The Four-Year Assault

Adam Shatz in the LRB:

So this​ is how it ends. Four years of rage and lies; four years of racism and xenophobia so coarse and inflammatory Richard Nixon might have blushed; four years of dismantling economic and environmental regulation, packaged as a populist revolution on behalf of the forgotten (white) American; four years of ‘law and order’ indistinguishable from moral and political disorder; four years of war against the media, ‘globalists’, ‘elites’ and other ‘enemies of the people’, which is to say his people, or rather his loyalists; four years of contempt for the vulnerable, whether Muslims, undocumented immigrants, Black victims of police brutality or those afflicted with Covid-19; four years of garish exhibitionism parading as leadership – four years of Donald Trump in power have led to the bizarre and grotesque spectacle of 6 January.

To call the explosion of the mob that took over the Capitol building an attempted coup, or an insurrection, is unfair to the plotters of coups and insurrections. Like the man who egged them on in a speech that morning – and who had spent the last two months refusing to concede the election, going so far as to order Georgia’s secretary of state to ‘find’ votes to overturn the outcome – the revellers in DC were practitioners of what political scientists call ‘expressive’ politics, capable only of defiant stonewalling and destructiveness. Some had arrived in full Civil War re-enactment regalia, carrying rifles and Confederate flags. Others looked as if they were auditioning for a sequel to The Big Lebowski, notably the ‘QAnon shaman’, Jake Angeli, a tattooed, shirtless man who strutted through the chambers of the Capitol with horns on his head and red, white and blue paint on his face. And then there were the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and militia members, the ‘fine people’ of Charlottesville. For all their shouts of ‘USAUSA,’ they represented a furious, desperate, lumpen minority unwilling, or unable, to accept defeat – or the ‘surrender’ of Trump’s Republican collaborators, who could no longer go on pretending that Joe Biden hadn’t won, especially when they realised the potential political costs of doing so.

More here.