The risk of a coup in the next US election is greater now than it ever was under

Only free and fair elections in which the loser abides by the result stand between each of us and life at the mercy of a despotic regime – one we had no voice in choosing and one that can freely violate all our rights. So everything is at stake in the peaceful transfer of power from a government that has lost its people’s confidence to its victorious successor. It was that peaceful transfer that Trump and his minions sought to obstruct and almost succeeded in overthrowing when Joe Biden was elected president.

A year has passed since Donald Trump’s attempted coup and his supporters’ violent storming of the United States Capitol on 6 January 2021, in a nearly successful effort to prevent Congress from certifying Trump’s decisive loss of the election to Biden. Watching the images that day of the seat of US democracy overtaken and defiled, it was impossible not to viscerally feel the grave danger that confronted the republic. In the tumultuous year since, the immediacy of that sensation has waned – and the magnitude of the stakes has receded from memory.

In the rubble of the insurrection, the sheer shock of the moment jarred loose hints of long-lost bipartisanship and national unity and rekindled an appreciation of why a successful coup would have meant the end of all we care about. The House of Representatives expeditiously moved to impeach Trump for his role in fomenting the attack and 57 senators, including seven Republicans, voted to convict him on 13 February after a masterful presentation led by Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat of Maryland. After Trump had become the first American president to be impeached twice, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, delivered a blistering rebuke of Trump from the Senate floor, justifying his and many other Republicans’ votes to acquit only on the thin reed that, by the time of his Senate trial, Trump was no longer president.

Alas, the moment was short-lived. With Trump himself out of office and in exile at Mar-a-Lago, public attention quickly faded, Republicans abandoned their increasingly half-hearted search for accountability, and the leaders of their party began planning their next bite at the poisoned apple of power, an apple they told themselves had been stolen from them despite all evidence to the contrary.

Rewriting history and turning reality on its head, Republicans in Congress and their allies in rightwing media began absurdly to describe the deadly insurrection as a “mostly peaceful” protest, described rioters who brutally beat Capitol police as “political prisoners”, and suggested that any violence was attributable to some unidentified group of leftwing “antifa”.

To be sure, we have seen the rise of a veritable cottage industry of commentary warning sharply that America remains subject to what some have called a “slow-motion insurrection” or that “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun”. Yet the vast majority of Americans have turned their attention back to other concerns – from new and more infectious variants of the Covid-19 virus, to burgeoning inflation and increasingly palpable signs of global warming, to the myriad other problems that…

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