Twitter is Refusing to Participate in a Trump Coup
Twitter has updated some of its rules for the upcoming election:
Twitter will impose new warnings on politicians’ lies, restrict premature declarations of victory and block calls for polling violence or other disruptions, the company announced Friday as it rolled out wide-ranging changes designed to harden the platform against abuse related to the Nov. 3 U.S. election.
This is very good news!
Trump (and Pence) have repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transmission of power after election day. Another way of saying this is; they believe if they lose, they can get a lot of Democrat votes thrown out (by casting doubt on mail in ballots) and re-jiggle the numbers so they win.
Yet another way of saying this is, Trump and Pence are trying to subvert the democratic will of the people to remain in power. And, one other way of phrasing it is… Trump is planning a coup if he doesn’t win.
Recently, I took a training with Choose Democracy on how to prevent an election related power grab. It was very good, and I recommend it for anyone interested (if you don’t have time, you can take their pledge or read their summary of 10 things to know before the election.)
And, fundamentally, a few things to know are — it is possible for the populous to prevent a coup. In fact, recent research suggests that if only 3.5% of the population engages in civil resistance, that is nearly always enough to topple a dictator. Do you think 3.5% of the population will be willing to protest Trump trying to steal an election? Because I do.
However, what people may not know, is just how civic participation may prevent a coup. In the US, we have probably an over-reliance on protest as our primary form of civil disobedience. Yet, historically, movements that topple non-democratic regimes use many forms of disobedience — including boycotts, and strikes, and other forms of “non-participation.”
The thing about dictators, is they only work if people obey them. As soon as people stop obeying the dictator, their power evaporates just like that. A dictator can’t control a country by himself; he relies on the support of institutions to keep his power. A little info-graphic below demonstrates the “pillars of power” that have to be functioning in order for a dictator to remain in power:
Notably, if some of these pillars refuse to support the dictator, the dictator’s power begins to crumble. In the US, Business and Media are two very important powers — and Twitter straddles the two, and is a major player in both. Trump relies on Twitter to keep his power in a very fundamental way.
We talk a lot about ideology, but really, this is about power. At the end of the day, the way most dictatorships succeed or fail boils down to the human tendency to follow the power. As long as Trump has power, and can convey and can convince people he has power, people will follow him. But, he’s (bluntly) a nasty piece of work who gives zero fucks about anyone than himself, so that’s *all* he has. He has no moral high ground, he has no promise of a better future — he just has anger, and the promise of smiting the people you hate (“own the libs!”) And, maybe that was enough in 2016, but I don’t think it’s enough in 2020. Because, people are dying on his watch, and how are you going to outlive your enemies if you die of Covid first? Better bide your time with Biden and try again in 2024.
Now, however, Trump’s power is failing, and when his power finally fails, people will jump ship. People are often mystified by how Trump “cast a spell” over the republican party, but it’s not complicated. People support those in power because they think it will bring them personal advantage. As soon as Trump no longer has the ability to grant favors, people will not support him except the hardest die hards, and let me tell you, you will be surprised how few of those there end up being on the other side.
When Trump falls, what will happen is a *ton* of nasty information about him will come out, and, like, 80% of his old supporters will say things like “Oh my God! I had no idea about any of this — I would never have supported him if I knew!” But it will just be an excuse; the same people who don’t give a shit if Trump grabs pussy will be getting their knickers in a twist about some obscure tax filing because it gives them an out. People supported Trump not for ideology, but because they thought it would bring them personal advantage. When they no longer believe their situation is improved by throwing their lot in with Trump, they will abandon him, and make up some post-hoc justification for it.
Which brings us back to Twitter. This move by Twitter is important, firstly, because it is likely to directly prevent violence by preventing people from organizing violent poll interference and spreading misinformation. But, it’s also important because its refusal to cooperate with Trump significantly weakens both the Business pillar and the Media pillar of his regime. This directly takes power away from Trump; when Trump’s propaganda is curtailed, this will damage him.
However, probably the most important part of this — and I think it was very brave of Twitter to do this as early as they did — is that Twitter is signaling to other powers what way the wind is blowing. Twitter is publicly taking back power from Trump and in doing so, creating an opportunity and an opening for other high-power businesses (think Facebook, maybe Google or Amazon) to follow suit. And, if these businesses are completely self serving, and they think Trump will fall, they will follow Twitter and abandon Trump because *if Trump falls* the people who supported him up until the end will be punished. If enough people believe Trump will fall, Trump will fall, because people won’t want to get in trouble for propping up an illegal regime that tried to steal an election. Even the supreme court won’t support him, even if it’s crammed to the gills Trump’s stooges, because they won’t want to go down on his sinking ship. Yes, they have lifetime appointments, but who wants to be remembered by history as the person who tried to put Hitler back in power until 3 months of civil unrest forced him to step down?
Because, that’s the thing about dictatorships; they’re like Tinker Bell, they only exist if people believe in them. If we can convince enough politicians, enough businesses, enough schools, enough — whoever it is in the pillars of power — that Trump doesn’t have power, then Trump won’t have power. If we convince everyone he can’t steal the election, then he can’t steal the election. That’s that.
(On a side note, if he wins the election fairly then he does and will still have power — but you’ll note no one is preventing that from happening. Twitter is preventing premature declaration of victory, but will not stop him declaring victory once all the votes are counted. But, I don’t think even Trump believes he can win a fair election, which is why he’s threatening to steal it.)
So, thank you Twitter for setting the ground rules for a fair election. This was a big step, and I hope to see more businesses and institutions step up over the coming weeks.