The deadly Jan. 6 insurrection that killed five people, including a Capitol police officer, provoked Donald Trump’s second impeachment and an investigation into the individuals and groups that were complicit in the failed attempt to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. It’s revealing that after the storming of the Capitol building, 139 GOP House members and 8 Republican senators still voted to challenge the certified state election results that gave Joe Biden a clear victory.
The majority of Republican party politicians and their supporters across the U.S. continue to spread and give credibility to Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that massive fraud and a rigged election stole the former president’s landslide election victory. What’s more concerning is that many Republicans have allied themselves with white supremacists, armed militia groups and neo-Nazis that now constitute a key base of support for Trump. In congressional testimony before the House on March 2, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray called the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob an act of “domestic terrorism.”
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Loretta J. Ross, an activist and visiting associate professor of the Study of Women & Gender at Smith College. Here she talks about her recent article titled, “The Nazification of the Republican Party,” and the nation’s response to a violent authoritarian movement that’s attempting to overturn American democracy.
LORETTA J. ROSS: Well, I’ve been following the fascist movement in this country since 1990, when I was part of the staff of the National Anti-Klan Network, which was renamed the Center for Democratic Renewal. And it was eye-opening for me in 1990 to find out that the white supremacists had not retreated, but they were just in the process of regrouping and coming back. And many of us were trying to warn that there was a subterranean underground taking place with the rise of anti-abortion violence, with the attacks on Jewish people, with the attacks on people of color in general and black people in particular. But we kind of felt like we were chicken little because nobody would listen as we were saying, The sky is falling. And so when Trump decided to run for office, I had been vaguely paying attention to Donald Trump but he really wasn’t anybody I particularly kept an eye on. But when his campaign started echoing the same things that I was monitoring on the far right now had moved into the mainstream of a Republican campaign, he got my attention in a different way.
And so that started me really researching how the Republicans, since they had rebuilt their base in the 1970s by consolidating the people who were opposed to integration, with the anti-gay, with the anti-feminist, with the pro- war, with the Christian nationalists to build a new base. That’s why I wrote my article that they’ve had since the 1970s to scrape these people out of their ranks and assume the posture of a respectable political party and they’ve chosen not to. And instead of them controlling the fascists, the fascists ended up controlling them. And we’re seeing the whole attack and the dissolution of the Republican party, because they made the same mistake that ordinary Germans made in the 1930s, where they thought that they can control the fascists and the fascists ended up controlling the country. And this is what we’re, I think, at the risk of seeing repeated.
SCOTT HARRIS: Professor Ross, underscoring what you said after the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 139 House members and 8 senators voted to overturn the election after the violence. It seems that doubling down on support for authoritarian overthrow of our government — fascism, if you will — is continuing. It’s not abating at all. In fact, Donald Trump just spoke at the CPAC convention and of course he was wildly cheered on there. And all of his racist statements that we’re all familiar with were echoed there by many of his acolytes and supporters. There’s been a lot of discussion in our media about a civil war within the Republican party, but the pro-Trump side is clearly one, it seems.
LORETTA J. ROSS: Well, they’ve always wanted the people who want this to be a society ruled permanently by white supremacy have always called for a race war. They use the term RAHOWA, “racial holy war”, because this is something that they’ve desired. But we’ve never seen it be mainstreamed so much like we saw in the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6th — that it went from being a crazy idea on the fringe of America to being now mainstream public policy, embraced by Republicans elected to Congress, and then covered up by senators and congresspeople. And matter of fact, encouraged by them. And so this is really showing that we have a fragile democracy. We’ve got a lot of holes in the process that should have been attended to. Actually, Ulysses S. Grant said this when Lincoln was assassinated — he said, “We have still not resolved this question of whether or not America has got to be dedicated to liberty or slavery.”
He said that as he kept dealing was insurrections by the Confederates who would not give up. And so this has been the ongoing question because we didn’t handle the traitors satisfactorily in 1865. It’s why they were bold enough to bring a Confederate flag to the Capitol in 2021.
And I love the way the young people talk about it on the Internet. They said, you expect black people to get over slavery when white people with the Confederate flags haven’t gotten over losing their slaves. This is still a conversation that we need to have right now in the 21st century about whether or not we want a democracy and what we’re going to do to fight for it.