Amid the many extraordinary revelations at the commission’s prime-time first hearing Thursday, January 6, one stood out for its utter depravity: that during the attack, when rioters chanted “Hang on Mike Pence” in the halls of the Capitol, President Donald Trump suggested that the mob He really should have his deputy executed.
“Maybe our supporters have the right idea,” he said, according to a committee source. ” [Mike Pence] Deserves it. »
Endorsing violence is nothing new for Trump. It’s something he’s done over and over, often in an supposedly gentle tone. Mais le commentaire rapporté du 6 janvier est qualitativement pire compte tenu du contexte: venant à la fois au milieu d’une véritable attaque violente qu’il a aidé à alicenter et d’une autre qu’il n’a pas fait grand-cho to stop. The commission found that the president took no action to defend the Capitol, not call in the National Guard, or even speak to the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security.
While he de facto ordered a mob rampage, he privately advocated the more violent stated aim of the people he recognized as “us supporters”.
Throughout Trump’s presidency, there has been a heated debate among critics about whether calling him a “fascist” is accurate. One of the strongest counterarguments, that his political movement did not include the kind of street violence that characterizes Italian and German fascism, was undermined on January 6 – although some scholars still argue that the term is somewhat inaccurate.
But when a gang leader incites an attack on democracy in an attempt to maintain his hold on power in defiance of the democratic order, and then privately refuses to stop them while agreeing to the murderous goals of the people he claims to be his supporters, it is hard to see him as anything but the leader of a violent anti-democratic movement. With strong similarities with interwar fascism.
This does not prove that fascism is, in all respects, a perfect analogy to the Trump presidency. However, when it comes to analysis of January 6, Trump’s behavior and the Republican Party’s broader reaction to the event, last night’s hearing demonstrated that the analogy can be not only relevant, but also useful.
January 6th is the culmination of a long history of fascist rhetoric
in Anatomy of an outbreakColumbia University historian Robert Paxton provides a fairly clear definition of political leaning:
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with the decline, humiliation or harm of society, and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass party of committed patriotic militants operate under difficult conditions. But effective cooperation with traditional elites, the abandonment of democratic freedoms and the pursuit of countervailing violence and without moral or legal constraints the goals of internal purification and external expansion.
Most of these elements seem to get along well with Trumpism. “The obsessive preoccupation with the decline, humiliation, or harm of society?” examines. “Supplementary sects for unity, energy, and purity?” examines. “Tough but Effective Collaboration with Traditional Elites? Examines.” Without Ethical or Legal Constraints? Check, check and check.
Violence has been a major factor that has been missing, at least for most of Trump’s presidency. Paxton’s definition emphasizes the centralization of power in fascist politics: that a “mass party of committed patriotic militants” uses “reparatory violence” to pursue “the goals of internal purification and external expansion”.
However, Trump has always been personally fond of political violence. In a 1990 interview with Playboy, he praised the Chinese government’s violent suppression of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.
“When the students flocked to Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew everything up,” Trump said. “Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they suppressed it forcefully. It shows you the power of strength.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump suggested that “Second Amendment members” could be justified in assassinating Hillary Clinton if she won the race. He repeatedly encouraged his supporters to attack hostile protesters, even offering to pay their legal costs. The dangers were clear. During the Republican primaries, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) warned that his language could lead to mass violence:
This is a man who at rallies told his supporters to beat up people in the crowd and that he would pay their legal fees, and he is someone who has encouraged the public to bully anyone who stands up and says something they don’t like. …
But leaders cannot say what they want, because words have consequences. They lead to actions taken by others. And when the person you’re supporting walks around for president and says things like, “Go ahead and slap them, I’ll pay your attorney,” what do you think is going to happen next?
During his presidency, his fascination with extrajudicial violence returned time and time again.
In 2017, some white supremacists described Charlottesville as “very good people”. At a rally in 2019, he “jokingly” about shooting migrants at the border, to cheers from the crowd. In a 2020 tweet, he used the apartheid-era slogan to call for violence against the George Floyd protests (“When the looting starts, the shooting starts”). During a presidential debate with Joe Biden, Trump told The Proud Boys — a far-right militia that would later lead the attack on the Capitol — to “step back and walk away.”
What this dossier shows is that the possibility that a Trump-led political movement could lead to bloodshed has always existed. The president appears to have believed in the purging and compensating power of violence. It has been a feature of his thinking for years, even decades. The fact that he sometimes makes these comments as jokes, or even retracts after making them, is a feature of fringe right-wing political movements – which often present their most extreme positions in a cynical tone that allows their followers to embrace extremist ideas simultaneously. while they are away.
The question for Trump was whether his fascination with violence would manifest itself in any mass movement: that he would take sides in illegal violent actions designed to secure his grip on power.
This, of course, happened on January 6. But as events unfolded, there was important information we did not know: the extent to which Trump intended to encourage violence and how he reacted as it happened. It was happening in real time.
On the first point, Committee Chair Benny Thompson (D-MS) suggested in an interview They had evidence that Trump’s team was in direct contact with the Pride Boys and the Divisional Guards, the other militia that led the attack. They did not give their testimony last night. exist Also a guide Trump’s subordinates will not allow him to communicate directly with extremist groups. It is therefore difficult to assess the question of intent at this time.
But on the second point, the commission’s evidence is overwhelming. The comment on Pence’s hanging, along with a refusal to do anything to stop the violence, strongly suggests that the president was okay with the violence continuing: he saw it as furthering his cause. It is undoubtedly a fascist.
Is the label “fascism” important?
Like my colleague Dylan Matthews, I’ve always hesitated to call Trump a fascist.
Unlike the fascists of the interwar period, Trump did not offer an ideological alternative to liberal democracy that included the abolition of elections – in fact, he did not seem to have a coherent ideology at all. The biggest threat the Trump-led Republican Party poses to democracy is not the outright overthrow of democracy, but the overthrow of democracy from within — an end game much like Jim Crow South or Hungary. More contemporary than Nazi Germany. There is a real concern, in my opinion, that an overemphasis on the interwar paradigm might hold us back in a discussion about definition that distracts from the more resonant and informative similarities.
But when we’re talking specifically about January 6th, the analogy with the outbreak is really helpful.
Events such as the March of 1922 in Rome or the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 help us understand how attempts to seize power by force—even those that failed like the coup—can play a role in the rise of right-wing extremist movements. They help us understand the explanatory and organizing power of violence, and how banding together to harm others can help entrench dangerous political tendencies.
This helps us understand the potential for a repeat of the violence, especially given the ongoing whitewashing of the Republican Party’s mainstream on January 6.
One of the defining elements of fascist dominance in the interwar period was the complicity of conservative elites – their belief that they could manipulate fascist movements for their own ends, strengthening those movements while remaining in control. This is exactly how the mainstream Republican Party has dealt with Trump, even after a violent power grab has revealed how far he is willing to go to retain power.
In the midst of last night’s hearing, the official Republican Twitter account of the House Judiciary Committee repeatedly derided and downplayed the committee’s hearing — even going so far as to call it “old news.”
everybody. Old. new.
Republican Judicial Council (JudicialGOP) June 10, 2022
Of course not. Although some of the information that was revealed has been telegraphed broadly through leaks, including comments about Pence’s hanging, details have yet to be made public – and there have been many discoveries that were simply new.
But the problem here is not a factual inaccuracy on the part of the House Republican Party. It was the case that the official organs of the Republican Party saw it as their job to cover up Trump, even as evidence emerged that he was literally proposing the lynching of a Republican vice president. Lessons from the interwar period, and certainly the long history of alliances of traditional conservative parties with radicals, seem completely lost on the Republican leadership.
Which is why, in the end, using fascism as a framework for understanding January 6th is worthwhile. This frank alliance of political violence with the attempt to seize power by force is so horrific—so shocking that it merits comparisons to what is universally considered the darkest moment in the history of Western democracy.
That these parallels are not perfect in every respect does not make it unreasonable to draw them out or to look for lessons in how to think about the future.