Is a Coup d’Etat Possible Post-Election?

October 11, 2020


  1. What is a Coup?
  2. The Coup When the Current President Loses a Second Term
  3. Even if the military stands down… 
  4. The Coup When the Current President Wins a Second Term
  5. What to Watch for and What to Do

An American President infected with a pandemic-level virus during the final days of a re-election year, double digit polling deficits for the incumbent even according to the most conservative polling from sources such as FoxNews, an election going on right now but already being challenged, a supreme court justice being added during the final days of a campaign year, and doubt being cast on every branch of government.  Fiction writers would have a hard time creatively coming up with the chaos we are seeing in real life today.  Regardless of opinions or political stances, there are only but a few possible outcomes to this presidential election.  In some scenarios Trump wins, in some scenarios he does not, in some scenarios we just don’t clearly know who the winner is. 

Perhaps it is the times we live in, but anytime we do a blog looking at our currently politically charged climate, the mere mention of a possible outcome that doesn’t align with my viewer’s desires or the mere mentioning of the name of an opposing candidate, and my comment section and email inbox gets flooded with upset people.  These are the times we live in today.  To be perfectly candid and honest with you, we don’t care what political party you’re a part of or if you aren’t even part of a political party.  What we care about when we do a current happenings video, like this one, is assessing the possible outcomes even if they differ from what ourselves or our community would want.  As preppers we have to prepare for any possible outcome so we’re not caught off guard.  We are currently trying to prepare ourselves and our family for multiple potential outcomes, one of those possibilities being a coup d’Etat.

In this blog, we’ll look at how possible a coup may actually occur in our country, and how it could arise out of a Trump win, loss, or a contested election.  What would that look like in America and what should you watch for and prepare for?

So what is a Coup?

There are many different types of coups, and full-blown military coups against democratically elected leaders rarely end well for democracies or constitutional republics.  Typically, when we hear the term coup it is applied to third world countries.  There are many types of coups.  Regime change coups—or coups de regime—alter the “rules of the game” and identity of the entire ruling group. Leader reshuffling coups—or coups de chef—only alter the identity of the top leader, without making fundamental changes to political institutions.

According to the Colpus Dataset which seeks to track all coup attempts since 1946, “A coup d ́etat occurs whenever the incumbent ruling regime or regime leader is ousted from power (or a presumptive regime leader is prevented from taking power) as a result of concrete, observable, and unconstitutional actions by one or more civilian members of the incumbent ruling regime and/or one or more members of the military or security apparatus.”

In other words, a military coup may target leader entry, not just a leader exit. For example, even if a leader does not exit due to a military coup, a new leader may still enter due to one, if the military preempts the constitutional or “regular” succession procedures. This means that “coups by invitation” in which the incumbent regime leader is complicit in their own removal by the military to prevent the presumptive regime leader from taking office qualifies as a coup event.

As we have outlined in other blogs on this website, there’s a finite range of possibilities from this election ranging from a Trump or Biden landslide, to a close call, to a fully contested constitutional crisis.  Any constitutional crisis could end up with various branches arguing over who has the ultimate voice and determination of the leader of the United States.  In this case, the military, guard, or other federal or state protective forces may feel compelled to or be directed to maintain the peace.  Any martial law is not without also serving some political agenda, and when the military is politicized the populace can become even further agitated.  The type of coup you had really is determined by the historians many years after it has occurred.  The fact is that even the most seemingly stable of governments is susceptible to military forces being used to maintain or to change regime leadership; and that fact requires us to look to preparing ourselves.

A Coup If the Current President Wins a Second Term

If Trump wins in a landslide but the populace revolts, what is called a “non-military coup attempt” occurs.  In this scenario, the president and military would be pressed into fighting against citizens to maintain established leadership and order.  How that is implemented, could lead to an increase in violent altercations, and it is here where you could be most affected as violence spills over into your city, community, or neighborhood.  Places like Portland have often been seen as hotspots where this has nearly happened.

If the win isn’t a landslide but has some doubts cast upon its legitimacy, states could seek to distance themselves from federal authority until a clearer confirmation and endorsement of election results and the office of president occurs.  That could result in the current president viewing this as an act of succession and could bring military forces in direct conflict with the populace or state guard units. That, too, could bring armed conflict to your city, community, or neighborhood.

The president has an obligation to keep the states united and uphold the constitution.  He would be compelled to utilize all forces at his disposal, including the military, to suppress insurrection.  The continued fragmentation and division of the United States could exponentially increase after November third.  

The Coup If the Current President Loses a Second Term

If this year has taught us anything, it is that anything is possible.  If Donald Trump were to lose or be perceived to have lost in this election by a majority, and if he chooses to contest the election results and not leave office at the expiration of his constitutional term, the United States military would be compelled to remove him by force.  In our country, though, the military shouldn’t save us, and it creates an organizational nightmare that completely breaks down the chain of command.  The military as the primary tool of politics undermines the American trust in the military.  Activating the military on the nation’s borders or deploying them to solve domestic political disputes like crowd control, already undermines the character of our military and the pride we have in it as a force that sacrifices themselves for the country.  That is a dangerous precipice to cross, however, and the more we turn to the military to solve those disputes, the less we’ll really be America.  An overt coup requires the buy-in of at least a few of the general military leadership.

Anyone familiar with the Oath of Enlistment knows that those in the military pledge to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  The enlisted pledge to “obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over” them.  These are also in accordance with the “regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”  Failure to obey a military order has grave consequences; however, the Uniform Code of Military Justice is determined by the Commander in Chief and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  With the Commander in Chief in question, some responsibility falls on the soldier, in the heat of a brewing conflict, to determine whether his order is lawful.  That’s not a situation you or that soldier wants.

So, would the Joint Chiefs sit on the sideline and choose to belay a contested president’s orders until another branch of government, congress or the Supreme Court, definitively ruled on who the president is and whose orders they should be following?  Would any commanding general have the support of those under his command to implement any extreme order against a populace, incumbent president, or a presidential candidates supporting base?  It’s murky at best.

Even if the military stands down… 

Should the two events of a Trump loss and a Trump choosing not to leave the office occur, what would be the Secret Service’s reaction to it?  The Secret Service has been structured under the Department of Homeland Security since March 1st, 2003.  Under HR 5938, former Vice presidents are afforded protection by the Secret Service, and candidates for the highest office in the land are provided the agency’s protection.  So, both Trump and Biden have Secret Service protection which is generally directed by the Department of Homeland Security, a department currently headed by a Trump appointed and acting United States Secretary of Homeland Security.  It’s important to note that the Government Accountability Office has said that both DHS Secretary Wolf and his acting deputy, Cuccinelli, were ineligible to run the agency under the Vacancy Reform Act. It is also important to note that according to reports, there appears to be some increasingly disgruntled current and former agents after the President’s car ride while a patient at Walter Reed, calling the president’s actions “callous” and “reprehensible.”  So, how will Trump loyalists in leadership react with their force who are reported to be increasingly unhappy in the event that the military were to show up at the White House with the intent of removing the president from the offices?  Could an armed conflict ensue?  If the Secret Service is split and unclear as to who the active president could be, and America is engaged in a constitutional crisis in Congress and the Supreme Court to make that decision, could the Joint Chiefs of Staff be forced into the position of making a determination in the interest of keeping the peace.  Were they to do so, some would see that as a clear provocation and a coup d’etat.

There are a number of scenarios that open the possibility of some form of coup d’etat, so what should you be looking for and what should you be preparing for?

What to Watch For & What To Do

We become closer to a coup when certain things occur.  First, watch for any absolute declarations of power regardless of what the prevailing opinions or vote counts are.  This may indicate a leader attempting to retain power or fighting against an usurpation of his power.  This could lead to the military being utilized.  So, second, watch for military build ups in your country’s cities, states, or along the commonly travelled highways and byways.  This could be a pre-emptive deployment.  Third, remain vigilantly aware of the barometer in your community.  Are tensions running extremely high?  Are you seeing stressed out people, are you stressed out yourself, are you witnessing shouting matches, altercations, skirmishes with police, or among citizens?  All of these things to watch for can be early indicators of approaching civil disturbances, martial law, or an early warning sign of a coup d’etat.

While any American coup d’etat, isn’t likely to be driven by ethnic cleansing, as has been seen in other countries, it isn’t going to occur without bloodshed or the threat of bloodshed.  You need to, first, be aware of this, and second, prepare for it.  Your home, barring immediate and overwhelming external threats, is the safest place you can be.  Your safest first choice is always to hunker down and seek to wait it out.  To do that you need to have your food and water storage topped up to survive a prolonged period in your shelter.

Second, even if you are in what you feel is the safest location you have to have an escape route.  Walls fall, security can be compromised, and sometimes your final stand doesn’t have to be your home.  It can be from your bug out location.  Bugging out to a safer location isn’t always an option for some.  If you are part of that category of preppers, you need to go back to plan A and triple check your home is secured and supplied.

Third, watch for the breakdown of established structures in little ways.  Even a slight power outage or a blocked freeway can result in supply lines being cut, panic among the people, runs on stores and banks, and more.  The tiniest additional spark or event can trigger exponentially larger breakdowns in the established systems.  Watch for these breakdowns and make decisive decisions about what you need and when is best to lockdown at home.

Finally, make friends with your neighbors and expand your network.  Regardless of political views, in a coup d’etat it is really the innocent citizens who are the victims of the leaders’ power struggles.  You will share a mutual contempt for the current state of affairs and a mutual desire to return to whatever normalcy there is to return to.  While you commiserate about these things in casual conversation, get to know your neighbors a little.  How can they benefit you and how can you benefit them?  What are they going to need and what do they seem to have that you might trade for if the situation continues to deteriorate?


Nobody really knows with certainty how calm or violent this election cycle will be.  It behooves us not to dismiss it as everyday.  We are beginning to see signs that it will be anything but smooth.  We are seeing things we haven’t seen to this degree in previous election cycles.  Regardless of who wins the election and who is inaugurated as president of the United States, know that a coup d’etat of some form is possible.  Preparing for one isn’t entirely different than preparing for civil unrest, martial law, or even a natural disaster.  Watch for the warning signs and move decisively as a possible coup approaches.  Prepare your home and your family for the possibility of unrest showing up at your door.

As always, stay safe out there.

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