We hear about them in the news on a fairly regular basis where tanks are suddenly in the streets of some Capital. What triggers a Coup d’état can range from power hungry Generals to general discontentment with Government behavior. The most important thing to remember is that no country is immune from this, not even the United States of America.
In general a Coup is seen as a non democratic grab of power, but is not always the case. In the last decade there have been two coups that were for the most part endorsed by the general population. In both cases the leader who was removed was seen to be self serving and doing damage to the country. But then again, a Coup does not need to be focused on only one person. It could serve as a reset for a malfunctioning Government such as the United States is and has been experiencing in recent years.
The first Coup in the last decade that had support of the people was in September 2006 in Thailand. Then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was busy dismantling all the checks and balances of democracy and consolidating power. The final step that would have completed the transition from democracy to dictator was reshuffling the military. The coup happened just hours before those transfers were to take place.
More recently in Egypt, in July 2013 the Military moved against President Mohamed Morsi. In this case President Morsi was seen moving Egypt towards a more radical Islamic stance. Many felt Morsi was seeking to be a dictator, based on actions taken earlier with a temporary consolidation of power to pass a disputed new Constitution. Without going into greater explanation, a serious divide in Egypt was underway and could have eventually become a Civil War if left unchecked. Based on the events after the Coup with violence becoming more common, that assessment is now supported with evidence.
In both instances a small group of people were looking to reshape the country in a way the general population did not want. In Thailand it was based on greed and corruption, and in Egypt it was based on a non-mainstream religious stance.
In the case of the United States, a group of Republican politicians were elected into office that held a far right political view that was so far off center, the US Congress became dysfunctional as no agreement could be reached. This has now gone past differing opinions and has now started to cause damage to the Country by allowing a Government shutdown to attempt to leverage their far right position.
Unfortunately as the US Constitution is written, a clean sweep of Government during an election is not possible. This is because 66% of the US Senate is not in any election cycle. Although Senators serve a six year term, they are spaced out with 33% elected every 2 years. However the House of Representatives is up for election every 2 years. Because of this, the longer the Government remains dysfunctional, the greater the chances the military will step in to reset the government.
This is not to say there will be a Coup in the United States, but it does serve as a reminder to all politicians that if they break the US Government bad enough and long enough, they may wake up one morning and discover they are out of a job.