republicans who have taken up Bannon’s call have also signed up to be local elections officials and poll workers.

We can’t allow our democracy to be overtaken like this.

These positions, especially secretaries of state, are the last lines of defense in a democracy.

And we’ve seen what happens when secretaries of state put partisan interests ahead of election integrity.

In 2018, Brian Kemp ran Georgia elections as its secretary of state — while he was running for governor against Stacey Abrams. During his tenure, Kemp oversaw the purging of almost 1.5 million voter registrations and the closing of more than 200 polling places. In the weeks leading up to the election, he put more than 50,000 voter registrations on hold, 70% of which belonged to Black people. He won by 55,000 votes.

And remember back in the 2000 presidential election, when Al Gore won the popular vote? Nonetheless, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who had been co-chair of George W Bush’s statewide campaign, ended up calling Florida for Bush, which handed him the election.

Trump and Bannon’s goal is to replicate these abuses across America and put into power Trump loyalists who care more about electing Trump than upholding democracy.

Voter suppression is nothing new. But it’s now occurring on a scale we haven’t seen before: An entire party’s election strategy aimed at thwarting the will of voters.

So what can we do about this?

First, spread the word about the GOP’s authoritarian plan. Make sure your friends and family know what the stakes are this fall.

Next, get involved locally. Volunteer to be a poll worker or join a campaign. From school boards to secretaries of state, every position matters.

And of course, vote! Check your registration early and make a plan to cast your ballot.

In 2020, millions of people organized, volunteered, and voted to keep American democracy alive. We, the people, must  work to elect public servants who will uphold democracy and stand up to those who are hellbent on undermining it.

Let’s get it done.

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Robert Reich
Robert Reich

Robert Reich's writes at robertreich.substack.com. His latest book is "THE SYSTEM: Who Rigged It, How To Fix It." He is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration.

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