“A Date that will live in Infamy”: A View from Away

Those are the words spoken in the first line of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to the nation on December 8, 1941, referring to the previous day’s attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. November 21, 2020 may well come to be recognized as another such day, a day on which the nation’s Commander-in-Chief left his office to go golfing just at the time when the world leaders of the G20, meeting in a virtual conference, were discussing the global pandemic, a day on which the coronavirus death toll ravaging his own country approached the number of Americans killed at Pearl Harbor.

            The golfing man in the red jacket (appropriately enough), playing on his own course in Virginia, had spent his morning, as usual, tweeting about his election victory and the blizzard of lawsuits being filed to confirm it. More recently, he had been putting pressure on local officials to have Republican-controlled state legislatures halt certifications of Joe Biden’s vote totals and instead certify electors who would vote for Trump on December 14 in a number of states where he had lost the popular vote. The strategy was meant to deny Biden enough votes to reduce his Electoral College count below 270, thus throwing the choice for president into the House of Representatives, where each state delegation has one vote, in a context where Republicans control the governorship and legislatures in a majority of states. 

Let us not mince words: Should this strategy succeed, this would be a coup d’état. So far as I know, no prominent commentator has used this phrase to describe what this nation’s sitting President has been seeking to do since November 3. But if such a scenario were unfolding anywhere else, it would be called by its name, a coup d’état.

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