What history tells us about Trump’s attempted coup

It will forever be immortalised as a moment to remember. On 6 January 2021, crowds of fans supporting Donald Trump smashed their way past the thin veil of security into the Capitol Building in an attempted coup to overthrow a democratic election.

We should not be in any doubt. This was not unexpected, unsupported, or even a protest that got out of hand. What happened yesterday was incited by the 45th President of the United States of America in an attempt to prevent Trump leaving office in 13 days time.

This follows the President’s unsubstantiated and frivolous claims that there was ‘widespread fraud on a massive scale,’ casting doubt on the results in the minds of all those who voted for him.

But after sixty law suits in district courts, state courts and even the US Supreme Court, there was only one case of fraud and that was for someone voting for Trump twice.

So despite the best efforts of the Trump fanatics, the joint session of the US Congress and the House of Representatives confirmed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ election as President and Vice President from 20 January 2021 by a margin of 306–232 electoral college votes and a popular vote advantage of nearly eight million and 4.5%.

This comes after Trump was found to have attempted to strongarm Georgia Governor Brad Raffensperger to find him the votes he needs to win the sunbelt state after being the first Republican candidate to lose Georgia since 1992.

So despite the fact that Trump himself was not behind the attempted armed insurrection which saw four people die, he is the main reason why the events transpired as they did. The President called on his supporters to intimidate members of both houses from carrying out their work as democratically-elected members.

Throughout history, there have been examples of this type of behaviour.

First, there are interesting parallels with the seventh century when King Charles I storms Parliament in an attempt to arrest five Parliamentarians for treason on 4 January 1642. But to his surprise, the members (John Hampden, Arthur Haselrig, Denzil Holles, John Pym and William Strode) were not there after they found out about the attempted coup. Charles and his men were on horseback and were armed. Charles’ coup had failed and ultimately these events combined with the wars with Scotland led to the English Civil War and his untimely demise. Even the King must respect the rule of law and the checks and balances that are in place to prevent unrivalled power.

The same principle applies today, no President should or is unchallenged in their power.

Another parallel could be the Reichstag fire and the events that followed in 1930s Germany. The German Parliament was burned down on 27 February 1933 and just four weeks later, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.

After the fire, Dutch Communist Marinus Van der Lubbe along with four communist leaders were arrested in connection with starting the fire. Van der Lubbe was later tried and executed.

Hitler managed to urge President von Hindenburg to issue an emergency decree to suspend civil liberties and pursue a ‘ruthless confrontation’ of the Communist Party. What followed was a government-instituted mass arrests of communists, including house communists which enabled Hitler to succeed to power as the Nazis had a majority in Parliament.

This is the same principle as what Trump tried to invoke by getting the join session to overturn the results of the election and reaffirm his as president would be an outright insurrection of American democratic institutions. And given the way in which the President has acted in a bid to reaffirm his power, there is little certainty that even if he was reaffirmed that he would a) use it wisely and b) step down at the end of his second term.

There are countless other events which have some semblance of Trump supporters attempted coup. But the point is that the situation in America has to be treated with the seriousness and the gravitas that the situation justifies. While there has been a lot of talk since the election, most of it has just been noise. This however is a legitimate attempt to maintain power against the will of the people which is by definition autocracy.



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