Myanmar Coup Parallels Trump’s Coup

The Daily Escape:

Last light on Mt. St. John, MT – 2021 photo by vincentledvina

Tuesday was the deadline for Trump’s brand-new legal team to present their briefs to the Senate for the impeachment trial that is due to start next Monday. The House impeachment managers have delivered their trial brief to the Senate.

And Trump’s lawyers filed their answer, arguing his incitement was protected by the First Amendment, that the House moved too quickly to impeach, and although he was impeached while still President, the Senate can’t constitutionally try him now that he’s out of office.

As we head into next week’s impeachment circus, there are parallels between the attempted Trump coup in DC and the military coup that just took place in Myanmar. First, an update: Troops there are patrolling the streets and a night-time curfew is in force. A one-year state of emergency was declared with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in control. Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of the government, along with several other leaders of her National League for Democracy party (NLD) were arrested in a series of raids. Later, the military announced that 24 ministers and deputies had been removed, and 11 replacements had been named, including in finance, health, and the interior and foreign affairs.

It’s unclear what will happen next.

But, check out the similarities between what has happened there, compared to what happened here three weeks ago in Washington:

  • The military coup follows weeks of tensions between the armed forces and the government following parliamentary elections lost by the army-backed opposition party.
  • The opposition had demanded a re-run of the election, raising allegations of widespread fraud that were not confirmed by Myanmar’s electoral commission.
  • The coup occurred on the week that the first session of Parliament since the election was due to start. That session would have certified the election result by seating the next government.

What differentiates Myanmar from the Jan. 6 coup in America is that in Myanmar, there was an “army-backed opposition.” When the opposition lost the election, the military claimed fraud, demanded a do-over, and then intervened before the new Parliament could legitimize the results.

Apparently in Myanmar, there has been an ongoing power struggle between the head of the military and Aung San Suu Kyi. The two have rarely met since 2015, often only at public events. Suu Kyi’s party wasn’t simply a victim in this coup. Last November, her government barred huge numbers of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, who typically support their own political parties, from participating in national elections. Her party then won in a landslide.

And last year, Suu Kyi attempted to push through constitutional amendments that would have gradually shrunk the military’s share of Parliament from 25% to 5%. It failed, but this may have been what turned the military against her.

One lesson to take from Myanmar as we head into next week’s impeachment trial is that Trump’s coup may have failed because he didn’t have the support of the US military.

All of our institutions matter, they need to be strong. While they can be bureaucratic, inefficient, and boring, they always matter. Trump tried to use the courts to overturn the election, and failed. He tried to use the state-level electoral vote certification process to overturn the election, and failed. He tried to use his base to invade the US Capitol to block the certification of the Electoral College Vote on Jan. 6, and it failed.

Trump couldn’t use the US military to overturn the election despite a significant number of military supporting him, and believing that the election was rigged. That’s because the US military has never been a political tool, and it wasn’t going to change that by being a tool for Trump.

America isn’t Myanmar. In many less developed countries the military has an important political role. We’re in an entirely different situation, at least for the present, and hopefully, forever.

The fight for American democracy cannot be left to election officials, judges, or corporations like Twitter. It must first be fought by the Republican Party, many of whom still say the presidential election was a fraud, and who still refuse to acknowledge Biden as president. They have to reject their Sedition Caucus. Then Democrats and Republicans together can reset the terms of the political battle in America.

Democracy is a contest of ideas; it isn’t simply a propaganda war. It must start from a shared reality, one that Trump and his followers fail to see.

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