Robert Reich: Trump’s attempted coup continues | COMMENTARY

The former president’s attempted coup is not stopping. He still refuses to concede and continues to rile up supporters with his bogus claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Tens of millions of Americans believe him.

At a Republican event Aug. 29 in Franklin, North Carolina, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, repeating Mr. Trump’s big lie, called the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 “political hostages.”


Mr. Cawthorn also advised the crowd to begin stockpiling ammunition for what he said is likely to be American-versus-American “bloodshed” over unfavorable election results.

“Much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs,” he said, “there’s nothing I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American.”


On Tuesday, Texas Republicans passed new voter restrictions based on Mr. Trump’s big lie — imposing new ID requirements on people seeking to vote by mail and criminal penalties on election officials who send unsolicited mail-in ballot applications, empowering partisan poll watchers, and banning drive-through and 24-hour voting.

This year, at least 18 other states have enacted 30 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote, based on Mr. Trump’s lie.

On Sept. 2, at Mr. Trump’s instigation, Pennsylvania Republicans launched an investigation soliciting sworn testimony on election “irregularities,” scheduling the first hearing for Sept. 9.

Arizona’s Republican “audit” will report its results any day, but there’s little question what they’ll show. The CEO of the Cyber Ninjas, the firm hired to conduct it, has publicly questioned the election results, and the audit team consists of Trump supporters and is funded by a group led by Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The Republican speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly’s campaigns and elections committee has begun “a full, cyber-forensic audit” akin to Arizona’s. Mr. Trump’s first White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, says Wisconsin Republicans are prepared to spend $680,000 on it.

These so-called audits won’t alter the outcome of the 2020 election. Their point is to cast further doubt on its legitimacy and justify additional state measures to suppress votes and alter future elections.

It’s a vicious cycle. As Mr. Trump continues to stoke his base with his big lie that the election was stolen, Republican lawmakers — out to advance their careers and entrench the GOP — are adding fuel to the fire, pushing more Americans into Mr. Trump’s paranoid nightmare.

The three top candidates to succeed Sen. Richard Burr in North Carolina all denounced Burr’s vote to convict Mr. Trump in his last impeachment trial. The four leading candidates to succeed Sen. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania all embraced Mr. Trump’s call for an “audit” of election results.


A leading contender for the Senate seat being vacated by Richard Shelby in Alabama is Rep. Mo Brooks, best known for urging the crowd at Mr. Trump’s rally preceding the Capitol riot to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” Mr. Brooks has been endorsed by Mr. Trump.

Yet even as Mr. Trump’s attempted coup gains traction, most of the rest of America continues to sleep. We’ve become so outrage-fatigued by his antics, and so preoccupied with the more immediate threats of the delta variant and climate-fueled wildfires and hurricanes, that we prefer not to know.

A month ago it was reported that during his last weeks in office, Mr. Trump tried to strong-arm the Justice Department to falsely declare that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent, even threatening to fire the acting attorney general if he didn’t: “Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the [Republican] congressmen.”

The news barely registered on America’s collective mind. The Olympics and negotiations over the infrastructure bill got more coverage.

A top Trump adviser now says Mr. Trump is “definitely running” for president in 2024, even though the 14th Amendment to the Constitution bars anyone from holding office who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the nation.

Federal legislation that would preempt state voter suppression laws is bogged down in the Senate. Joe Biden hasn’t made it a top priority. A House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and Mr. Trump’s possible role is barely off the ground. The U.S. Justice Department has made no move to indict the former president for anything.


But unless Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators are held accountable for the damage they have inflicted and continue to inflict on American democracy, and unless Senate Democrats and President Biden soon enact national voting rights legislation, Mr. Trump’s attempted coup could eventually succeed.

It is imperative that America wake up.

Robert Reich (Twitter: @RBReich) is a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of “The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It.” He is a is a former U.S. secretary of labor.