2020年11月20日 星期五

A lazy coup is still a coup

The attempt still matters, even if it’s destined to fail.
Author Headshot

By Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

It is true that Donald Trump is attempting to overturn the results of the election and seize power over the will of the voters. It is also true that this attempt is as haphazard and amateurish as you can imagine, spearheaded by Rudy Giuliani and a handful of other third-string Trump loyalists. They hope to throw out as many ballots as needed to change the results in the five swing states that gave Joe Biden his victory. If that fails, which it pretty much already has, they hope to create confusion around certifying the votes in those states and then pressure state legislatures to ignore the voters and send Trump electors to Congress.

There have been contested elections and attempts to reverse the results, but there’s never been anything quite like this, where the loser of a fair election attempts to discard the outcome. Success would mean the end of constitutional government in the United States. Yes, the Electoral College theoretically allows state legislatures to assign a state’s electors as they please, but not in a post hoc fashion. More fundamentally, no matter what you might think of our political institutions, the foundation of American government is the consent of the governed. We have an absolute, fundamental right to choose our own leaders. To subvert this is to end the American republic.

Now, Trump won’t succeed. His margin of defeat is too great, and he lacks the institutional support in the courts and the military he would need to pull off a successful coup. But his effort, however ramshackle, is still an unacceptable attack on our democracy. It does not bode well for the future. Somewhere, quite possibly in Washington, an aspiring American autocrat is watching this, seeing the vulnerabilities in our system, feeling for those places where, with a little more effort, you could make a breakthrough.

Trump will fail in his attempt to overturn the election. But absent serious reforms to our political system, he’s cleared the ground for whatever wickedness follows in his footsteps.


What I Wrote

For my first column this week, I put forth a theory that might help explain Trump’s relative success in the election.

But voters, and especially the low-propensity voters who flooded the electorate in support of Trump, aren’t attuned to the ins and outs of congressional debate. They did not know — and Democrats didn’t do a good enough job of telling them — that the president and his party opposed more generous benefits. All they knew is that Trump signed the bill (and the checks), giving them the kind of government assistance usually reserved for the nation’s ownership class.

And for my second column, I wrote about the invaluable contributions of the left to the fight for social insurance during the Great Depression.

We now know that Biden will be president, but he won’t have the votes for F.D.R.-size legislation. This doesn’t mean he’s dead in the water, but it does mean that Biden will have to marshal every resource and rely on every possible ally to win whatever victories he can. And he should know, as Roosevelt did, that this means grappling with the left — all of the left, including its most radical edges.

Now Reading

Nate Marshall on President Barack Obama’s memoir for The Chicago Tribune.

Talia Lavin on Madison Cawthorn and the future of the Republican Party for New York magazine.

David Walsh writes against “normalcy” for The Boston Review.

Lizzie O’Shea on regulation and Big Tech for The Baffler.

Alice Baumgartner on the slaves who fled the South for Mexico, in The New Yorker.



If you’re enjoying what you’re reading, please consider recommending it to friends. They can sign up here. If you want to share your thoughts on an item in this week’s newsletter or on the newsletter in general, please email me at jamelle-newsletter@nytimes.com.

Photo of the Week

Waffle House in Charlottesville, Va.Jamelle Bouie

A few years ago I was driving by a Waffle House when I noticed that the sunlight was falling on it in the most striking way. I turned around, parked, went inside, and asked if I could photograph the interior. The people working said yes, and I took a bunch of pictures, which to this day stand as some of my favorites. This one, I think, is the best of the bunch.


Now Eating: Sweet Potato Pie

I won’t be sending a newsletter next Friday, so I wanted to leave you with a recipe for my award-winning (in a pie-baking contest some years ago in Washington, D.C.) sweet potato pie, adapted from my mother’s recipe. The Grand Marnier isn’t necessary, but it’s nice. If you don’t have fresh ginger, powder works too. Just use 1 teaspoon. Also, you should make your own pie crust! All butter is, in my opinion, always best.


Makes enough filling for two pies.

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 8 ounces evaporated milk
  • two pie crusts


Roast sweet potatoes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, place potatoes in, roast for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350, then continue roasting for an hour. (You can do this earlier in the day or even the night before.)

When you’re ready to bake the pies, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the skin and place the potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer, along with the butter. Mix until incorporated, then add the sugar. Mix again, then add in the eggs, one at a time. Add the spices, vanilla and orange liqueur, mix thoroughly, then add the evaporated milk. Once everything is combined, pour the filling into the two prepared pie shells and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, checking at the 45 minute mark for doneness. Allow to cool, and serve (with whipped cream).


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