The stories from Wednesday should shake us: Members of Congress escaping the House and Senate floors moments before a mob broke through, barricading themselves in their offices or undisclosed locations for hours. Four people who stormed the building and one member of the Capitol Police department died. We are astonished that more lives weren’t lost: Had the pipe bombs detonated, had the molotov cocktails ignited, had the people who stormed the Capitol with heavy-grade zip ties in hand and a military-grade weapon encountered legislators they might have meant to abduct, the body count would have been much higher.
But we should not let those lucky escapes distract us. This was an attack on democracy, an attack on our election, an attack on our elected representatives — incited by the president himself and carried out, among others, by a particularly dangerous group of radical extremists.
Although the mob included several constituencies, ranging from Trump fans to believers in disproved QAnon conspiracies, one set of people involved should cause particular alarm. Among the crowd were activists from the white power movement, neo-Nazis, Proud Boys and other members of the militant right — people who have dedicated themselves to provoking race war and to the violent overthrow of the country. This week, they marched on the Capitol at the behest of the president. But there is no reason to think he can call them off or subdue their violence: Indeed, his halfhearted attempts to do so Wednesday had little effect. Nor do we believe his Thursday “concession” speech will curtail violent action.
Some conservative commentators and lawmakers suggested, falsely, that what happened Wednesday was a case of a peaceful pro-Trump protests being infiltrated by violent left-wing antifa activists. Experts quickly and resoundingly rejected that claim. Right-wing extremists organized their action long before Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol. They massed at statehouses across the country Wednesday, as well, showing a nationally coordinated movement.
That’s no surprise: Since the early 1980s, the white power movement has carried out a string of violent actions meant to destabilize the country and bring about civil strife. Some examples include assassinations and kidnappings of political enemies, federal judges and state troopers; coordinated bombings of synagogues, infrastructure targets and the Oklahoma City federal building; a sustained campaign of harassment and terror aimed at communities of color; and obtaining and training with stolen military weapons and explosives. [Continue reading…]