The Daily Escape:
Outside the Capitol, a crowd of thousands cheered the rioters entering the building, January 6, 2021, 2:10 pm. Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII, for The New York Times.
Look closely at the size of the crowd in the photo above, because our future may look a lot like that. The GOP has become two Parties, says Timothy Snyder in an excellent article in the NYT. He says that the Republican Party is now two coalitions of politicians and their supporters. One group wants to game the system, while the other wants to break the system.
What this portends for the immediate future, is chilling. The Breakers have moved on from the US Capitol to statehouses. Kentucky.com reported that dozens of heavily armed people gathered on Saturday outside the Kentucky Capitol building, demonstrating against socialism, communism, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear:
“Several members of the Kentucky State Police looked on as members of the group, composed of people from self-described “militias,” made speeches interspersed with live performances of country songs. Some in the crowd held flags or wore hats supporting President Donald Trump.”
By Wrongo’s count, that makes 12 state capitols that have seen militia-style demonstrations since the attempted coup at the US Capitol. We’ve entered a period when mobs of angry individuals now feel sufficiently emboldened to just go and break any law they disagree with.
We know that the Republican Party is culpable: By defending Trump’s big lie about a stolen election even after the Jan. 6 attempted coup, they’ve set a precedent: A Republican presidential candidate who loses an election should be appointed to the job anyway. For at least the Breaker branch of the Republican Party, they will operate in the future with two plans in mind: Plan A, to win the election. And Plan B, to lose, but then to win through force.
As with Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley’s objections to the Electoral Votes of certain states, a finding of election fraud isn’t necessary. Breaker Republicans will only need to hear allegations that there was fraud. More from Snyder: (emphasis by Wrongo)
“Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around…”
Snyder says that for the Republican Breaker faction to succeed, they need an angry minority, organized for nationwide violence, ready to add intimidation to an election. It is surprising just how close they are to having all of that in 2021. One more from Snyder:
“Informed observers inside and outside government agree that right-wing white supremacism is the greatest terrorist threat to the United States. Gun sales in 2020 hit an astonishing high. History shows that political violence follows when prominent leaders of major political parties openly embrace paranoia.”
How large is the cohort of Breakers? Wrongo hasn’t seen any estimates. But, a YouGov Direct poll of 1,397 registered voters who knew about Wednesday’s attempted coup found that 62% of voters perceived the mob action as a threat to democracy:
- Democrats (93%) overwhelmingly see it this way.
- Most Independents (55%) also agree.
- 68% of Republicans didn’t think that mob violence to overturn an election was a threat to democracy.
One poll isn’t dispositive, but since Trump got 70 million votes, and 68% of them seemingly condone overturning an election, we’re dealing with nearly 50 million people. Not all of them will take up arms against their government. But if organized, it would be a very large and well-dispersed militia. One that communicates instantly via social media.
There is much to say about the tension between our First Amendment rights, and the use potential coup plotters and their enablers make of social media. Trump was permanently banned from Twitter, while the hard right social platform Parler has lost access to the Apple store and to Amazon’s server platform.
Freedom of speech is essential to a democracy, but using Twitter, Facebook and the far-right platforms to lie, and to organize armed resistance to our government, brings with it the danger that our democracy could fall to angry, armed people who believe the big lie.
Time to wake up America! We’ve become a pre-coup nation. All of the necessary conditions are in place: vast inequality, growing poverty, a stabbed-in-the-back narrative that a large segment of Republican voters believe, along with the storyline that a right-wing President was the victim of voter fraud.
Remember that the majority of police and members of the military are sympathetic to the right, not to the left. A very smart, would-be dictator who understands the keys to power could work to either freeze the military, or gain their cooperation.
And the Breaker group has several of those smart, ruthless people.
We gotta wake up.