Journalist explains why there were really 2 MAGA ‘coup attempts’ after the 2020 election

Journalist explains why there were really 2 MAGA ‘coup attempts’ after the 2020 election

Much of the reporting on the 2020 presidential election and the months of turmoil that followed has described the actions of former President Donald Trump, his Republican allies and the violent January 6 rioters as one big coup d’état attempt. But journalist David A. Graham, in an article published by The Atlantic this week, argues that there were really two different coup attempts after 2020’s election: the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, and documents from Trump allies outlining schemes for overturning the election results.

“This is a tale of two coups — or rather, two attempted coups,” Graham writes. “One is the well-known January 6 insurrection, memorialized in iconic photographs, gripping videos, and minute-by-minute reconstructions, and followed by hundreds of arrests, more than 50 convictions, and a House select-committee investigation. The other attempt took place over weeks and was mostly waged in closed-door meetings, legal memos and private phone calls; it has thus far produced little accountability.”

Both of the “attempted coups” that Graham describes were unprecedented in U.S. history. Never before had a U.S. president who was voted out of office falsely claimed that he wasn’t, and never before had a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in the hope of keeping him in White House after January 20.

“Evidence about the insurrection suggests that although the mob was an obvious threat to human life, it was never an especially serious one to American democracy,” Graham explains. “Coordination within the crowd seems to have been sporadic, and if White House officials were in touch with organizers, they weren’t likely directing them…. Meanwhile, we now have a better sense of how dangerous what we might call the ‘paperwork coup’ was.”

Graham continues, “The theory under which Trump and his cronies attempted to steal the election was not especially elaborate or persuasive, but it didn’t need to be. It was coherent, and if a few things had happened differently — most especially, if Vice President Mike Pence had gone along with it — the result would have been chaos at the least and possibly a second Trump term and widespread conflict at worst. The violence on January 6 broke a long string of peaceful transfers of power in the United States. If the paperwork coup had worked, though, peace might have prevailed — but the transfer of power might not have happened.”

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