Former president Donald Trump and his supporters are laying the foundation for their coup each and every day, according to Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University professor and the author of “Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present.”
Ben-Ghiat appeared on CNN on Monday morning to discuss comedian Bill Maher’s assertion that Trump is staging a “slow-moving coup” that could ultimately succeed in 2024 — because the safeguards that blocked him from carrying it out in 2020 may no longer be in place.
Ben-Ghiat called Maher’s assertion “very plausible,” given that Trump’s actions over the last several months have been “straight out of the authoritarian playbook.”
“If we look at what he did between November and January, this was all a trial run,” she said.
Trump tried to get the military involved, but Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mark Milley refused to go along, Ben-Ghiat said. Then, he tried to “fix the election machinery” by getting state officials to overturn the results.
“Today you don’t suspend elections, except in maybe Communist dictatorships. Today, you hold them, but you make sure that the results are what you need them to be,” Ben-Ghiat said, adding that this effort didn’t work either, because more than 60 “hero” judges blocked it.
“What was left was violence, and that was Jan. 6, and because he couldn’t get the armed forces, he had to get a bespoke, custom army together, but all of this was a learning experience and a trial run for the future,” Ben-Ghiat said, adding that coups need years to be successful, and one of the keys is “getting the elites on board.”
“The coup failed, but it was accepted by the GOP,” she said. “It’s unbelievable that Trump got tens of millions of people to believe he won the election. So, all of the violence and electoral trickery and intimidating voters, all of this has been absorbed into the DNA of the party and the Republican base.”
Asked what can be done to stop Trump’s “slow-moving coup,” Ben-Ghiat said: “We need a huge, historically large turnout to compensate for all this election trickery that’s going on.”
“We’re in the middle of a massive assault on our entire election apparatus. This is a very organized, well thought-out strategy, and we have to be prepared,” she said. “What we lived through already is the full menu of disinformation, violence, corruption … so all of the tools of the authoritarian playbook have been successfully laid out and accepted, and this is setting up for the future. So the message is not only it can happen here, but the foundations for it happening are being laid now every day.”
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