On January 6th, as Congress was supposed to certify the electoral college votes for president, crowds of Trump supporters stormed the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., attempting to intimidate members of Congress to invalidate the results of the 2020 Presidential election.
It began with a rally called “Save America,” at which Trump and his cronies whipped up a crowd of as many as 10,000 supporters with lies and exaggerations about the credibility of the election, and warned again and again that so-called democracy was being stolen from them and must be protected. In his speech at the rally, Rudy Giuliani even yelled to the crowd that it was time for a “trial by combat.”
At the same time, inside the Capitol, more than one hundred Republican Senators and Representatives were defending Trump’s unsupported claims of election fraud. Their political theater is really nothing more than pathetic attempts to show their loyalty to Trump in the hopes it will help them in their future reelection efforts.
After the rally, and after being egged on by Trump, thousands of the attendees marched to the Capitol Building, took over the steps and perimeter as hundreds got into the building, breaking windows and vandalizing offices and the Senate floor. Politicians, Capitol staff, and journalists went into hiding. At least one Trump protestor was shot and killed by Capitol police as she tried to climb through a window. Her blood is on the hands of Trump and the Republican Senators and Representatives who encouraged this protest.
It is easy to look at many of the protesters and express scorn, to write most of them off as delusional or racist or gun-toting white men, and repeat all the typical stereotypes. After all, some of them even identify as such, as they are members of far-right, racist, white nationalist and neo-fascist groups like Proud Boys, Three Percenters, the Oathkeepers, and other groups with far-right repulsive ideas. But many others present may denounce those ideas, and are there only because they have swallowed all of the lies of Trump and his cronies.
This protest didn’t come out of nowhere. Trump and many Republican politicians have been playing on the fears of many people, calling this election a fraud for months. So they answered Trump’s call — their president’s call — to come to Washington to save democracy. Some are clearly white nationalist, neo-fascists. But most are desperate to grasp onto something. And for them, Trump offers some sort of hope, or at least a stance against a system that has brought chaos and grief into their lives.
For years they have been left behind by this system that has made the super rich even richer at the expense of all working people. Just as it has done to the working class as a whole, this system has thrown some of these people out of work or slashed their wages, jacked up their costs of living, cut their pensions, increased their unemployment, raised their retirement age, and made their futures more insecure. Like many working people across the country, many of these protestors too have watched as their communities have been emptied of jobs and stability. And for years, they have seen the same politicians, the same government, make all their promises and deliver on none of them while supporting the banks and big corporations at every turn.
But instead of that understandable rage being turned against this system and finding commonality with other working people who have been attacked in similar ways, they have been played by Trump. Their anger has been twisted around, injected with racism, and redirected at immigrants, women, Muslims. It has been further intensified with Trump’s lies about the coronavirus, and taken aim at scientists and at public health experts. And now, Trump has channeled it into his last ditch desperate attempt to hang onto office by painting the election as a fraud.
For years, it was Fox News pundits who have been the main loudspeaker for Trump to carry this out. And now, as Fox hasn’t gone along with Trump’s denial of the election, One America News, Newsmax, along with longtime loyalists like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and other highly paid, right-wing propagandists are the ones to whip up the chaos in support of Trump.
This protest reflects the growing divisions in the population, especially in the working class. We are caught in a situation where most people don’t see an alternative to serving a system that makes a few people rich at our expense.
Our challenge is to see the world as it is and not be limited to the political choices held out by the Democrats and Republicans. We have a common interest with all working people, regardless of where they work, where they come from or what they look like. We have a choice: we can either recognize our common interests and come together, or we can continue to get played by those in power while we take each other down in the process. The choice should be clear.