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If You’re Shocked by Michael Flynn’s Call for a Coup, You Haven’t Been Paying Attention

4 minute read
Houlahan is the U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania's 6th congressional district.
Crow is the U.S. Representative from Colorado's 6th congressional district.

Five years ago, would you have imagined that a retired three-star general would be calling for a coup in America at a convention of conspiracy theorists in Texas?

This weekend, former Trump National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, called for a military coup against the U.S. government. He argued that, just like what happened in Myanmar, our military should seize power and overthrow our democratically elected government. We should all be alarmed when a former presidential appointee so blatantly turns his back on American democracy.

If these were normal times, we’d say we were shocked and Flynn would be universally condemned and marginalized. But these are not normal times.

Flynn’s comments are just the latest in a deliberate string of attacks against democracy and our rule of law, furthering dangerous conspiracy theories. None of this is an accident; it’s part of a strategy to erode the democratic safeguards that undermine our democracy. The timeline and coordination speak for themselves.

Trump supporters participate in a rally in Washington on Jan 6.John Minchillo—AP

On January 6, former President Donald J. Trump incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the election. A police officer was killed and about 140 others injured. As the terrorists prepared to attack from the outside, Trump’s enablers in Congress were spewing his lies in debate.

On January 13, 197 GOP members in the House of Representatives voted against holding President Trump accountable for the insurrection. A month later, 43 GOP senators followed suit.

While some members of Congress admit to his culpability privately, they’ve publicly bowed down to Trump and his baseless conspiracy theories. In the military, and in Congress too, you swear an oath to put your country first. It’s an oath that should mean the same thing in public as it does in private.

In recent months, the “Big Lie” has metastasized, leading to a rash of voter suppression laws across the country. In March, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law a sweeping voter-suppression bill that will erect a myriad of obstacles to the ballot, and in May, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis followed suit. State by state, Republican legislatures are now launching salvo after salvo on our democracy, using Trump’s Big Lie as a battle cry, the same battle cry shouted by rioters who brought the Confederate flag into the U.S. Capitol for the first time ever on January 6.

These bills didn’t come out of nowhere. Their genesis was Trump’s conspiracy theory about a stolen election, a theory that was flat out rejected by every court it was brought in front of. When the attack on the Capitol didn’t work, Republican legislatures shifted their tactics – subverting democracy by making it harder for people to vote. This is our most sacred right as Americans, a right that countless who have worn the uniform have died defending.

Last week, 175 of our GOP colleagues, including all of their leadership, voted against creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack. And then Senate Republicans staged their first filibuster of 2021, using it to shut down a vote on the commission.

On Jan 6, The United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. was breached by thousands of protesters during a "Stop The Steal" rally in support of President Donald Trump during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.zz/STRF/STAR MAX/IPx—AP

That brings us back to Michael Flynn, that former national security adviser who, on May 30, argued that the U.S. military should stage a coup.

Let us be clear – this assault on democracy is as intentional as it is insidious. Flynn’s comments are shocking only to those who haven’t been paying attention. Both of us, like Flynn, served in the U.S. Armed Forces, where we each swore to defend our country from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

But all Americans, not just those who have sworn the oath, have the responsibility to stand up to and condemn those who would so blatantly turn their back on democracy.

The choice is yours. For us, though, it’s always been clear – American democracy is worth fighting for.

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