Addressing a tumultuous rally in Sparta, Wisconsin today, Donald Trump called on “real Americans” and the U.S. military to overthrow the government and “install me as president of the United States.”

“We have to stop Demon Hillary and her rigged election,” Trump declared. “She’s got all those tricks up her sleeve, you wouldn’t believe it. She only has a chance to even make it look close because women can vote. I’m not saying we should ban that, but I’m told lots of very bright people, including many women, think so.”

“The people have spoken,” he continued, to rapturous roars. “I won the post-debate polls by huge margins. The generals support me. And I’m getting so many calls from across the country, saying we need to act. [Maine Governor] Paul LePage – terrific guy, maybe the best governor – says I have to save America from anarchy. Right here in Wisconsin, your great, great law and order Sheriff Clarke [Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke], a huge fan, says it’s time for the pitchforks. Some folks are even calling for bloodshed, but I would never say that.”

Trump claimed that “the best legal minds” have advised him that authority for his proposed coup rested in the “Abrogation Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. After reporters at the rally pointed out that there is no such clause, Trump replied, “Yes there is, you scum!” and implored the crowd to “make them tell the truth!” Several journalists were then pummeled in their press pen.

Waves of full-throated jeers swept the foot-stamping audience of 14,000 as Trump accused “Devil Hillary” and “Pervert Bill” Clinton, October 9th debate moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, “the rotten-to-the-core liberal media,” the “anti-American” Democratic and “turncoat” Republican Parties, international bankers, the global elite, the Elders of Zion, unattractive women, Paul Ryan, George Soros, Sidney Blumenthal and Rosie O’Donnell of plotting “to have Satan Hillary occupy the White House.”

Urged on by the candidate, the crowd chanted, “Lock them up!” It roared yet louder in echoing his subsequent though vague demand to “lock up all the others!”

The speech articulated Trump’s governance and constitutional philosophy, such as it is. He repeated his Republican Convention vow that “I alone can fix it.” Echoing sentiments he’d voiced in July, Trump explained that “the Constitution is beautiful, but it’s no suicide note.” He added, “we’ll skip a special prosecutor for Hillary, because let’s face it, we know she’s guilty. Straight to jail, do not pass Go. Same thing for libel laws – no need. If the press publishes lies, just watch what happens,” though he did not specify the consequences.

Surprisingly, despite Russia-related controversies embroiling his candidacy, Trump cited that country’s president for validation. “Putin – really strong leader, fantastic poll numbers, thinks I’m a genius – says that this is a wonderful idea, not that I would necessarily do what he says, but he knows what he’s doing. And wouldn’t it be great if we could work with Russia?”

“Believe me,” the candidate declared just before leaving the stage, flanked by his new Alt-Right, brown-shirted Lion’s Guard, “this is going to be the best seizure of power you’ve ever seen.”

Republican Party leaders’ reactions to planned coup were mixed. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office issued a statement noting that “a military takeover is clearly unconstitutional,” but reaffirming that “Speaker Ryan has not unendorsed Mr. Trump’s candidacy.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused comment before retreating into his shell. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus offered that while “a coup might be excessive, we must stop Hillary Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices.” Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani insisted that Trump was only joking, but that “like many Donald Trump jokes, this is the only way to stop ISIS.”

Senator John McCain condemned the move. In response, Trump promptly tweeted that he “wouldn’t be caught dead in foxhole with loser desserter [sic] McCain who comfortably sat out Vietnam War in Hanoi Hilton.”

Media response also varied. Washington Post columnist George Will bemoaned the abandonment of conservative principles. The New York Times’ David Brooks observed that Trump’s call to arms displayed “an absence of the civility that holds society together.” On Fox News, Sean Hannity lauded “this courageous step by a true patriot – let freedom ring!” while Mike Huckabee approvingly likened Trump to Captain Quint from Jaws. MSNBC’s Mark Halperin asked, “Is this Hail Mary a smart move, politically?”

As might be expected, far right outlets backed Trump’s proposal. Breitbart News, headed by Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon, announced plans to become the official information service of the U.S. Government.  Radio host Alex Jones, whom Trump has praised and on whose show he has been interviewed, lauded the candidate’s recognition that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are literally demons.

Apparently caught unawares by the announcement, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway churned through a rapid series of statements. Conway first denied that her candidate sought to overthrow the government, then accused the press of “distorting Mr. Trump’s words by equating a military takeover with a coup,” then finally declared that “Donald Trump understands that the only way to save American democracy is to suspend it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based in Oakland, California, Stephen Golub writes, consults and teaches about international development, with a particular focus on justice, democracy, human rights and governance issues. Currently teaching part-time at Central European University in Budapest and previously at the University of California at Berkeley, he has worked in over 40 countries and with such organizations as Amnesty International, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ford and Open Society Foundations, the U.K. Department for International Development, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank

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