Assistant Professor of Government Erica De Bruin, author of How to Prevent Coups d'État, has been quoted extensively in the national media in the lead up to and in the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol. The primary question directed to her has been, “Is this a coup?”
In a New York Times article titled “Is this a coup? Experts say no, but that it could be just as dangerous,” De Bruin said that she would not call the assault a coup. “I don’t object to anyone wanting to use the term ‘coup’ at this point,” she said in the Times article. “The word coup conveys seriousness, and I don’t want to police the language of politicians or activists or those trying to oppose Trump’s actions. But I don’t think we’re there yet.” The article was republished around the world in major outlets and social media. A second article on the same topic also appeared in the Times the day after the assault and quoted De Bruin. “If the question is whether those actions are as gravely serious as a coup, the answer is yes,” De Bruin said in “It Wasn’t Strictly a Coup Attempt. But It’s Not Over, Either.”
In a Washington Post article published the day before the assault, reporter David Nakamura wrote that Trump’s critics had warned that his “scorched-earth effort to invalidate the outcome [of the election] amounts to a new level of danger: the first attempted coup d’état in U.S. history to illegally maintain power.” De Bruin answered, ““This is more of a textbook case of democratic backsliding, which is less sexy of a term. When a coup happens, people can go on the streets and protest and there’s international condemnation. But in this case, it’s harder to sustain opposition to what Trump is doing. And if Trump does not succeed, it’s easier for people to say the worries were overblown and dismiss it.”
“At no point did yesterday’s protestors attempt to actually seize control of the levers of state power— nor did anyone watching think these goons were now running the government,” De Bruin said in a Jan. 14 article in Vox. “I’m not trying to police the language of those finding it useful to use the term ‘coup’ to coordinate opposition right now,” she tweeted and Vox published in “The F Word - The debate over whether to call Donald Trump a fascist, and why it matters.”
“Trump's push to overturn the election results may undermine democracy abroad by legitimizing anti-democratic behaviors. We have already seen leaders in Hungary, Turkey, and elsewhere emulate Trump's rhetoric about 'fake news' to dismiss criticism,” De Bruin told a Business Insider reporter in an article titled “World leaders are worried Trump 'permanently' damaged democracy, EU chief says.”
All four of these articles reappeared in social media and on other news outlet sites around the world. De Bruin spoke with WKTV, Utica’s NBC/CBS affiliate, in the aftermath of the assault, as well.