How do you stage a soft coup to ensure that the guardrails of democracy do not impinge on your sense of freedom, since they are not the same?

First, you create or appropriate a political organization. Check.

Next, you invest heavily to lure traditionally neglected voters, evangelicals, Christian nationalists and European American nativists. Check.

Then, you find an amoral front man who can be easily manipulated even if it means massaging his ego. Check.

And, finally, you go after the real prize. Check.

Welcome to 21st century United States where a power grab is going on by the Republican Party in the hands of Donald Trump and his dominant faction, Make America Great Again (MAGA), and a conservatives-dominated U.S. Supreme Court.

The court, whose members are appointed for life, has a history over the past 50 years or so of hostility to some issues which are important to large segments of the nation.

It reinstated the death penalty – first inflicted in the 18th century B.C. in Babylon – by reversing its own earlier opinion that it is unconstitutional. Since then, 1,600 Americans have been executed, the Death Penalty Information Center reported. The U.S. ranks fifth in judicial murder, behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The court granted “qualified immunity” to police officers, ending a right dating back to 1871. “The doctrine lets police brutality go unpunished and denies victims their constitutional rights,” the Equal Justice Initiative stated. The Washington Post said that “on average, police shoot and kill more than 1,000 people every year.”

The court even picked a president, overruling the Florida Supreme Court to stop a ballot recount when George W. Bush was leading Al Gore by 537 votes, a margin of 0.009 percent, in 2000. Bush was declared the winner.

The justices voided a clause in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requiring 15 states with a history of voter suppression to obtain Justice Department preclearance for any proposed changes in their electoral systems. Those states have since rushed to enact voter-suppression laws.

The court reversed what the Brennan Center for Justice called “century-old campaign finance restrictions and enabled corporations and other outside groups to spend unlimited funds on elections.” That Citizens United ruling equates corporations with people, allowing the super-rich to corrupt the electoral system.

The court ruled that individuals have a right to own guns; that guns may be carried in public; that bump stocks, which convert rifles into machine-gun type weapons, are legal.

More recently, the court has ruled that a president, while “exercising his core constitutional powers … is entitled, at a minimum, to a presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts,” as Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the 6-3 opinion. That ruling imperils four criminal indictments of Trump, who has already been convicted on one charge involving 34 counts.

The court overturned a 40-year-old precedent protecting the environment by limiting the power of federal agencies to set regulations. HuffPost called it a “major power grab by the judicial branch, which will now play a bigger role as the final arbiter over which regulations are allowed to stand and which will be struck down.”

It ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have the authority to, as The New YorkTimes put it, “limit smokestack pollution that blows across state borders under a measure known as the ‘good neighbor rule.’” It scrapped another EPA rule, the Clean Power Plan, thus limiting “the agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.” Those rules had not yet even taken effect. It overturned another EPA rule, Waters of the United States, designed to protect millions of acres of wetlands from pollution. That case was still in the lower courts.

The court ruled that the Justice Department filed the wrong charge against hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The rioters temporarily prevented Congress from certifying Biden’s victory by forcing lawmakers to flee to bunkers for safety. The court said that was not obstruction.

(Curiously, liberal Justice Ketani Brown Jackson voted with the majority and conservative Amy Coney Barrett joined in the dissent.)

And the court has evidently enlisted in the Republican culture wars, no doubt to keep the “base” happy.

It ruled that there is no constitutional right to an abortion, reversing its almost 50-year Roe v. Wade precedent. It voided a 45-year precedent by ending affirmative action. It sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple. It ruled that a high school football coach had a constitutional right when he prayed at the 50-yard line after football games. It ruled that Hobby Lobby has the right to refuse health insurance for employees requiring birth control coverage. And it empowered states and cities to jail unhoused people who sleep outdoors.

So who are some of these justices?

They include Trump appointees Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as fellow conservatives Samuel Alito, Roberts and Clarence Thomas.

Kavanaugh and Thomas were accused of sexual assault during their confirmation hearings. Thomas failed to disclose expensive freebies, ProPublica reported. His benefactor, Texas billionaire Harlan Crow, had four cases before the court, Truthout reported. Thomas’ wife, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, campaigned to overturn Biden’s victory.

Gorsuch was confirmed after then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell froze President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland when Antonin Scalia died. McConnell claimed the hearing would be too close to the 2016 presidential election – 10 months away. But he facilitated Barrett’s confirmation about a week before the 2020 election to succeed the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann Bomgardner, flew the Stars and Stripes upside down, usually signifying distress, and the “Appeal to Heaven” flag which The Associated Press said “has come to symbolize sympathies with the Christian nationalist movement and the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.”

As for outside influence, Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, for example, “has used a sprawling network of opaque nonprofits to fund groups advocating for ending affirmative action, rolling back anti-discrimination protections and allowing state legislatures unreviewable oversight of federal elections.” The money “flowed mostly through so-called dark money groups, which don’t have to disclose their donors,” ProPublica reported. That has come courtesy of the Citizens United ruling.

And some justices obviously lied respect precedence. Instead affirming laws that have enabled the progress which the U.S. has made as a former slave-owning nation, they embrace “originalism” and “textualism” as they turn the clock back to entrench the class interest of the wealthy. And, often, “resistance is futile,” as the Borgs intoned in “Star Trek.”

So Kevin Roberts, Heritage Foundation president and a driving force behind the Project 2025 blueprint for autocratic rule if Trump wins, felt emboldened enough to proclaim in interviews, “We are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless – if the left allows it to be.”

Mark Robinson, candidate for governor of North Carolina, told a church gathering that “some folks need killing” by “those guys in green” or “those boys in blue.” Robinson, an African American, also, claimed that 1776 is in danger of becoming “a distant memory” and if that happens, “the tenets of socialism and communism start coming into clearer focus.”

These people with their scorchedearth politics evidently believe they are in a “Game of Thrones” reality show. But, as Shakespeare’s Macbeth lamented:

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

Martin Luther King Jr. pointed in 1968 to an alternative when he quoted Alma Androzzo’s 1945 song: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.”

But King was killed two months later.