A real coup couldn’t happen here…could it?
Confederate troops start their march across the Gettysburg Battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1963, during a reenactment 100 years after the pivotal battle. The bloody Civil War, an earlier attempted overthrow of the US government backed by nascent corporate forces, resulted in almost 700,000 dead. | AP Photo

It’s often been said of the resilience of U.S. political institutions against a coup that “It can’t happen here.” But as more and more evidence turns up about the Jan. 6 invasion, complete with Confederate flags, into the U.S. Capitol, the answer to that conclusion increasingly looks like “Yes, it could…and it almost did.”

And it wouldn’t be the first time, either. Luckily, all attempts we know of, including the Trumpites’ insurrection, have failed. We might not be so lucky or so blessed, the next time.

Even before the select committee investigating Jan. 6 gets underway, evidence has mounted that the insurrection of thousands of Trumpites was organized well in advance.

There was coordination via social media among white nationalist groups involved, some communications—at least—with Trump White House aides, purchase and stockpiling of arms, and financial backing from the most reactionary and racist elements of the corporate class.

All that occurred as GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump pounded home his themes of “Stop the steal!” and vote fraud in central cities with many voters of color.

Then he topped everything with his incendiary speech virtually ordering the invaders to march down Pennsylvania Avenue against the seat of government. He also deliberately refused to stop the insurgents who, carrying their rebel flag, overran and plundered the Capitol.

The invaders killed one outmanned police officer, drove two more to later suicide, and left two others with such overwhelming post-traumatic stress that they’ve died since. The white nationalists now lionize the one invader who died, shot by a Capitol police officer as she tried to storm the U.S. House.

It can’t happen here?

Yes, it could, just like it almost did in 1934. That year, Wall Street tycoons and the American Legion plotted to depose “That Man In The White House,” the “traitor to his class,” FDR. Their replacement: A corporate oligarchy, with a frontman in the Oval Office. Except they made one big mistake.

They chose conservative retired Marine General Smedley Butler as frontman. They figured, given his military chops, corporate connections, and his commanding role in U.S. imperialism in Latin America, he’d easily go along. They were wrong. Butler was a constitutional conservative. He blew the whistle, to Congress and the press.

And there was the largest, bloodiest, insurrection of them all. It lasted four years, cost 665,000 dead on both sides—plus a murdered president—and left the Deep South an utter ruin.

Otherwise known as the Civil War. And who pushed it? The elite 1% of the Southern aristocracy. And where did their money come from? From selling cotton to Northern financiers and traders. All of whom were again of the right-wing corporate class, rising even in 1861-65.

Do you see a pattern here? We do. “It can happen here,” or threaten to…when the corporate class allies itself with the white nationalist right and backs them with money and power. We escaped their coups three times, the latest on Jan. 6. Trump voters may want to ask themselves if they really want to keep backing such rebellions.

Because we may not be so lucky next time.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article represents the opinions of its author.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.