What January 6 revealed about the attack on multiracial democracy

The noose and the gallows.

The revivalists of the Confederate army.

The gestures of the hand of white power.

Spurred on by then-President Donald Trump, the January 6 insurgents targeted not only democracy, but also multiracial the democracy. The siege of the US Capitol is part of a history of white reaction, as a new effort to maintain a strict racial order.
A year later, as the House select committee investigates the attack and many Republican-led state legislatures enact laws that limit black Americans’ access to the polls, it is worth considering examine how January 6 lives up in national politics and explore what that day might reveal about race in the United States.

The new lost cause

One way to understand January 6 is through the prism of American mythology.

In the late 1800s, the lost cause myth gained popularity. It was an attempt to revise history at least in part by requalifying as honorable and valiant men the men who went to war to support the Confederacy – an undemocratic nation-state whose very existence depended on the servitude of the people. of African descent.

A similar speech unfolded in the months following January 6, as people on the political right – from lawmakers to shocking sportsmen – seek to portray as the “real” Americans those who, at Trump’s urging , stormed the seat of the US government. in an effort to nullify Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.

Not surprisingly, the insurgents – more than 700 of whom have been indicted by the Justice Department in connection with the assault – have embraced the fantasy that they are patriots wrongly targeted by the government.
“It has a lot of the same attributes (like lost cause),” Seyward Darby, author of the 2020 book “Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism,” told CNN, referring to Jan.6. “There are these notions of, ‘We were trying to do the right thing. We were trying to do the noble thing. We were trying to do the right thing. American thing. And we have been blocked by these forces who want to radically change the shape of the country. ‘”

Hakeem Jefferson, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University whose research focuses on the role identity plays in shaping political behavior, echoed some of Darby’s sentiments. He pointed out that January 6 was a racial calculation – vs the multiracial coalition that installed Biden in the White House, and vs the alleged strength of black voters.

“When we think of January 6, we can’t disconnect it from claims by Trump and other Republican elites that there was voter fraud in predominantly black cities,” Jefferson said. “January 6 was an attempt by a declining white majority to maintain political power, whatever the means.”

Part of a larger attack on democracy

Indeed, it would be a mistake to regard January 6 as a singular event, or as separate from the rest of the political maneuvers defining the current political season.

After all, Republican lawmakers haven’t stopped praising the insurgents. They directed their powers towards weakening multiracial democracy, using tools like aggressive gerrymanders and, perhaps more visibly, voting restrictions.
Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 7, lawmakers in at least 19 states passed 34 laws that make it harder to vote, according to a recent tally from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. Much of this political game disproportionately disadvantages voters of color, especially black voters.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers have failed to pass legislation that could protect franchise access.

What the country saw on January 6 was “a battle for the place of whites and what appears to be a shifting racial hierarchy,” Jefferson said. “It was the fear of this change in status that formed the basis for January 6. But it is also the basis for other less aggressive attacks on democracy that come from attempts by the Republican legislatures to subvert the will of the people.”

Darby put it in equally blunt terms.

“January 6 is something that people can think of as a lost cause and that they can talk about symbolically,” she said. “But it’s also part of a larger war. Thinking about it that way, for me, is really the only way to get a complete picture of where we are at and where we’re headed.”

Where does the United States go from here?

Is it possible to contain these darker forces – the rage and resentment of the whites who fueled January 6 and who, certainly now, are supporting the Republican Party? It’s hard to say.

On the one hand, in many state elections, the GOP does not require membership of multiracial coalitions, so it may bow to the preferences of more conservative white voters.

“This is one of the unfortunate aspects of American politics,” Jefferson explained. “Because the Republican Party does not see itself as a party in need of the support of blacks or the support of other racial and ethnic minorities at a serious level, it can organize a political and rhetorical program that is truly in line with the interests of the ultraconservatives. , racist voters. “

Jefferson continued, “My fear, not as a supporter but as someone who cares deeply about this country, is that the Republican Party is going to continue, for the foreseeable future, to bet on this kind of resentful politics and white grievances. “

Eliminating Senate filibustering, curbing partisan gerrymanders, prohibiting state officials from corrupting the vote counting process: these are some of the ways to tackle the current crisis. Other: break with the two-party system.

The outdated political structure of the United States, dominated by the two main parties, keeps diverse representation and fair pluralism out of reach, and in fact helps to pave the way for the GOP by representing only a narrow minority of voters. – mainly white preservatives.
“As long as we maintain our two-party system and maintain the win-win electoral institutions that form steep barriers for new parties, there is no way out of this catastrophic loop,” Lee Drutman, senior researcher in the department. Political Reform Program at New America, written for CNN’s Race Deconstructed newsletter last month.

What the United States needs, added Drutman, “is transformative electoral reform: proportional representation that will open the door to new parties and ensure that an illiberal minority cannot gain majority power.” .

Reform of this degree may seem unlikely, given America’s fierce political divisions, but it may well be one of the country’s few hopes for charting the way forward.