Going into the election I thought there was about a 10% chance that Trump would make a serious extra-legal coup attempt if he lost- a view I maintained both against people who thought it was way too high, and against people who thought it was way too low.
One thing that weighed heavily on my mind here is that Trump doesn’t have the support of active duty troops. I do think that, had he had Bush era levels of support from active duty troops, he would have given a coup a shot. I base this on the following bit of reasoning:
- If Trump thought he could go onto his balcony and declare that he had been robbed, and he needed all patriotic members of the military to come to his defense and arrest the traitors, he would absolutely do so, based on everything we know about his character.
- If he had 80-90% backing by active duty troops like Bush did, he would be able to do this- or at least give it a good shot. Enough soldiers would be willing to act despite the illegality of the order, and the remainder would simply stand on the side-lines.
As it stands, polling- insofar as it can be trusted, indicates that the president only has a fraction of that support level. Here’s the Military time’s poll results:
This is very interesting to me because Republicans have been fantasising about civil war for a long time, see for example, this meme:
Now it is true that Republicans own more bullets and guns then Democrats, but there is a crucial power factor this doesn’t account for- level of support among those young enough to fight. Here the Democrats are far ahead. Even among active duty troops they are somewhat ahead.
One thing that hasn’t been grasped by enough people is that we live in a period in which politics is polarized- to a historically unusual degree, by age. People say “oh, well the young have always been to the left of their elders” and that’s true in some senses,- at least as far as I am aware. However at no point in history I am aware of have things been this polarized on the basis of age. In 2000, 47% of 18-24 year olds voted for Gore, and 47% for bush. In 2020, 62% of 18-29 year olds voted for Biden and 35% of 18-29 year olds voted for Trump (18-24 would presumably be even more stark). Some people say “generational warfare politics” is the socialism of fools, well perhaps, but we have to grasp reality as it is, and the reason generational warfare politics is popular a the moment is because it has a vein of truth.
The maximum age for enlistment in the army is 35. The average age is very much lower still.
You probably see where I’m going with this. A big reason why Trump doesn’t have the support of the military- and hence why there was no coup -touch wood- is that age is a key factor in politics now, and that’s one of the major reasons (though not the only reason) the Republicans no longer have hegemony over active duty troops, because active duty troops are quite young. Indeed politics is almost a referendum on whether young people are tide pod eating saggy pants wearing freaks or people who have been systematically shafted by the job, college and housing markets. If law and custom fail, and arms prevail, this will create huge problems for the right.
And will today’s millennials become as conservative as today’s boomers as they age? Maybe, but rightward drift due to aging has historically been relatively subtle. I don’t know that we can generalise the pattern of rightward shift to a generation that is starting out so much further left. This isn’t to say Republicans will never win again when the boomers die out, just that they might need to shift a bit leftwards on certain issues to do so. Also, none of this is to say things are definitely going to get better. All this might portend is the victory of a new kind of fuckery, stripped of the peculiarly Boomer form of herrenvolk. The future is ours to write, not to see.
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2 thoughts on “It may be that the reason there was no coup is those damn millennials”
A quick google search brings the average age as 27 in 2015,
Average officer age as 34.5 in 2015.
I’d expect the 18-29 biden advantage is bottom heavy – I doubt biden has even close to 65% popularity in the 26+ subgroup.
So perhaps a small biden advantage in the rank and file, with a trump advantage among the officers.
While not 80-90%, I think Trump has far more support in the army than biden, if you weight opinions by hierarchical power (officers matter quite a lot more than rank and file, the younger a soldier the lower rank on average, and the more likely to be biden).
(I sincerely doubt a substantial amount of soldiers would put politics before duty, regardless of affiliation, but Republicans especially have duty as an important value.)
Your guesses are wrong. See the stats here:
The officers dislike him even more than the rank and file (59% disapprove, approximately ~30% approve vs 49% approve /37% approve for the enlisted ). Perhaps unsurprising because they do have tertiary educations, and tertiary education is a key fault-line in deciding where people fall on Trump.
Duty is of course a harder to define thing that we would like, and during a coup situation, exactly who is legitimate and who isn’t becomes a matter of debate. I guarantee that if a coup happens both sides will claim they are following the spirit- and probably also the letter- of the constitution.