Following the insurrection at the Capitol, the FBI classified the Proud Boys as a terrorist group. Even prior to the attack on our democracy, the FBI warned Congress of the threat posed by domestic terrorists. But no one in the Trump administration or in the GOP seemed to listen. Why? Because they had been inspiring domestic terrorists for many years.
Indeed, I believe the violent insurrection of January 6, was the inevitable result of decades of racist, anti-Democrat, anti-government rhetoric.
For example, the GOP reached out to white supremacists as early as the 1960s. The so-called southern strategy was to embrace southern racists who were unhappy with Democrats following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Racists have been a reliable part of the Republican base ever since.
In 1968, Nixon and Agnew ran as “law and order” candidates as a way of courting white voters. (Ironic isn’t it, given their own crimes?) In 1980, Ronald Reagan served up racist dog whistles to assure southern support. And, by ending the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, he made the rightwing propaganda network possible, opening the airwaves to people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Levin, Jeanine Pirro, Sean Hannity, and others to spout anti-government, anti-immigrant, and anti-Democrat hate 24/7. As more Americans tuned in to their hateful rants, the GOP lurched further and further to the extreme right. But not even those hatemongers could have envisioned what was to come.
Once Alex Jones entered the arena in 1999, the Republican Party began its descent into the dark sewers of politics. Jones used his InfoWars radio platform to peddle bizarre conspiracy theories and mostly worthless junk. InfoWars made Jones rich. But it also incited the lunatic fringe, which by then had become the base of the Republican Party. He claimed President Obama was a foreign-born Muslim terrorist. He dismissed mass shootings, including the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook Elementary, as “false flag” events staged by Democrats and liberals in order to institute gun control measures. He claimed a US military training exercise in the Southwest was an Obama plot to institute Sharia law. A master of getting attention, he further convinced his followers that Democrats and liberals were the root of all their problems; that they were actively trying to destroy America.
The rhetoric of Jones and the rest of the Republican propaganda network led to a series of angry confrontations between elected officials and armed Tea Partiers at Town Hall Meetings. It likely inspired the armed confrontation between the Oath Keepers and Bureau of Land Management officers at Cliven Bundy’s “ranch.” It almost certainly led to the armed standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
These events seemed to serve as preliminaries for the insurrection to come and ushered in the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
From the time Trump descended his faux gold escalator to announce his candidacy, he pandered to racists by labeling immigrants as rapists, murderers, and thugs. And by calling for an end to political correctness, he was emboldening white supremist groups that were inclined to violence. In cities and towns nationwide, people of color were subjected to verbal and physical abuse as never before. People were berated, told to go back to where they came from, and beaten or killed. Brown babies were ripped from their parents’ arms and thrown in cages. Refugees from predominately black and brown countries were banned from entry. The violence of the racist mob in Charlottesville was dismissed by Trump stating there were “fine people on both sides.” Black Lives Matter protestors were called “very bad people” and “thugs.” And the almost mythical Antifa (short for Antifascists) was called worse.
Throughout, the NRA has continued to provide arms to potential terrorists and insurrectionists under the guise of freedom. Acting as a carnival barker for the gun industry, it pushed for more permissive gun laws and ever more lethal weaponry as a “guard against tyranny.” It made violent militias such as the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois, the Oath Keepers, QAnon, and others possible. And it supported the campaigns of increasingly anti-American GOP candidates such as Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Debbie Lesko, Jay Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Josh Hawley, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
All of these people and organizations, as well as the billionaires who fund them, set the stage for the violent attempt to overthrow our democracy in favor of an autocracy to be led by president-for-life Trump.
Trump and his GOP enablers called his electoral defeat the result of fraudulent voting. They incited their violent followers to overturn the election using rightwing media as their megaphone. They told them to fight, to march to the Capitol and take back their country. Alex Jones and others called for a civil war against liberals and Democrats. And those who were inspired to attack the Capitol and Congress, were armed by guns made available by the NRA.
They are terrorists, plain and simple, who have caused more harm to Americans than al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban combined. If they were Muslim or a foreign-based terrorist group, we would be readying drone strikes or preparing for all-out war. Instead, Republicans are asking us to move on, to simply forgive and forget. That is not only unrealistic. It’s unthinkable. All of them should and must be held accountable.