Why The Trump Coup Failed

Eric Medlin
4 min readNov 18, 2020

He was hampered by the same tendencies that have defined his presidency.

Donald Trump at his Election Night speech. Source: CNN

As of this writing, Donald Trump has still refused to concede the 2020 election. He clearly lost that election. It was called by the nation’s major media companies back on November 7, when it became clear that Trump would not overtake Joe Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania. Deciding states will begin to certify their votes next week to make Joe Biden’s victory official. Then, the nation’s election contests should be settled by the “safe harbor” deadline of December 8 before the Electoral College meets on December 14. That date was one of the last points of vulnerability for the nation’s election, as documented by Barton Gellman in an Atlantic article in September.

Still, Trump and his supporters trudge on in their attempt to overturn the results of the election. They have filed more than a dozen lawsuits attempting to throw out mail-in ballots and question the vote count in several battleground states. Trump has continuously pressured legislators in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and other states Biden won to toss out pro-Biden electors and appoint electors loyal to Trump. And yet, even at this early stage, it is obvious that Trump’s attempted coup will fail and he will be forced to leave the White House.

The Trump coup was clearly a possibility at many points in the process. As detailed by Politico back in September, there was a high likelihood of a “red mirage” by which in-person votes would push Trump ahead on Election Night and drive him to declare victory, while mail-in ballots that were counted later would actually show that Biden won. Trump would then be able to sue and stop the vast majority of mail-in ballots from being counted. The proposal would be upheld by Trump’s conservatives on the Supreme Court, and he would complete his coup by winning a stolen election.

The coup did not work for multiple reasons. The first and most obvious was the size of Biden’s lead. All of Trump’s plans depended on some sort of ambiguity about a Biden lead of a few hundred or thousand votes. He needed the margin to be smaller than the number of late-arriving mail-in ballots in states such as Pennsylvania. He also needed the margin to be razor-thin in Nevada, where he could potentially challenge practices such as the unsolicited mailing-out of ballots. But…

Eric Medlin

I’m a writer interested in the intersections of history, ideas, and politics. I publish every week. www.twitter.com/medlinwrites