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Departures Podcast with Erica De Bruin

This week we are pleased to welcome to the podcast Erica De Bruin, an Assistant Professor of Government at Hamilton College and the author of the new book, “How to Prevent Coups d’État: Counterbalancing and Regime Survival.”

At the time of this conversation with Robert Amsterdam, the Michigan Republican Party board of electors had refused to certify election results from one of the most populous counties, then certified, then sought to rescind their votes after receiving phone calls from President Donald Trump. Later that same afternoon, President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, gave a disturbing press conference chock full of unproven allegations and evidence-free conspiracy theories.

So is this truly a coup attempt?

Not so fast, says Prof. De Bruin, who literally wrote the book on coups.

“Scholars that study coups across the globe understand them to be illegal, overt attempts to seize executive power within a country, backed by the use of force,” De Bruin says. “I think that thus far, the actions taken within the Republican party don’t fit this definition, but they’re incredibly worrying.”

“What I think we might be approaching here, if I were to make this argument, is what we think of as a ‘self-coup,’ where a leader tries to overstay their term in office,” De Bruin says. “That typically happens through technically legal means where someone who’s in power will try to get a legislature to sign off on delaying elections or will use court challenges to try and reverse an electoral outcome. And that those are the types of steps that these could be laying the groundwork for. (…) Those types of attempts can end up being more successful because they proceed through these supposedly ‘legal’ means.”

Amsterdam and Prof. De Bruin go on to discuss the findings in her book and the strategies that can be put in place to resist coups, as well as discussing the comparative experiences and insights from events in Turkey, Thailand, and Venezuela in recent years.