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The failing coup

December 15, 2020

At this point, there is little prospect that Trump and his supporters will be able to overturn the election. American democracy will continue, uninterrupted. This experience reinforces the fact that written constitutions are only meaningful through cultural norms and processes. Columbia law professor Tim Wu identifies some of them:

The president’s worst impulses were neutralized by three pillars of the unwritten constitution. The first is the customary separation between the president and federal criminal prosecution (even though the Department of Justice is part of the executive branch). The second is the traditional political neutrality of the military (even though the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces). The third is the personal integrity of state elections officials.

And not just state officials. Trump still hopes he might get Congress to overturn the election in January.

There is quite a bit of attention on the Republican officials who are thwarting him, from the governor and secretary of state in Georgia, to US Senators who promise the kibosh on his next stunt. Those Republican officials are not going above and beyond, doing no more than their sworn duty requires. That stands out only because of the disgraceful and seditious behavior the Republican officials supporting Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. Congressman Paul Mitchell from Michigan has the honorable response: he is quitting the GOP. His letter is worth reading. 

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