By Jacob Vito
Before this week, I was hoping that 2021 would at least be a little bit more “normal” than last year. I was hoping that the coming months would be a reprieve from one of the worst stretches of the 21st century.
It appears as if my hope was misplaced.
On Wednesday, a pro-Trump mob swarmed Washington DC, occupying several areas and breaking into the Capitol building. According to a New York Times Report, areas like the House of Representatives floor were broken into, and violent clashes ensued.
Such an invasion of the U.S. Capitol was unprecedented, with Wednesday being the first instance of a Congressional evacuation of the building. Rioters stormed the building and occupied it for several hours, raiding the elected officials’ offices and breaking onto the Congressional floors.
Don’t be fooled: this was an act of domestic terrorism. Those who swarmed DC came with the express intent of disrupting the democratic process and allowing Trump to indefinitely remain as President. Those who constructed, orchestrated and encouraged this attack deserve punishment as harsh as the Oklahoma City bombers or the Tree of Life gunman.
Following the riot, both Democratic and Republican congresspeople have condemned the attack. According to NPR, representatives like Ilhan Omar have drafted articles of impeachment against Donald Trump for encouraging his supporters to come to DC and protest.
But it is ultimately unhelpful to view this as a singular incident. Any Democrat or Republican in Congress is foolish to think that an act of far-right terror of this magnitude won’t happen again.
A significant section of the American population is now primed for what can only be called fascism. It will undoubtedly react similarly to the next demagogue as they did this week if given the opportunity. A YouGov poll found that 45 percent of Republicans supported the attack on the Capitol building. Such beliefs are not uncommon and will not fade naturally.
So, what can be done when a large section of the American population wants the destruction of any shred of American democracy? How can such a toxic and conspiratorial ideology be combatted? In truth, a fundamental change must happen because the American system is fatally incapable of dealing with this authoritarianism in its current state.
After all, it’s not the first time these tactics have been used. Trump stole many of his slogans directly from Nixon’s campaigns, using a similar form of “Law and Order” messaging to galvanize and radicalize his followers. His courting of a myriad of far-right groups mirrors the strategy of Ronald Reagan’s coalition. America has been toying with these ideas for a while, and though they coalesced more than ever in Trump, they didn’t just appear.
So, after years of disinformation and priming, millions of Americans have been taught to idolize an imagined version of the country and attack anyone attempting to better it. They are now fully susceptible to fascist rhetoric––therefore, we must stop such rhetoric in its tracks.
Fascism is unique in its ability to leech off democratic systems. It acts like a parasite, using the expectation many have of healthy debate and egalitarianism towards its own selfish ends. Because of this, you cannot treat such an authoritarian and deceitful ideology democratically.
There’s a concept called the paradox of intolerance. Originally attributed to Plato and explained by Karl Popper, it is the idea that absolute tolerance will lead to a domination of the intolerant. In short, allowing Trump’s toxicity to receive equal attention lets it overpower other information. Outright dangerous beliefs must be countered to maintain civility, and there are no beliefs more immediately dangerous to the United States than those of the far right.
Any tolerant society must be intolerant of fascism. Laws must be passed to restrict its spread, norms must be established that discourage its hateful beliefs and avenues must be set up for those enthralled in its language to escape from it. The only lasting solution to stopping such a toxic and destructive movement is to dismantle it completely.
An act of terror, such as this, can happen again, but it does not need to. If the conspiracies and hate that fueled this attack are cut off, the continuation of fascism in America can be averted. This may have been the first assault on the Capital of its kind, but, with effort, it can also be the last one.
Jacob Vito is a first-year Community and Regional Development major at UC Davis. He is from western Pennsylvania.
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