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Capitol Hill: call that a coup?

By Graham Young - posted Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Trump's best defence, at least in the court of public opinion rather than the Star Chamber of the US Senate, is the coup in Myanmar.

What the Democrats are asking us to believe is that a man who can make billions in his lifetime, reboot the US economy, organise peace deals in the ME, get more people out to vote for him than any other Republican candidate ever, organise a new vaccine in less than 12 months etc. etc. can't properly organise a coup.

Anyone who has followed Trump's business career knows that while he can often appear chaotic, he actually runs a highly successful commercial ecosystem where employees and consultants compete to give him the best (which is why he had such a high turnover of staff in office).


To understand how far short the Capitol Hill riot falls of any serious standard for insurrection one only needs to compare it to the Myanmar coup.

To stage a coup you need to have the army onside, or at least significant parts of it, and they need to be prepared to act. You then need to action them to round up your opponents as quickly and quietly as possible – you don't want word seeping out too early or people will evade you and mass protests and opposition will be organised. Then you need to be able to run the government, which means you need enough public servants onside to keep things ticking over.

If Trump were going to plot a coup it would have to be the "greatest, the most beautiful, the world has ever seen". He would have had the "very best" political consultants and advisors he could find, combined with a few military types working out a plan which involved more than a few hundred thousand Trumpites marching down Pennsylvania Avenue without anything more than Google to tell them where to go.

Trump's riot fulfills none of the preconditions for a successful coup, and exhibits little planning (apart from that done by a few freelancing and incompetent QAnon types, as well as a few BLM/Antifa provocateurs).

There was no chance the army was going to back him. Plenty of military voted for him, but the top brass seem to be more Dem than Republican, at least judged by their dedication to affirming pc nostrums in the areas of Islam, gender and climate change.

But even if the majority of top brass lean Republican you would have to ignore the history of the US where the military has been determinedly apolitical, and this is baked into the Constitution and the psyche.


Military force only works when it is either overwhelming, or acceptable to the majority of people. If it is neither, and the citizenry has guns, then it is hazardous.

The military knew what they were doing in Myanmar. It has always been an authoritarian regime, so there is limited institutional resistance to a military takeover – the military has social licence to be involved in government.

Then there was the huge amount of warning implicit in giving a rambling speech for 90 minutes and then exhorting people to march down to the Capitol and demand their rights. As well as the shambolic way the protestors who did penetrate the Capitol carried on – they had no idea where they were in the building, or what they were going to do when they got there.

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An edited version of this article was first pubilshed in The Spectator.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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