Last night, Charles Pierce penned a warning to Esquire readers: American Plutocracy Would Adapt Swiftly and Smoothly to American Authoritarianism. "Corporations would line up to play the role of Krupp or IG Farben in Steve Bannon’s 100-year Reich. Some of them actually would prefer it, just as it was industrialists and bankers who sought to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. From the Washington Post:
Eventually, MacGuire laid it all out: He was working for a group of mega-rich businessmen with access to $300 million to bankroll a coup. They would plant stories in the press about Roosevelt being overwhelmed and in bad health…A few weeks later, news of a new conservative lobbying group called the American Liberty League broke. Its members included J.P. Morgan Jr., Irénée du Pont and the CEOs of General Motors, Birds Eye and General Foods, among others. Together they held near $40 billion in assets, Denton said-- about $778 billion today.
"Counting on the essential patriotism of American corporations," concluded Pierce, "has been a sucker’s game for a long time." I don't doubt Washington Post writer James Hohmann would agree with Pierce entirely. Yesterday evening, The Post published a column he wrote, Political Violence Is In Our DNA. Can We Avoid More Of It?. He takes a dismal view of the role political violence has played in American history. "Political violence," he wrote, "has always been contagious-- inspiring copycats, encouraging ideologues to embrace the tactics of their opponents and spawning a crushing spiral of tit-for-tat escalation. From Bleeding Kansas to Bloody Sunday, from the Colfax Massacre to Charlottesville, political violence has long been a feature of the American experience... [W]e’ve never outgrown our own brutish tendencies. Pretending Jan. 6 was a singular event risks a dangerous complacency."
Trump didn’t just incite an insurrection last January as he clung to power. During the years leading up to the attack on the Capitol, he helped usher in a new era of militancy. The number of threats aimed at members of Congress rose from fewer than 4,000 in 2017 to 9,600 in 2021. The FBI says there are about 2,700 open investigations into violent extremism at home, up from 1,000 in the spring of 2020. The latest Washington Post-University of Maryland poll shows 34 percent of Americans say violent action against the government is sometimes justified, more than double what surveys showed in 2010.
You can draw a fairly straight line back from the Capitol rioters, some of whom paraded with Confederate flags, to the Southerners who pummeled abolitionists on the floor of the House and Senate during the decades before the Civil War. The members of the 2021 mob were the descendants-- spiritually, if not literally-- of Know-Nothings and Klansmen.
...Yale historian Joanne Freeman documented more than 70 incidents of violence between lawmakers from 1830 to 1860, from duels to brawls on the House floor. Most notoriously, in 1856, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina hit Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts with a cane at least a dozen times-- nearly killing him-- over a speech decrying the conduct of the slavocracy.
Political violence cooled a bit following the Civil War, but increased again as Northern voters lost the will to enforce civil rights for African Americans. After the contested 1876 election, President Ulysses Grant mobilized the military to defend the Capitol if it was besieged by supporters of Samuel Tilden.
In a compromise, Republicans kept the White House in exchange for ending Reconstruction. This paved the way for Jim Crow laws and another century of terrorism against Blacks. The NAACP documented nearly 5,000 lynchings from the 1880s to the 1960s.
The civil rights movement led to a new era of violence against African Americans, which helped prompt new federal protections, which again led to backlash.
But the notion that our contemporary era has been mostly free of political violence is incorrect; if anything, violence has increased of late. In 2017, a gunman who hated Trump deliberately targeted Republican congressmen as they practiced for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, wounding the House majority whip before dying in a firefight with police. On the eve of the 2018 midterms, a Trump super fan mailed pipe bombs to 16 people he believed had treated the president unfairly. Authorities announced they’d foiled a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) a few months after Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”
Last August, a North Carolina man demanding Trump be returned to power parked outside the Library of Congress and claimed his pickup truck was full of explosives. Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-AZ) was recently censured by the House on a mostly party-line vote for posting an animated video depicting himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
The Justice Department estimates that as many as 2,500 people could ultimately be charged with federal crimes related to the attack on the Capitol; so far, only 704 have faced prosecution. Attorney General Merrick Garland asked Wednesday for the public’s help identifying hundreds of suspects who were photographed but haven’t been arrested, including about 250 who are believed to have assaulted police officers. Especially worrisome is that no one has been apprehended for placing pipe bombs with timers outside the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee.
Hohmann concluded that "Our tradition of political violence is in our DNA. And it is unlikely to end in this recent and deadly chapter. The problem is that along with a historical tendency for political violence, Americans have never been as heavily armed as they are now. A report today by Everytown for Gun Safety noted that "While most demonstrations in the country have remained peaceful, analysis of the data reveal clear patterns and characteristics that raise the risk of violent or destructive activity during public gatherings, including easy access to firearms. Armed demonstrations comprise nearly 10% of all violent or destructive demonstrations in the United States, and are violent or destructive six times more often than unarmed demonstrations. Contrary to claims that the presence of guns in public spaces makes people safer, demonstrations involving at least one armed individual tend to be violent or destructive 16% of the time...[A]rmed demonstrations are nearly six times as likely to turn violent or destructive compared to unarmed demonstrations. In addition, the majority of armed demonstrations have been driven by far-right mobilization and reactions to left-wing activism, such as opposition to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, support for former President Donald Trump, opposition to gun regulations, and opposition to pandemic-related public health restrictions... Militia groups and militant social movements, like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters, are active in over 54% of all armed demonstrations. Further, demonstrations in states that permit the open carry of firearms were more than five times as likely to have an armed presence at demonstrations."
David Neiwert knows of what he's talking-- and it's important to watch it so you're prepared when some neo-Nazi sympathizer claims that there is violence on both sides: