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A coup by any other name

A person waves a Trump 2020 flag as supporters of President Trump protest outside the US Capitol on Jan. 6.
A person waves a Trump 2020 flag as supporters of President Trump protest outside the US Capitol on Jan. 6.ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

Capitol siege, if not technically a coup, was certainly an ‘autocoup’

Political science professor Clayton Thyne, in a Q&A with deputy Ideas editor Kelly Horan (Lexicon, Jan. 10), may be correct on a technicality when he says the riot at the Capitol was not an attempted coup, but perhaps he is unaware of the concept of self-coup (from the Spanish “autogolpe”). This is precisely what was attempted on Jan. 6.

“A self-coup, or autocoup,” according to Wikipedia, “is a form of putsch or coup d’état in which a nation’s leader, despite having come to power through legal means, dissolves or renders powerless the national legislature and unlawfully assumes extraordinary powers not granted under normal circumstances.”


I would like to assume that Thyne is paying attention to the dangerous content being posted in right-wing social media.

We don’t need calming words right now. Our law enforcement needs to be alert and aware of what might be coming, both in Washington, D.C., and at state capitols around the country.

Andrea Haber


Trump supporters were bent on seizing power for their president

While I admit I am not the head of a political science department at a university, I hope I have enough understanding of the use of the term coup and of American government to reply. Clayton Thyne says we should not describe the events of Jan. 6 as an attempted coup, because the head of state was not the target. I beg to differ.

The “riot,” as he called it, took place on the day, indeed, at the moment that the joint session of Congress, presided over by the vice president, was certifying the Electoral College vote of President-elect Joe Biden — in other words, the next head of state.

In addition, the goal, at least of many of these so-called rioters, was to prevent the certification of the next head of state, to incapacitate the second and third in line to the presidency, and to seize power for the current but soon-to-be-outgoing president.


I believe that Thyne, by downgrading the coup attempt to a riot, is the one whose use of the phrase is wrong and, I would argue, dangerous.

Elizabeth J. Moroney


The writer has a master’s degree in political science and was a Massachusetts elector for John Kerry in 2004.