Focussing on preventing a second attempt means you must either crush them before they try again or so strictly monitor their (the other sides) behaviour that any and every attempt will be sniffed out and squashed before it can amount to anything.
Did Democrats manage to learn anything from January 6?
By Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief
Last year, shortly after the January six riot (written from here on as 1/6), I wrote my thoughts on the insurrection. The MAGA horde storming the capital seemed to be a warning that the problems and failures of American antiquity had a lifespan and that it wouldn’t be long before those failures would be too much for the population to bear. So confident was I, that I ended my piece by saying: “… the next time the string breaks it may not be the neo-Nazis at the steps of the capitol. It could be the students and the working poor; it might be the indebted and exploited. It might be the people whose cause is just.” Yet it seems to me that what I saw was not seen by many, or at least those with power in the Democratic party. What they seemed to get—mostly from their media—was a completely different story that has allowed them to continue these catastrophes unabated.
On one hand, it’s clear and justified to say that what happened on 1/6 was chaotic and disheartening. Anyone with eyes and a relatively untainted view of American politics could understand that those who stormed the capital that day were deeply misled and drawn blindly down the path of conspiracy theory. However, the responses that have come over the past year comparing 1/6 to Pearl Harbour and 9/11 are deeply and truly delusional. Something can be bad, horrifying even without necessitating a near-constant comparison to two of the most timeline-altering events in American history.
To begin with, the scale of damage and consequences from 9/11 is almost unimaginably larger than those of 1/6. When the Twin Towers fell, America was spurned into a disastrous war with constantly shifting end goals (the few times goals were defined) and a series of manhunts with nearly anti-climatic results. Nearly one million lives were lost, the course of countless lives were irreconcilably shifted and many more ripples from the drastic expansion of the military-industrial complex are yet to be felt.
The comparison to Pearl Harbour is all the more inane given that Pearl Harbour literally caused America to step in and fight in World War II. Certainly, the war machine response to 9/11 was drastic, but it did not reimagine the entire American economy the way that the response to Pearl Harbour did. Whether it is the drastic increase in industrial production necessary to fight Nazi Germany and the Axis powers, or the shifting role of women in the workforce, the economic effects of WWII alone outway the effects of 1/6. All this before we consider the way that America was catapulted into its now receding position as the dominant world superpower given its nuclear weapons and its industrial capacity.
Again, this does not devalue the shock caused by 1/6, nor does it cheapen the rot that was exposed within the American psyche that day, but it should force us to reevaluate the anniversary more prudently and critically than the way that much of mainstream media has put forth their rendition of the event. I don’t doubt that for the capital police officers involved in the protection of the capital that day it was no less traumatizing than what was portrayed in this New York Times article. Nor do I think that the fear AOC and other members of congress narrated in the aftermath was overblown. However, it is increasingly unhelpful for us to understand, solve, and prevent the issues that led to 1/6 if we stay stuck on the fear of the moment.
Worse still, is the way that various media outlets have insisted on making their reporters, correspondents, friends, and all too often, themselves the main victims of the event. As Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti of Breaking Points outline, the sob story is wearing thin and likely an attempt to jin up views. Rather than the media’s fearful and trembling recollections, there should be significantly more focus on the recent polling data that 1 in 3 Americans (surveyed) can see the justification for violence against the government. Even my anarchist heart must pause at the spectre of such widely shared belief simply because this feeling is not uniformly pointed at the government or focused in a singular direction. Rather, it’s diffuse and is pointed in no small part at the thought of what the other side may do with power.
The Washington Post quotes a respondent named Anthea Ward who describes the world around her as “scary” before saying that: “It’s no longer a war against Democrats and Republicans. It’s a war between good and evil.” Maybe I am too biased or I have taken the wrong lessons from history, but when people do not see themselves as part of the shared exploited class that needs to rebel, but instead as part of the “good” side in the war against “evil,” the potential danger in justifying political violence quickly begins to outpace whatever argument for the good that could result from an uprising of the people.
Further, in the same Washington Post article, a man named Rob Redding expresses his concerns for the slipping equality in the American system. He explains his view by saying: “We are in a state where we’re going to have to arm ourselves, absolutely[…] I’m a Black man in America[…] I believe in protecting myself.” Now if there is one thing that I will not do, it’s downplay the fear of an African-American that arms may be the most necessary method to defending one’s life against threats; I understand and resonate quite strongly with that fear. However, it is not lost on me that the racial groups of the poor working class are equally exploited though differently directed as to who their exploiters are. If any group should understand that the true crimes leading to 1/6 were the insatiable appetite of the capitalist class and the failures of the government to properly correct for this exploitation, it should be African Americans. It is long since time the white working-class understand this too.
Yet the takeaway that has mostly absorbed the mainstream media and many on the left is the spectre of a second American civil war. The internet has been littered since 1/6 with tweets and articles reminding the world that Hitler failed his first attempt at taking power and was not properly punished for it, thusly leading the way for his eventual successful later attempt. The logic of this idea is clear: the first time was a failure, but when they come back, they might succeed. However, if you focus on this line of thinking long enough, the only possible choices are war or a surveillance state. Focussing on preventing a second attempt means you must either crush them before they try again or so strictly monitor their (the other sides) behaviour that any and every attempt will be sniffed out and squashed before it can amount to anything.
The possibility of a civil war is heralded by all too many unhinged rightwingers speaking their minds freely online and most unsettlingly, in public spaces. A recent Turning Point USA event saw a man stand up and ask openly “When do we get to use the guns? […] That’s not a joke.” Before that, a woman identified as Jodie on TikTok threatened “You’ve got millions and millions of gun owners that are ready to walk out and just start a complete [f-ing] blood bath and we’re beginning to wonder where our [f-ing] military [is].” The disturbing truth about these types of threats is that the right—and particularly those making the remarks—are capable and prepared to make good on these threats.
Should America devolve into a war between two halves (roughly) of its population, it would be a short and gruesome day as the majority of left-leaning people are completely unprepared if not incapable of responding to armed violence. The blue-haired post-secondary students and graduates who shout that whiteness is literally violence are wholly untrained for real violence. Worst still, given the historic success that white nationalist and white supremacist groups have had recruiting within and from the military, it seems all too likely that there would be some troops electing to join the so-called “patriots” side.
This leads me to ask, what has this new administration done to correct and address the ideas that led to Trump? Put in simpler terms: has Biden done what is necessary to fix even a smidgen of the problems that made Trump possible? Sadly, the answer is no. Biden has failed to address the issues that drastically weakened the middle class and riddling people with real economic anxiety. He has failed to address the worst parasitic and anti-worker aspects of the capitalist machine that has so thoroughly disillusioned the working poor and the middle class. He and his administration have been so thoroughly browbeaten by Joe Manchin that radio personality Charlamagne Tha God was forced to ask VP Kamala Harris if Manchin was the true president of the United States.
It seems like every moderate instinct in Joe Biden’s frailing body has led him to capitulate, back down and seek bi-partisan approval for everything, even when it goes against the stated desires of his presidency. Joe Biden has managed to compromise himself into a position where no political observer (or potential voter) can name a single positive reason to vote for Biden other than he’s not Trump. Biden has failed to realize that the important part of not being Trump is providing to people what Trump failed to provide; doing this would create a legitimate reason for people to show up and vote in the 2022 midterms and ultimately in the 2024 election.
1/6 came, scared millions, provided ample evidence as to why the abject and historic ongoing failures of the American system needed to be addressed and were met with zero intelligent action from the Democratic party. Worse still, they managed to fail so consistently at providing anything that it is almost pointless for a previous Democratic voter to show up at the next election. Why vote Democrat when they will do nothing for four years except function as a placeholder until the next Republican president? All that has been guaranteed is that Trump will have a screaming good shot at re-election should he run in 2024 and that if he were to lose, the response would almost doubtlessly overshadow 1/6.
It doesn’t seem to me like the Democrats got anything of worth from 1/6. Maybe hidden beneath the apparently unachievable Democratic agenda is a fatalist plan to so thoroughly fail America that Trump can step onto a debate stage and claim to be the more successful president, just so that they can run a comeback campaign four years later, promising nothing once again. Doing that must be easier than actually trying to address the problems that made Trump possible.