Why Didn't January 6 Force Moderation on the Republicans?Breaking News
tags: Republican Party, conservatism, far right, Capitol Riot, January 6
I remember watching the assault on the US Capitol last January in a state of complete disbelief. Even today, a year later, it’s hard to believe that it actually happened.
But I also remember thinking, once the shock of that day subsided, that the insurrection would be a transformative moment for the Republican Party. It simply had to be. The election lies, the inflammatory rhetoric, the misinformation — it all led to the violence that day. And if that wasn’t enough, the fact that people were marching through the Capitol building chanting “hang Mike Pence” seemed like it should’ve prompted a course correction from the GOP.
Instead, the Republican Party has become more extreme and more illiberal. We haven’t seen any eruptions of violence like the riot on January 6, but the GOP remains in thrall to Trump, Republicans across the country continue to believe the lies about the 2020 election, and the party appears to be laying the legal and rhetorical groundwork for something like an electoral coup in 2024.
So I reached out to Sam Adler-Bell, the co-host (along with Matthew Sitman) of the podcast Know Your Enemy, an indispensable listen for anyone interested in the conservative movement, and the author of a recent essay in the New Republic about the future of the American right.
Adler-Bell’s piece is about the intellectual foundations of a radical, post-liberal conservatism in the ascendant — a faction being called the “New Right.” They hate the Republican establishment and they’ve essentially abandoned liberal democracy. These are not the people who sacked the Capitol, but they are part of the climate that made that day possible in the first place. And while they may hold establishment Republicans in contempt, they’ve helped remake the party in their image.
Beyond the significance of January 6, 2021, and how America got to that point, Adler-Bell and I discuss the evolution of conservative media, why American conservatism is now a counter-revolutionary movement, and where he thinks the right can go from here.
A transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.
From our perch nearly a year later, how do you situate January 6 in the broader right-wing cosmology?
That’s a hard question. I’m not sure I have a fully satisfying take on how it all hangs together. I guess I think of January 6 as continuous with other events occurring among the illiberal right that have taken place over the course of 2020. So you could see versions of it in the occupations of state capitols in early 2020, where people were carrying rifles inside state legislature buildings. There’s definitely overlap between the militia groups that were involved in those protests and the organizations I’d call the vanguard of the January 6 protests.
I would say that the next phase was the mobilization of militia groups during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. That was a moment where organized militia groups traveled to cities where there were protests in order to stand guard and protect private property. But they were also there to menace protesters, to carry guns, and of course, as we saw in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, two people ended up dead and another maimed.
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