Each Friday, we pull articles from our archives to propel you into the weekend.
On January 6, a white mob attacked the Capitol fueled by the words of President Donald Trump. It was unprecedented in many ways, but also deeply resonant with much of American history, and predictable. White violence against even the sniff of a more equitable system is not new. Nor is the championing of violence by purported half-jokes like Trump’s. We’ve written about this at length. I wanted to unearth a few of those articles, which may help put into context why this week, while harrowing, does not seem out of place. It’s not good news itself, but the reporting is worth reading.
From the start, there have been warnings about Trump and his lackeys fanning the flames of white supremacy to—in that falsely neutral phrase—“play to the base.” In 2016, we reported on the deep connection between Trump and hate groups, and his ability to turn them increasingly mainstream. We know that Trump only furthered what has long been a deep root of Republican power: racism. We know Jeff Sessions is a bigot, and he was fundamental to the Trump administration. As was Steve Bannon. We wrote about how Trump was inciting violence over the election, and then it happened. We’ve written about how this isn’t Trump uniquely but instead the outgrowth of a racist Republican Party.
There is also a broader view. We’ve written about how the current vigilante and racist groups tie back to the same grievances that led to the birth of the KKK during Reconstruction. Just the day before the attack, we published an essay arguing that many white opinion-makers and historians have been slow to understand the danger of Trump’s racism (and the racism of liberal institutions and their versions of history) in favor of a more pacifying “this is not us” narrative. We’ve written about white backlash and Reconstruction and how it should not be assumed that revolutions always progress forward toward a better world.