In the last week or so there has been a lot of loose— if mostly somewhat deniable— talk about coups flying around in both the blogosphere and parts of the mainstream press. Some of it has been Kremlinological divination of the worst sort, as in the case of this post from Yonatan Zunger on Medium, which later was justly mocked by Politico. The rest of it has been apparently neutral speculation: for example, the textbook example of apophasis at the end of this piece by David A. Graham at the Atlantic, a throat-clearing Morsi analogy from Ross Douthat (who should certainly know better), and this here bit of pseudonymous blatancy at the Daily Kos. There are certainly other examples out there for the finding.
First off, not only is this sort of talk almost cartoonishly antidemocratic, but a coup is invariably at least as bad as the disease, and a failed coup is always worse. However, I’m not particularly interested in the chances of actual tanks rolling any time soon when no one should even be talking about this in the first place.
Not that it hasn’t been making the rounds: in fact I’ve been waiting for coup talk to jump the air gap between the infrasonic Beltway buzz and the press for about two months now. Up until this point it’s mostly been confined to the realm of whispered conversations between panicking political scientists in the darker corners of the more dimly-lit U Street bars on Thursday nights, where it tends to be brought up in the course of a worst case risk-assessment exercise, alongside the much more plausible horrors of il Douche and Bannon with technically-constitutional emergency powers (the only person I’ve heard speak of the idea favorably was my Uber driver on New Years Eve, who suggested it as a solution to the emergency powers problem, clearly under the impression that I was much drunker than I actually was).
But troubled wonks may say things in private that no responsible citizen committed to the Constitution or even, at bare minimum, representative democracy should ever release into the national discourse. If we’re worried about the regime’s erosion of the rule of law, we shouldn’t indulge anti-democratic fantasies about throwing the bums out at helicopterpoint. This sort of preposterous chatter serves nothing but democratic deconsolidation. Knock it off.