Health & Science

Unsanitized: Donald Trump’s Terrible Coup Attempt Is Killing Americans

It’s pulling focus from the most dangerous moment of the crisis.

Unsanitized: Donald Trump’s Terrible Coup Attempt Is Killing Americans

Unsanitized is a project of The American Prospect.

First Response

It’s now clear that Donald Trump is trying to pull off the world’s worst coup attempt. With Joe Biden in a small but measurable and likely insurmountable lead in multiple states, Trump’s lawyers are using bogus voter fraud claims with no evidence behind them to try to jump to a lead in the courts. He’s claiming that the sequence of the counting—something mandated by Republican legislatures and telegraphed by Trump before the election—proves the fraud. He’s relying on the testimony of convicted sex offenders and postal workers who recant their stories upon questioning. On multiple occasions, lawyers have admitted to judges that there’s no proof behind their claims.

The point is to muddy up the results just enough so they can carry out another telegraphed strategy: invalidating the certified results and having Republican legislatures deliver a slate of Trump electors, overturning the results. There aren’t really enough states with full Republican control of government to make this happen, but if you create contested, competing slates of electors in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, where there’s divided government, maybe you deny anyone 270 electoral votes and throw the election to the House of Representatives, where based on the current results and the nature of that process Trump would win.

I went over all of this in my last magazine feature, The Winter of Our Discontent. This is a comical version of it, where the election is not really in doubt, and the coup attempt is completely brazen and stupid. That doesn’t make it benign, of course, and the groups that were planning resistance need to get in the faces of these state legislatures lest they see a free path to stealing the election. But given that this is Unsanitized, and we cover the pandemic, I’m inclined to explain how this ham-fisted effort at banana republic politics is going to get a lot of people killed.

Every moment Donald Trump tries to steal the election is a moment that he’s not paying any attention to the most harrowing moment of the coronavirus crisis. Cases are now completely out of control; we could easily hit 200,000 a day soon. Hospitalizations are at an all-time high, and we’re approaching triage conditions in several states. The medical profession has been able to save lives as they learn more about the disease, but if they cannot attend to all the patients, many people will die unnecessarily. In North Dakota, where some astronomical percentage of the population is hospitalized with COVID, they’re allowing asymptomatic carriers to keep working because they have no reinforcements to treat people. Sidelining medical staff is a big a problem as having too many patients.

Even if we had the capacity, everywhere cases and hospitalizations have risen during this crisis, deaths have risen as a consequence. And cases and hospitalizations are now rising, faster than we’ve ever seen before. It’s not limited to one region of the country, although the Midwest is in the worst shape. That’s doubly troubling, because the virus is spreading the most in the areas with dilapidated health systems and shuttered rural hospitals. A clinic in Billings, Montana saw its ICU unit at 167 percent capacity yesterday. But hospitalizations are rising everywhere; the Midwest may just be ahead of the curve coming for the rest of us.

This is more serious than any time in the spring or summer. Behaviors are not changing and people are focused on other things, the election being primary among them. Pandemic fatigue has fully set in at the worst possible time.

The Trump steal attempt has sucked up all the attention, among the executive branch and among the media. (I wonder if the fact that New York and California are experiencing relatively mild outbreaks has also led the media to not taking this seriously.) Obviously a coup attempt, however stupid, is worth our attention, but the death toll that’s indirectly resulting will grow. The executive branch has completely checked out on any responsibility for this massive public health crisis at precisely the moment when the crisis is most acute.

What’s most frustrating is that we know exactly what to do here. Restaurants, gyms, cafes, and other indoor venues accounted for 80 percent of all new infections during the first three months of the pandemic, based on cell phone data. If we just shut down these venues and pay them to stay closed we would get a shockingly large handle on the situation. Yet we’ve had absolutely no discussion of this in the highest levels, and no leadership in Washington looking seriously at this option. It’s absolutely infuriating that we’re going to consign people to death and suffering because nobody in the White House or Congress can be bothered.

And yes, this world’s worst coup attempt, this grab at power for power’s sake, has pulled far too much focus. People are dying and many more are going to die. When will anyone wake up?

Look at Me

We’ve placed on our website an interview I did on The Majority Report yesterday with Sam Seder about the Day One Agenda and the prospects for real change in the next administration, with or without Congressional action. Watch here.

Days Without a Bailout Oversight Chair


Today I Learned

David Dayen

David Dayen is the author of Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud, winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Prize. Follow him on Twitter: @ddayen.