The Republicans Casually Announce Their Coup

Last night, the New York Times published an op-ed authored by an anonymous White House senior official titled: "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration." The subhead reads: "I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations."

That alone is enough that every single one of us should be angry — because it is not the disclosure of a "resistance" within the White House; it is the casual announcement of a coup.

Just yesterday, on the subject of current and former White House staffers who participated in Bob Woodward's book about the administration, I wrote:
To whatever degree Trump is truly inept and dangerous (both of which he certainly is), the people who stick around in his administration, unless and until they are fired, aren't trying to protect the country or the world from Trump. They are trying to protect the conservative agenda from being derailed by him.

Over and over, we are asked to mistake as "keeping him in check" what is in actuality keeping him on track.

These are very different things. And we can't be fooled by traitors who want us to believe they are patriots.
Nothing could have more perfectly anticipated the anonymously-penned op-ed, and its author's mendacious and vainglorious attempt to frame their secret coup as an act of heroism.

The senior official makes plain, just as I observed, that they do not seek to derail Trump's vile agenda, but to protect it from him: "To be clear, ours is not the popular 'resistance' of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous."

Trump, they argue, is not a real Republican, however, and so they must intervene in his presidency. Here, then, is the justification for their "resistance": "Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets, and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright."

This, of course, has long been a popular argument with conservatives who want to distance themselves from Donald Trump's worst behavior, even as they exploit it to achieve their agenda. It has always been wrong and it is wrong now: Trump is not an anomaly of Republican politics, but its inevitable endgame.

But now that his exchange of dogwhistles for bullhorns has leapfrogged the GOP's consolidation of power exponentially forward in two years, and these "heroes" and the interests they represent (which does not include We the People) are ready to resume the veneer of a political party that prizes democracy and doesn't seek to destroy it at every turn, Trump has become less useful.

And so, writes the senior official:
The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren't for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't.

The result is a two-track presidency.
This is not of comfort to me, cold or otherwise. It should not comfort anyone who remains committed to democracy. If these "unsung heroes" truly value democracy, as they claim, then the way forward is not to undermine the sitting president, but to unseat him. To make a principled and visible exit. To argue for his removal. To persuade their colleagues in Congress to do their job and hold this president accountable.

But that would require actual risk and sacrifice. It would require losing their jobs, and it would require letting go of their ability to control the narrative via anonymous op-eds, and it would require risking the conservative agenda.

All of which any person who really cares more about this country than themselves and their political party would do. Especially if they're brazen enough to call themselves "unsung heroes" in the pages of the paper of record.

The fact is: The person who submitted this op-ed and their White House conspirators are not heroes. They are sinister authoritarians who are positioning themselves as defenders of democratic institutions even as they aggressively subvert them.

I loathe Donald Trump as much as any human can, but I love my country. Its stewardship doesn't belong in the hands of these reprobates any more than the president they are willing to undermine but not overthrow.

They want to keep him in place while the GOP consolidates power behind this presidency, whoever is running it. While elections are rigged, while districts are gerrymandered, while votes are suppressed, while dark money funds their candidates, while the judiciary is stacked with corrupt right-wingers, while state legislatures are gerrymandered and stolen, while marginalized people are oppressed, while babies are kept in cages, while class warfare is waged against the 99 percent, while unions are busted, while workers lose their rights, while public education is destroyed, while the environment is irretrievably fucked.

These are not people who value democracy. They are people who want to destroy it on their terms.

Who want to do it with civility.

They are hoping that the rest of us will be grateful — and, more importantly, be quiet — as they covertly take over the presidency as they see fit, until Trump is removed and replaced with someone whose vulgarity won't belie the obscenity of their agenda.

Let us understand this cynical and deplorable manipulation, and never trust a single person who has had anything to do with this administration, not ever again.

* * *

Note: People have naturally been speculating about the author of the piece. Vice President Mike Pence and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats seem to be the most popular suggestions. As I said on Twitter, I don't know if Pence wrote the piece; I do know that he's definitely the kind of person who would. Frankly, so is Coats.

Fun Fact: Mike Pence once wrote a paper about trash calling Dan Coats a Nazi! Really.

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