Adam Serwer: The Capitol riot was an attack on multiracial democracy
The Fox News host Tucker Carlson, for instance, while condemning political violence last night, implored his viewers to ask why it was happening. His theory is that political violence happens when a population believes that its elections are fraudulent and that democracy is a charade. Why would they think that? “It’s happened in countless other countries, for countless centuries,” he said, “and the cycle is always the same because human nature never changes. ‘Listen to us!’ screams the population. ‘Shut up and do what you’re told,’ reply their leaders.”
Carlson did not mention that Trump lied to his supporters before and after the 2020 election, telling them premeditated falsehoods calculated to make them regard it as fraudulent. That is a hugely important part of the story, and Carlson must know that no frank accounting of the day can elide it. The leader of their country didn’t tell them to shut up. He told them that he won the election in a landslide and that they needed to fight against a “steal.”
Or consider the strikingly vague statement that the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank, released on Twitter after the storming of the Capitol. “As we published in May when violent protests erupted, so we write again,” the tweet declared, “America must have a full accounting of how today’s riots happened, who made them happen, and who let them happen. Those in power must be held to account.” But the most responsible party is already known. Again, Trump told many lies about the election to his supporters, urged them to come to Washington on the pretext that his lies were true, spoke to them Wednesday morning, and urged them to go over to the Capitol building, where, in his false telling, members of Congress were stealing democracy from the people.
At The Federalist, in an article doling out blame for what happened at the Capitol, Ben Domenech indicted the left for its treatment of the Tea Party and Romney, the iconoclasm of Black Lives Matter, the unpreparedness of the Capitol Police, and more. But when it came to the president, he wrote, “blaming this on Donald Trump isn’t just too simplistic, it’s whistling past the graveyard of our norms. Of course, he egged on his crowd to go up to the Capitol and be loud and irritating. But he didn’t tell them to break down doors and crash the gates, and he didn’t need to. Blaming this on Trump assumes this type of attitude will go away when Trump himself does.”
That does not follow––one should give a full accounting of Trump’s role in the storming of the Capitol whether or not the “attitude” of insurrection will remain after he’s gone. Trump’s role, besides, far exceeds merely egging people on to march to the Capitol. Trump and his allies spent years telling followers blatant falsehoods directly relevant to the false belief that the election was stolen from him.