On Jan. 6, Donald Trump's followers launched an attack on the U.S. Capitol. This was part of a larger coup attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election and end America's multiracial democracy. Trump's forces carried Confederate flags and a Christian fascist cross, and were adorned with neo-Nazi, KKK and other white supremacist regalia. Many were believers in the antisemitic QAnon conspiracy theory. The forces that overran the Capitol that day had various weapons — although fortunately relatively few firearms. A weapons cache that included homemade explosives was also discovered nearby.
Trump's terrorist force intended to stop the certification of Joe Biden as winner of the 2020 presidential election. Part of their plot involved "arresting" then-Vice President Mike Pence as well as senior Democratic members of Congress, and perhaps also those Republicans deemed "traitors" or "enemies" by the Trump movement. The mob would have in all likelihood followed through on its threats to execute those people, perhaps using the functioning gallows that had been constructed on the Capitol grounds.
Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to establish an independent commission to investigate these events, 252-175, with only 35 Republicans voting in support of the bill. Senior Republicans in the Senate have announced that they oppose the creation of such a commission, and possess the power to block the legislation with a filibuster. It appears highly unlikely that such a commission will ever be convened by Congress.
By refusing to investigate Donald Trump's coup attempt and the Capitol attack, today's Republican Party has shown itself (again) to be a terrorist organization.
In a recent op-ed for USA Today, David Mastio summons the horrific terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to make a powerful comparison to the events of Jan. 6 — and by implication Donald Trump and the Republican Party's betrayal of the United States:
After 9/11, the leaders, financiers and backers of the terrorists had had their one shot at tearing America down. Their only hope was to hide in caves and pray we wouldn't find them. After Jan. 6, the leaders, financiers and backers of the insurrection feel no such fear. Trump is plotting his comeback in Mar-a-Lago. Fox News is busily rewriting the history of Jan. 6. The members of the House and Senate who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election are plotting to take over Congress so they can control the results next time.
As surely as the terrorists of 9/11 wanted to tear down American democracy in 2001, the terrorists of Jan. 6 want to tear down our democracy as well, even as they pose as its defenders. And unlike the Sept. 11 attackers, they are going to get another chance.
I hope there are some Trump supporters who can be shocked out of their destructive fealty to a man who would put his ego before American democracy even if his agenda costs people their lives.
Yes, 9/11 cost many more lives than Jan. 6 has so far, but comparing the two attacks is reasonable because the Big Lie is more dangerous to our way of life than the 2001 terrorists' medieval ideology ever was.
Numerous people within the Republican Party aided and abetted the Jan. 6 coup attempt and attack on the Capitol. As part of a much larger pattern of stochastic terrorism, leading Republicans and their allies in the right-wing media incited and encouraged the violence of that day. It seems more likely than not that Republican members of Congress were co-conspirators in Trump's coup attempt and attack on the Capitol.
This is the most basic and fundamental reason why Republicans do not want an independent commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6: Such an investigation would reveal the extent of their culpability.
In total, this is the behavior of a political crime family, with Donald Trump as the ruling boss who demands absolute fealty. Last Tuesday, Trump issued the following edict to his soldiers in Congress:
Republicans in the House and Senate should not approve the Democrat trap of the January 6 Commission. It is just more partisan unfairness and unless the murders, riots, and fire bombings in Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago, and New York are also going to be studied, this discussion should be ended immediately. Republicans must get much tougher and much smarter, and stop being used by the Radical Left. Hopefully, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are listening!
To this point, Trump's Republicans are dutifully following his orders.
Criminal organizations value loyalty above all other things. This explains why "snitches" such as Rep. Liz Cheney are being purged, along with other Republicans who refuse to be silent about Donald Trump and his party's crimes against democracy.
Fascist-authoritarian organizations such as the Republican Party encourage and participate in what is known as "criminogenic politics." In his essay "Criminogenic Politics as a Form of Psychosis in the Age of Trump," philosopher Henry A. Giroux offers this explanation of the relationship between this phenomenon and Trumpism:
In its late stages, capitalism morphs into a form of neoliberal fascism. In this instance, the structural misery produced by capitalism via its destruction of the welfare state, safety net, and its growing investment in accelerating inequality and criminalizing all social problems merges with the theater of racism, racial cleansing, hyper-masculinity, ultra-nationalism, militarism, scapegoating the vulnerable, and the politics of disposability. Cruelty and hate now become a badge of honor among the financial, political, and corporate elite. One consequence is not merely a criminogenic political and economic system, but a state of barbarism that reflects a death-dealing psychosis among political leaders such as Trump and [Brazilian president] Bolsonaro. We have seen such things in the form of the Trump regime's corruption, legal theft, and other criminal behavior both by Trump himself, his inner circle, other Republicans and members of the right-wing movement.
Republican criminogenic politics is also embodied in the crimes committed by leading Republican officials, and the party's broad tolerance, if not celebration, of such behavior. These offenses have included sexual assault and rape, terrorist threats and street violence, financial corruption, vote theft and other election crimes, apparent treason and extortion, among many other actual or probable examples.
In addition to being a crime family, the contemporary Republican Party can be described as a political cult. Destructive cult groups often commit crimes against their own members as well as outsiders and society more generally.
Joe Biden may now be president, but Trump's followers reject that fact and remain staunchly loyal to him.
Ultimately, the Trump-controlled Republican Party's embrace of terrorism, white supremacy, crime and corruption and other antisocial and anti-human behavior represents the normalization of deviance in American society. For at least four years, the Trump regime and the larger neofascist movement permitted or encouraged the worst aspects of human behavior.
Biden and the Democrats have done an admirable job of confronting the coronavirus pandemic and the economic ruin and human misery it has caused. Biden is also working to advance a surprisingly progressive economic agenda, which is long overdue. But make no mistake: Trumpism endures and is continuing to grow as a threat to American democracy.
Neofascism and authoritarianism are cultural forces, perhaps more than strictly political movements. In that sense, American culture is sick, and it will require a great reckoning to fully heal. Correctly identifying, confronting and defeating the Republican Party and larger right-wing movement as a corrupt, criminal and existentially dangerous threat to American democracy and freedom is the first step in that long journey of national recovery. We are running out of time to begin that journey.