Of all the painful and grotesque images from January 6, the most important was the sight of a bearded man in jeans proudly carrying the flag of treason through the Capitol. It taught us that the evils of that day—which will live in infamy no less than December 7—were old evils. The Confederate battle flag was the symbol of secession, of treason, of chattel slavery, and, in the years after the Civil War, of lies, and grievance, and hate. It is nothing new.
We should not be surprised that of the eight senators who, even after the mob assault on the Capitol, voted to overturn a fair election, five hail from the states of the Confederacy and one, the ringleader, from a border state that had to be pinned to the Union with bayonets. It is no surprise that Confederate insignia were in evidence outside the Capitol as well. For that matter, it should be no surprise that a rioter wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase Camp Auschwitz joined the fray. There was a Nazi rally in Madison Square Garden in February 1939, for which 20,000 people showed up.
There is nothing new about violence in the Capitol. On May 22, 1856, Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina attacked Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts with a stick, beating him mercilessly while Sumner was pinned to his desk. There is nothing new about the kind of man who would do that, because Brooks, who received accolades throughout the South and a veritable forest of canes sent as gifts, backed out of a duel with Representative Anson Burlingame of Massachusetts when he learned that the latter was a good shot. Like the bully boys now trembling at the thought of an FBI knock at the door, he was, at his core, a coward.