[George] Lakey, who has white hair and bushy white eyebrows, is a Quaker, and brings a cheerful, Sunday-school-style delivery to lessons about overthrowing authoritarian regimes. He began with the work of the political scientist Stephen Zunes, who has studied occasions when the citizens of a country managed to rise up and defeat a coup: Bolivia, in 1978; the Soviet Union, in 1991; Thailand, in 1992; and Burkina Faso, in 2015.
According to Zunes, these movements had several things in common: they were nonviolent, and they drew from a broad cross-section of society. And they refused to compromise. So, Lakey emphasized, there could be no cutting a deal with Trump. “That is reeeeally important,” he said, citing a demand from the Choose Democracy pledge: “Every vote must be counted. And we refuse to accept the authority of someone who is practicing something different.” Another takeaway, for activists, is to focus “on the center of the political spectrum,” Lakey said. “We’re looking to influence them to tip the outcome of the struggle in our direction.” Will they side with the protesters or with Trump.
To illustrate, [Lakey] told the story of the Kapp Putsch, in the Weimar Republic. In 1920, a group of soldiers, veterans, and civilians tried to seize control of Berlin, under the right-wing leadership of Wolfgang Kapp. The legitimate government fled, and Kapp proclaimed himself the country’s leader. “He walked into the capitol building ready to run the country,” Lakey said. “However, he found that the government workers had all gone on strike. There was nobody in the building except him.” He wanted to issue a proclamation that he was running the country, Lakey added, “But he didn’t know how to type. So, the next day, he had to bring his daughter to type out the manifesto.” The coup collapsed within days. Lakey said, “The magic in that situation was the rapid alliance that was built, over a weekend, between the left”—trade unions, Communists—“and the center. It could overcome the right wing, even though they had the Army.”
He said that his listeners should start to build similar alliances. “Go beyond the usual suspects: the progressives, the left.” One woman asked in the chat, “Who is the Center in the US these days? Dems? Church? Libertarians? Moderate Republicans? Ha. How to trust them?” Lakey assured his audience that, while the U.S. may feel extremely polarized, “the truth is we’re not nearly as polarized as we may become.” He said that centrists could be found everywhere from the business world to the medical establishment. “Bank presidents. People who manage schools or colleges . . . you name it, if it’s some kind of institution that expects to have a future (emphasis added).
I don't give much credit to the idea that there will be a serious effort at a "coup." But that black bear could break into our democratic tradition, and if that does happen, I don't want to be hiding in a closet. I think the Zunes/Lakey prescription is right on target, and the nonviolent strategies advocated by Choose Democracy are what we should be thinking about. Salon magazine indicates that labor leaders are thinking ahead, and are discussing a possible general strike. The key, if a coup is attempted, will be never to give up, and to insist that undemocratic and illegitimate efforts to overturn our election will never be accepted.
The basic principle really is as simple as that. Everything stops until democracy is restored. In a democratic society, which we are - and which we must never concede that we aren't - the government is our government. We must simply refuse to go along with any attempted coup. Luckily, we have our state governments, the basic unit of government in the United States, and we need to insist that they not countenance a usurpation or "coup" that denies the results of a fair election.
And then, about those guns? Don't buy 'em. Don't bring 'em.
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