Capitol building coup attempt in US: Reasons behind launch and failures

This article has been developed based on the Indian Express Article ‘Once upon a failed coup’.

Synopsis: Recent coup attempt in the US Capitol Building has been caused by several factors.

Why Capitol building coup failed in the US?

January 6 coup attempt by rioters in US Capitol hill refutes the traditional wisdom that coups take place in developing countries.

It was not a usual Military led coup, but a coup led by executive i.e. an executive coup led by President Donald Trump himself. It was aimed at forcing two Houses of Congress to overturn the presidential election results, lost by Trump.

Election system of US

  • Election administration process of the US is very complicated. Unlike India, the US doesn’t have an independent election commission.
  • States form an electoral college to certify the final outcome of the election process after people have cast their votes.
  • At the final stage, the outcome certified by the states is finally accepted by US legislators. This was the stage ongoing on January 6.
  • The vice-president presides over the process in US legislators. Mike pence (vice-president) refused to overturn the election on demand of Trump.
  • At the completion of the process, the victory of Biden was ratified and he is set to take oath on Jan. 20th.

What were the possible reasons behind coup attempt in the US?

2 main hypothesis are formulized to understand possible reasons for Trump behind this coup attempt:

  1. First is the ideological reason, his commitment to restoring white supremacy was visible in his policies. Many rioters in the mob were carrying Confederate flags, which represent pre-civil war southern states, which stood to preserve slavery.
  2. Second is a personal reason, Trump fears persecution for tax frauds, corruption, abuse of power and the latest one is for Abetting an insurrection.

Why scholars believe, coup happens in poor countries?

Scholar believes that coups happen only in poor countries due to the following reasons.

Poor democracies

  1. In poor countries, oversight institutions like election commission or other bodies taking care of democratic processes are weaker and not able to go against the mighty politicians.
  2. Government here are mighty and has much to lose. Their control on economy and society makes them subject to imprisonment and coercion, once out of power.

Developed democracies

  1. In richer democracies, firstly government doesn’t control all sectors of society, thus not subject to imprisonment later.
  2. Moreover, politicians have many opportunities after politics, thus they are not concerned about their well-being after government.

Coup in presidential vs parliamentary democracies

Coup in parliamentary democracies is less likely compared to Presidential.

  • In Presidential democracies, the executive and the legislature are independently elected. If they are from different parties, clashes are possible between them.
  • Whereas in parliamentary democracies both executive and the legislature are interlinked. Prime Minister is selected based on the majority in Parliament. Thus clashes between the executive and parliament are less likely.

What are the reasons behind the failure of coup attempt in US?

  1. Firstly, military support was absent, thus mob failed to occupy the Capitol building. In richer democracies, armies rarely help leaders in electoral disputes.
  2. Secondly, Even the Republican governments officials did not bow to the coup attempt of Trump.
      • In a leaked tape of Trump’s phone call to Georgia’s Secretary, he asked Secretary to “find 11,780 votes”. But he did not agreed to follow and declined to act on this.
  3. Third, American Courts played a constructive role in ensuring the fair play in the election process.  Trump’s campaign filed more than 60 legal challenges from state courts to the Supreme Court but failed to secure any big gain.
      • During his term, Trump appointed many judges and expected them to secure decisions in his favor but they followed the law and made their decisions on this basis only.

A coup attempt in the history of US proves that no country in the world is safe from these types of challenges. It is only through the integrity of the established institutions in the country that this attempt could not succeed to turn around the democratic process of the country.

Thus, the transparency and integrity of institutions should not be undermined and kept at the highest level.

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