In an effort to understand American conservatives, Arlie Hochschild spent half a decade getting to know white, working class voters in the American South. The result was her 2016 book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. She found that American conservatives tell themselves a “deep story,” which goes something like this:
“You’re waiting in line for the American dream that you feel you very much deserve. It’s like waiting in a pilgrimage, and the line isn’t moving. Your feet are tired. You feel you are properly deserving of this reward that’s ahead. And the idea is, you don’t begrudge anyone in this right deep story. You’re not a hateful person. But then you see — the second moment of the right-wing deep story — somebody cutting ahead of you. Why are they getting special treatment?”
Her cohort believe America is under threat from outsiders, and minorities have taken more than their fair share of power. They see themselves as downwardly mobile, which means they judge their standard of living to be worse than the previous generation. Being “upwardly” or “downwardly” mobile has less to do with how much money you make, and more with who you’re comparing yourself to. A feeling of resentment is particularly strong among people brought up to believe they ought to be in the elite.
The conservative fear of “cultural displacement” supports her story. Displacement is a term I associate with low income, minority residents being supplanted from gentrified neighborhoods. An example of real displacement would be residents being removed from their homes to make way for a sports stadium. The displacement Trumpers feel is more in their heads, and partially of their own making.
In one of my favorite articles, Daniel Markovits explains how our current system of rewarding people, meritocracy, is just another way to keep people out, and works to no one’s advantage. For example, when it became illegal to exclude people due to race or gender, it suddenly became important to have a college degree. This system is now working against uneducated whites who overwhelmingly support Trump.
Fran Lebowitz put it best: Trump’s appeal to his supporters is, “racism, pure and simple.” Appeals to prejudice were the most important factor in Trump’s 2016 victory, and studies show that Trumpism has more to do with racial resentment than economic anxiety. Research also shows the Republican party becoming more authoritarian, and ethnic antagonism is the primary thing eroding support for democracy. Sure, there are other studies that say an endorsement of hegemonic masculinity is the number one predictor of support for Trump, but who wants to split hairs.
Half of Republicans feel that the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast they may have to use force to save it. It goes without saying that most of the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn election results are white men. Other studies confirm what frequently goes unsaid — outright racism is a core component of Trumpism, and the stories told by Trumpers are just that — stories.
“Those who felt that the hierarchy was being upended — with whites discriminated against more than blacks, Christians discriminated against more than Muslims, and men discriminated against more than women — were most likely to support Trump.”
The primary element of Arlie Hochschild’s research is empathy. Her metaphor for empathy is imagining yourself inside someone else’s heart. Talking about rural Southern voters, she says, “consider the possibility that in their situation, you might end up closer to their perspective.” I want to agree with Arlie Hochschild because she wrote one of my favorite books, The Managed Heart.
Getting to know people with different ideas enlarges you as a human being, and it is harder to dislike people close up. But as Paul Bloom points out, empathy is not the whole story. Empathy can cloud judgment. It gravitates toward people who are similar to us. It pivots towards those who reflect back at us what we see in ourselves.
Empathizing with someone whose logic is not just offensive, but flawed, risks creating more turmoil. Empathy is not an infinite resource. It’s especially problematic when the side you’re empathizing with is the side with power. There’s actually a term for this — himpathy — the tendency to empathize with men in power. It can put at-risk populations further at risk.
The empathy Arlie Hochschld is talking about is a very modern, spiritual practice, which tends to abdicate social responsibility in exchange for an unburdened life. The priority is an inward journey, which trusts systemic change as an inevitable result of personal growth.
How did we get to a point where we care more about people who want to impinge upon the rights of others, than those whose rights are being impinged upon? Is there a right way to relate to someone whose beliefs impinge upon the rights of others? How do we generate compassion for people with whom we disagree, and is it always warranted?
If I call someone else sexist or racist, it implies that I am not those things. It’s problematic because it betrays a lack of awareness. Resma Menakem says there is no such thing as a non-racist. You are either working to destroy racism, or you’re devout or complicit in racism. The problem with Trumpers is not that they’re racist, but that they refuse to acknowledge white supremacy exists.
I like to engage in “reductive comparisons.” These comparisons are also known as heuristics, dichotomies and stereotypes. They are practical rather than theoretically perfect models. Our ability to categorize people is embedded deep within us. Even if we are aware of it, it is hard to get rid of.
Humans developed in-group survival techniques as a way to distinguish friends from enemies. Innately, we identify with people superficially like us. Forming bonds with ideologically similar people is known as cultural kin selection. Even when our social bonds are arbitrary, us-versus-them thinking remains strong. When engaged in this thinking, our brain rewards us with the same chemicals as when you’re on drugs. But unlike race, political affiliation is something people can choose.
Both parties have focused outreach efforts on white, working-class voters. There is a parallel between making white, working-class voters feel comfortable, and “the Lost Cause” theory perpetuated after the Civil War. The theory, “softened the brutality of enslavement and justified its immorality.” Crucially, it argued the Civil War was not about slavery, and the South was unfairly beaten by economic might. It maintained that victory was still possible if radicalism and equality were defeated.
The Capitol Hill attack was very similar to white mobs attacking Black Americans for exercising their right to vote after the Civil War. It was the culmination of a history of structural racism that runs deep through our criminal justice institutions.
In 1921, white mobs, deputized and given weapons by city officials, attacked and killed Black residents in Tulsa. In the 1960’s, white mobs threatened Black children from going to school. In 1981, the RNC sent officers to minority precincts in New Jersey to turn away voters in the governor’s election. The history of policing in the United States is rooted in exploiting and punishing Black people. Instead of being on the side of oppressed citizens, law enforcement has colluded with white mobs over and over again.
Last week, politicians tried to disenfranchise voters who legally cast ballots in an effort to fraudulently award an election to a would-be dictator. They focused on alleged “irregularities” in cities where Black people live and vote. According to Timothy Snyder, “at bottom, the fantasy of fraud is that of a crime committed by Black people against white people.” Even after the fallout of last week’s attack, Trump still thinks it’s appropriate to bring up last summer’s BLM protests.
After George Floyd’s murder, protesters were met with tear gas, pepper spray, and batons — some were killed. Unidentified officers tossed protestors into unmarked vans. Active-duty military personnel were deployed. Trump called demonstrators “thugs,” and warned protesters who got out of line they would be met with, “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons.” A popular refrain was, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The day of the attack, he infamously told his supporters, “we love you, you’re very special.”
77% of Trump voters say Biden won the election fraudulently. 84% of working police officers who planned to vote in 2016 supported Donald Trump. While some police unions have defended the attack, other police departments have opened investigations to see if their officers were involved. The known overlap between Trumpers and law enforcement is only one reason why last week’s riot was not surprising.
Trump has incited violence since the 2016 Republican primaries. Every dog-whistle, threat, tweet and denial of reality has gone unchallenged by his party. We knew the attack was coming because Trumpers said it was coming, and was actually reported on. He told the Proud Boys, “stand back and stand by,” as if we wouldn’t know what that meant. The plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer was an obvious precursor, and despite countless social media posts, basic planning was not carried out at the Capitol.
The relationship between race and policing is just one example of how white supremacy is the main issue our country has to grapple with. The double standard of white privilege is one thing, but it is more clear than ever that some officers are leading double lives as white supremacists. Michael German’s report on known connections between law enforcement and white supremacist groups states that, “law enforcement involvement in white supremacist and far-right militia organizations poses an ongoing threat, but it has not produced a national strategy to address it.” Much has already been written about the delicate way D.C. rioters were treated. Kiara Williams summarizes it quite well here: Police treat white protestors with patience and dignity, while Black and Brown people get violence.
Dozens of people on terrorist watch lists were found to have been in D.C. on Jan. 6. Most were suspected white supremacists. The Pentagon was concerned enough that soldiers might have taken part in the attack, that the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a message to military personnel, reminding them that Joe Biden would be their commander in chief, and they were duty bound to defend the Constitution. Yes, an officer named Brian Sicknick died that day, and that is a tragedy. However, the mob was also assisted by police who opened barricades and took selfies.
There is no question law enforcement would have treated rioters differently had they been anything other than white and conservative. Implicit bias is evident amongst individual officers, as well as in the planning to deal with potential far-right threats. The powers-that-be clearly think white protesters will be safer than Black protesters, resulting in protection for one group, and punishment for the other.
Police and corrections officers have steadily gained power since the 1960’s via unions. There has been a correlative rise in prisons and prisoners. Private prisons capitalize on mass incarceration. It’s hard to see who benefits from more people being in prison longer, other than law enforcement. Police unions have grown stronger due to a fear of crime, which is a code word for race. Police unions can make life very difficult for anyone seeking reform. They attack reformers for being soft on crime, and warn it will rise unless they get their way. Officers often respond to reform efforts with work slowdowns. Like Trump, if they aren’t allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want, they would rather not do the job at all.
To be clear, those of us who want to defund the police don’t dislike police officers as much as we dislike the institution of policing. We dislike unjust law enforcement rooted in racial marginalization going back to the 1800’s. The sick irony is that the lives of police officers don’t matter to Trumpers any more than Black lives do.
Ali Breland’s recent article about how QAnon is attracting cops notes that, “police officers and departments, who are used to operating with unchecked power, have a history of spreading information that comports with their world views, but not necessarily reality.”
Conspiratorial myths have been told for years on Fox News and social media. Some people think it started with Newt Gingrich in the 90’s. Paul Krugman argues the tenuous relationship between Republicans and the truth goes back to Ronald Reagan. I think it began when Lee Atwater conceived the Southern Strategy, which consists of reaching white voters by using code words for race (i.e. states rights).
Yet, In 1964, Richard Hofstadter wrote:
“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated…how much political leverage can be gotten out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing.”
His essay, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, could have easily been written in 2021. He says the enemy the paranoid most often sees is a projection of the self, and the paranoid is not trying to change anyone’s mind. Rather, they are merely protecting their viewpoint from a hostile world.
“What is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to the finish…this demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heighten’s the paranoid’s sense of frustration.”
According to Hofstadter, a paranoid mind results from a lack of awareness. The difference between then and now is, today, lunatic fringe theories reach far more people. The thing so many of us can’t wrap our head around is the conservative propensity to disbelieve real news and legitimate information. We seem to be living in a non-overlapping venn diagram — two completely different realities existing side by side.
Human nature is prone to believe what it wants to believe, and reality is what you can get away with. The willingness of Republicans to accept increasingly absurd lies is confirmation bias, circular logic, and a feedback loop all rolled into one thing. It is drawing a conclusion then manufacturing the thing you want to find. It is the last ditch attempt of a party that knows, the more people vote, the less likely they are to win. The Republican party is acting out of the instinct of self preservation because they know recognizing the truth will be the beginning of the end. Self-interest can lead people to believe and justify nearly anything.
Even though the electoral process worked, Republican leaders also know that people are more likely to act on moral outrage if they believe the system is rigged. To clarify, the system is rigged, but not against the people who stormed the Capitol. Lies are told to manufacture emotions, which are then unskillfully manipulated.
Humans are more likely to see people who express anger as competent and powerful. Instead of picking a leader who embraces things like cooperation, compromise, and accountability, Republicans followed the call of the loudest, angriest voice. In a pre-riot speech, Trump said that liberals are so malevolent his supporters, “are allowed to go by very different rules.” Trump knows how to fire up his base, and exploiting their anger is his most useful skill.
Anger can have positive outcomes because it is a dense form of communication that gets people’s attention. It makes people more willing to listen, and sometimes results in productive conversations. But there is a difference between moral indignation and seeking revenge. Critically, anger can only be used by white men without impunity.
Furthermore, it’s not that Republicans are for something as much as they are against almost everything. You usually have to provide evidence and a degree of logical rigor in order to win an argument, but the GOP is at a point where all they have to do is cast doubt on what liberals believe. The question is not, “how can you prove the election was rigged,” but, “how can you prove it wasn’t rigged?”
Traditionally, the left has been more interested in structural injustice and threats coming from inside the country. The right has been more interested in limited government and threats coming from outside the country. But this mindset has morphed into a “no government” mentality where anything that is part of an existing institution is bad. It is not entirely unwarranted, but it is very unhelpful.
In 2018, Jonathan Rauch wrote an essay about the epistemic regime. In it, he says every society has a constitution of knowledge, or an ecosystem of ideas. This ecosystem is made up of institutions like academia, the media, the arts and government. This is where people decide what is real and what isn’t.
The way we know something is true is that a group of people from diverse backgrounds, who have diverse beliefs and values, come to a consensus. How diverse the group is speaks to the difference between bias and unanimity.
The core American institutions are predominantly left-leaning. Among conservatives, this has encouraged an anti-institutional mind-set — because to resist these institutions is to resist the left. But to resist these institutions, which really make up culture as we know it, is to resist reality.
The best explanation for the Republican embrace of conspiracy is from David Brooks:
“People in precarious states are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers. The evangelists of distrust, from Donald Trump to Alex Jones to the followers of QAnon, rose up to give them those stories and provide that community. Paradoxically, conspiracy theories have become the most effective community bonding mechanisms of the 21st century.
For those awash in anxiety and alienation, who feel that everything is spinning out of control, conspiracy theories are extremely effective emotional tools. For those in low status groups, they provide a sense of superiority: I possess important information most people do not have. For those who feel powerless, they provide agency: I have the power to reject “experts” and expose hidden cabals. As Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School points out, they provide liberation: If I imagine my foes are completely malevolent, then I can use any tactic I want.”
The root of paranoia is fear. The fear has always been there, it just shifts towards different groups over time. Not to mention, the only real conspiratorial power in this country has been wealthy and white. A sense of superiority among conservatives is a unifying theme — hence the term white supremacy. A recent study indicates that conspiracy-prone individuals tend to exhibit heightened narcissism and antagonism along with reduced impulse control and inquisitiveness.
An allegiance to conspiracy theories is also a loyalty test. It demonstrates a commitment to the cause. Will Wilkinson says, “when party affiliation becomes a central source of meaning and self-definition, reality itself becomes contested.”
In a way, it is much easier to blame your failures at the ballot box on fraud, instead of your own shortcomings. It just so happens this inability to look inward has resulted in a very real crackdown on democracy. The Democratic party has been criticized for being a circular firing squad, but having more debate, more questioning, more self-criticism — an ability to look at your own tribe objectively — that only makes you stronger.
All of this is wrapped up with issues concerning personal freedom, as well as fears of political correctness and cancellation. And even if it results in mass casualties, not wearing masks is better than endless shutdowns. What alienates so many from Trump is exactly what’s appealing to those who support him. In a world where someone might be attacked for saying the wrong thing at any time, he says the wrong thing constantly and gets away with it. To his supporters, it might be the most endearing thing about him. Tying personal identity to political affiliations has resulted in conservatives adopting Trump’s persona as their own. And despite what some think, I am very skeptical you can talk someone out of a conspiracy theory.
The fact that a majority of Republicans still support Trump makes me and many others doubt they are serious contenders for governance. It isn’t so much that Republicans believe conspiracy theories, as much as the Republican party has, “become hostile to the very idea that there’s an objective reality that might conflict with its political goals.”
Conservatives are inadvertently asking a philosophical question: “What is reality anyway?” It is putting people like me in the strange position of having to defend institutions we otherwise would not have. Part of the problem is Covid has accelerated certain trends. One of which is that we are living more of our lives online, which is where conspiracy theories marinate. The information silos we live in lead to a kind of tribalism where we feel we have to protect ourselves from “the other side.” Tribes reduce the ability to challenge ideas because no one wants to lose support of the tribe. Tribes encourage ideas and narratives that promote their survival. They are very effective at promoting views that aren’t analytical or rational, and people loyal to their tribes are very poor at realizing it.
Instability is more likely when economic inequality is high. It follows that the largest factor in increasing polarization is the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The widening gap between rich and poor reflects the trust gap between citizens and institutions, as well as the gap between “coastal elites” and rural America. But the widening gap between Republicans and Democrats is a gap between fantasy and reality.
The parallel universe conservatives live in would have us believe everything is a “both sides” phenomenon. This false equivalency partially enabled Trumpers to this point. Unsurprisingly, conservatives are more likely to believe anecdotal evidence is as legitimate as scientific research. The degree to which people evaluate the accuracy of their beliefs, and are willing to change them in light of new information, is known as intellectual humility. This is a virtue we could all use more of, but we can no longer give Republicans the benefit of the doubt.
There are sins both parties are guilty of. Billionaire wealth grew by $637 billion during the pandemic, while more than 40 million Americans filed for unemployment. The wealthy have gained from tax cuts from both Republicans and Democrats. In my home state, Phil Murphy just gave corporations a $14 billion tax cut. I even agree with Brett Kavanaugh, who wrote that, throughout the pandemic, public health has too often aligned with commerce (i.e. Amazon).
At the same time, I did enjoy Lindsey Graham being called a “garbage human” by a Trump supporter at an airport. Wow, he deserves that! But this level of ignorance is terrifying.
Deepak Chopra says, if you’re conversing with someone and detect an impasse, you should probably just walk away. However, if we approach the conversation from the perspective that we will not be changing anyone’s mind, then we are simply enlarging our own worldview. An inability by Republicans to acknowledge white supremacy, among other things, puts us at a bit of an impasse. And entertaining any more Republican shenanigans looks a lot like appeasement. There are issues on which people cannot legitimately disagree.
Who gets to decide what is true? Objectivity was outsourced to social networks after the printing press was invented. It mostly worked because, up until recently, truth was easier to profit from than disinformation. Look at Robert Maxwell — father of Ghislaine — who turned peer reviewed journals into one of the most profitable industries in the world. David Carr thought that reporting, while onerous, was easier than making it up. He said, “there are many great reporters and very few truly remarkable novelists.”
Does having empathy for Republicans amount to tolerance of intolerance? The paradox of tolerance is an idea Plato contemplated, and Karl Popper popularized, which states that a society tolerant of all ideas will eventually be taken advantage of by the intolerant. As much as the far-right really wants to plan open insurrection online, it’s probably best we don’t allow that. Free speech is an abstraction that doesn’t account for externalities like extremism, which result in real world consequences. David Brooks says:
“The only solution is to reduce the distrust and anxiety that is the seedbed of this thinking. That can only be done first by contact, reducing the social chasm between the members of the epistemic regime and those who feel so alienated from it. And second, it can be done by policy, by making life more secure for those without a college degree.”
It is often thought that community building and talking face-to-face reduces extremism. This is known as the “contact hypothesis.” There are organizations like the Weave Institute, Millions of Conversations, and Braver Angels, which are aimed at reducing polarization by bringing people together. However, I’m not sure if exposing people to different ideas will be enough on its own.
In one study, exposing people to opposing viewpoints had the opposite effect — people actually became more polarized after being exposed to, “the other side” on social media. In another study, conservative residents of a town in Israel only started to soften up on Palestine after being exposed to advertisements that agreed with them.
Amanda Marcotte believes the work of healing is solely being taken on by liberals, and has been since the Nixon administration. Wajahat Ali, a Muslim, refuses to spend any more time trying to understand and help the architects of his oppression. His exasperation is shared by many of us. Liberals are exhausted from trying to have a conversation with a party that weaponizes polarity.
The responsibility for normalizing Trump must be shared by a large number of Republican politicians, as well as the media. Trump’s presidential win would not have been possible without constant coverage by every network. In an insane statistic: Trump received 78% of all coverage on CNN between Aug. 24 and Sept. 4, 2015. By November 2015, Trump had received more network news coverage than the entire Democratic field.
Cable news is an airing of grievances. Outrage is monetized on both sides, but conservative media, in particular, makes money off of it. If the outrage can’t be monetized then it might slowly dissipate. Fox News is still peddling their alternate reality bullshit, but that may also start to change. The media is rewarded by telling people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. The far-right has a proclivity for punishing pundits if they aren’t provided with talking points to deny reality. The hold conservative media has on their base is problematic to say the least.
The political system has been organized around an axis that, “deepens political identity, hardens polarization, and raises the political stakes.” The point of television is to keep people watching, which means keeping them angry. But there’s a big difference between Rachel Maddow and Rush Limbaugh.
In 2001, 8% of Americans were angry at the federal government. By 2013, that number tripled. Had the government changed that much in twelve years?
The difference was not government, but technology. Social media rewards people by leading them down attentional death spirals. What makes social media different from traditional media is that users also get to create content. To get more attention, creators make their content more clickbaity. To keep people on platforms longer, algorithms prioritize more extreme content.
Trump and his enablers are finally seeing some repercussions. Most notably, Twitter banned Trump. Along with Russia’s Internet Research Agency, his Twitter account was an essential node in the disinformation network. This is important because when your reach gets cut off, so do revenue streams. His supporters deriding his banishment as tyrannical are just missing the point again. As others have said, people have freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach. There is an argument to be made that we want to see what the far-right is planning out in the open, and pushing them to the fringes of the internet is actually worse. I disagree.
Twitter also banned Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell. QAnon and the Proud Boys have been labeled domestic terrorist groups. Parler has been taken offline. Steve Bannon’s podcast has been removed from YouTube. The PGA instituted a lifetime ban on events at Trump courses. Cumulus told their conservative hosts that if they continue to lie about the election they will lose their jobs. Some of this should have been done sooner, but the tech companies wanted to see who would be regulating them before they did anything.
In many ways, the decision about whether or not businesses should engage in political activism has been made for them. Any plausible deniability the Republican party was holding on to has been removed, so everyone has to act in order to not be complicit. Although it’s good that corporations are financially punishing Republicans, Trumpers like Matt Gaetz are no longer accepting campaign contributions from political action committees anyway. Online contributors have been especially loyal to Trump and his minions in congress. Any time Gaetz needs money he just has to send an email.
If you’ve been watching the news, you’ll have heard the words “foment” and “grift” a lot more. At some point, Trump realized that when you rile people up, you can get them to donate a lot of money. Trump promised donors that he was using their money to fight election results, but actually stored much of it for personal use.
What history will talk about is how few Republicans stood up to him before the attack. After not a single Republican voted for impeachment in 2019, a small, principled core of Republicans is standing up to the base now. Top Republicans breaking with the base creates a permission structure for others to do so.
At times, the party seems to be slowly splitting in half. However, most Republicans are still doing what they do best — downplaying the attack, making false equivalencies, and engaging in cancel culture whataboutism. Trump remains scarily popular with Republicans voters. Half of them thought that the attack on the Capitol was a good idea. Most still believe the riot was an antifa conspiracy.
The most reprehensible part is Trump’s lack of genuine conciliatory remarks after the attack. The most important thing he could’ve done is tell his base there was no election fraud. He didn’t do that. Meanwhile, America has been setting records for Covid deaths during this time. If he was smart, he would have resigned, and gotten a pardon from Pence on his way out.
Importantly, prosecutors will give no leniency to the rioters, but that doesn’t appear to be discouraging more attacks. Even more terrifying, members of congress gave tours to rioters the day before the attack. Someone actually removed Ayanna Pressley’s panic button from her office prior to the rally. This means that members of congress helped plan the attack. What subsequent investigations will uncover will be worse than we think.
The 14th Amendment allows Congress to remove legislators engaged in insurrection or rebellion. It should absolutely be used against Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, who helped plan the rally, should also be investigated (along with anyone else connected to its planning). I don’t see Trump being convicted in the Senate, but he should absolutely be punished and banned from seeking office again. Anything less than an aggressive and urgent response sends the wrong message. Hopefully, criminal investigations into his financial dealings and rape allegations will lead to other consequences. For Republicans distancing themselves from Trump, it’s too little too late.
Overall, the attempt by Republican leadership to escape accountability is laughable. Without acknowledging their role in the attempt to overturn Electoral College votes, GOP leaders like Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy are now calling for unity. As long as polarization, truth-hating, and white nationalism remain a large part of the Republican platform, unity will be a hard pill for most of us to swallow. Unity at the expense of the existence of others is not unity. And as Jamie Raskin said, “It’s a bit much to be hearing that these people would not be trying to destroy our government and kill us, if we just weren’t so mean to them.”
For the past two decades, America has been able to focus on extremism coming from outside the country. Now, domestic terrorism is on the rise. On one hand, we’ve gotten to this point by not taking the issue of far-right extremism seriously. On the other hand, any time we focus on Trump, we’re feeding the trolls. The attack on the Capitol was the start of something, not the end. If anything, the attack has encouraged far-right groups to recruit new members. Republicans have even threatened that impeaching Trump will just make him a martyr.
I understand wanting to fight Trump like a terrorist leader. We have elements of both insurrection and insurgency going on, but fighting terrorism with violence usually just produces more terrorists. A serious counter-insurgency operation might actually inflame what we’re dealing with. The last thing we need is permanent indigenous insurrection, and we do not want to cede more ground to groups that have given up on democracy. At the same time, lack of accountability can be emboldening. Strangely, domestic terrorism is one of the only crimes the FBI can investigate you for, but not charge you with.
Relationships are built on trust. In order for there to be progress we must rebuild trust in places where there is none. The component parts of trust are empathy, logic and authenticity. Right now, all the building blocks of trust are wobbling, but none more so than authenticity. You can fake empathy, you can’t fake authenticity. Authenticity has to do with honesty. We need a certain group of people to start being honest with themselves — about the harm they’ve caused, and how they’ve been unwilling to do anything about it.
What concessions are Republicans making? If Mitchell McConnell really wanted to impeach Trump he would have moved to impeach him. They got a Supreme Court justice certified in under two weeks — the only thing stopping him is a lack of eagerness.
In some ways, we’re still fighting the Civil War. It’s in our national DNA. You can see it in white supremacists, and feel it in the fear of the other.
We should look at similar examples from around the world to see what we can learn. And Democrats should focus on what they can do to help the people of this country. The lives of ordinary Americans — not just white and suburban — need to be changed. Quickly.
The Invention of the Police — Jill Lepore
Why did Lauren Boebert lead a late-night Capitol tour three weeks before Jan. 6? — Zachary Petrizzio