Sam Goldman, Paul Street and Anthony DiMaggio discuss the continuing impact of the Trump coup attempt that seemed to culminate with the physical assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The House special committee’s report was released in the final days of 2022 with the recommendation that the now Republican-controlled Congress bar Trump from ever holding office again, as well as be criminally prosecuted. Neither outcome is likely as the events of the first week back in session show the GOP is still completely in thrall to the cult of Trump, whether via supposed “moderates” like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Kevin McCarthy or “extremists” like Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert.Anthony DiMaggio is an Associate Professor of political science at Lehigh University and author of Rising Fascism in America: It Can Happen Here. Read his writings at Counterpunch and Salon. Paul Street is on editorial board of RefuseFascism.org and the author of This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America. Read his latest writings on Substack including “Keep Down the Fascism Detectors: Elise Stefanik, the New York Times, and the Appeasement by Deletion of Fascism.”
Refuse Fascism is more than a podcast! You can get involved at RefuseFascism.org. We’re still on Twitter (@RefuseFascism) and other social platforms including the newest addition: mastodon.world/@refusefascism
Music for this episode: Penny the Snitch by Ikebe Shakedown
Refuse Fascism Episode 141
The Continuing January 6 Coup
Sun, Jan 08, 2023 2:34PM • 56:14
Anthony DiMaggio 00:00
Yeah, so you get things like January 6th, and at what point in the future can that sort of snowball into states refusing to recognize election wins in competitive states.
Paul Street 00:10
139 people in the House voted, after the Capitol riot, on January 6 2021, against certifying the duly elected, Biden electors.
Anthony DiMaggio 00:22
They’re cannibalizing each other on the House floor, almost getting into fistfights, hollering at each other — between McCarthy and a few of his Republican followers like Richard Hudson, Mike Rogers, Matt Gaetz.
Paul Street 00:32
This is a freak show. This is going to be a clusterfuck for the next two years.
Anthony DiMaggio 00:36
This is the bigger macro problem here. We’ve got a party that has embraced white supremacy, and they want to sort of, in an eliminationist way, have a one-party system.
Sam Goldman 01:05
Welcome to Episode 141 of the Refuse Fascism podcast, a podcast brought to you by volunteers with Refuse Fascism, Sam Goldman, one of those volunteers and host of the show. Refuse Fascism exposes, analyzes, and stands against the very real danger and threat of fascism coming to power in the United States.
In our first episode of 2023, we’re sharing a conversation I had yesterday with historian Paul Street and political scientist Anthony DiMaggio regarding the second anniversary of the January 6th coup attempt, the January 6th Commission Report, and the GOP shutting down the House. But first, if you appreciate this show, and want to help us reach more people who want to refuse fascism, go, be a gem, and write a review and drop five stars wherever you listen to your pods. Tell the people out there in podcast land why you love us. Thank you. Subscribe/follow, so you never miss an episode, and of course, continue all that great sharing and commenting on social media.
Today we are going to get right to the interview, but I wanted to add a note on the everlasting role of The Donald in relation to the Speaker of the House shutdown. Trump explicitly came up in a number of ways through this fight. After McCarthy won the house speakership, he said, “I don’t think anybody should doubt his influence.” Later in the interview, he stated something that I think we really need to pay attention to “he was with me from the beginning, and he was all in, he would call me and he would call others.” Later in the interview, he talks about talking to him the night of the final vote and the critical role that he played in getting those final votes.
At the same time, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Matt Gaetz, the most fanatical disrupter, nominated Trump himself for the speakership at one point. Marjorie Taylor Greene was running around the House floor with the direct line to Trump, putting him right in the center of the action, right into the ears of key players trying to convince them to get on board with McCarthy. But it’s also important to look at the whole picture. These folks started a garbage fire at a circus and then somehow used that to violently advance their agenda. This is one of Trump’s signature moves, and something that Trump opened the door for. With that, here is my interview with Paul and Anthony.
It’s been two years since Trump’s rolling coup turned into insurrection at the Capitol, and the MAGAts haven’t backed down or been defeated. They’ve been building power and honing their strategies [for] two years, and the GOP has only gotten more fascist. The lie of the stolen election has gotten more entrenched and the divisions have sharpened and deepened. We at Refuse Fascism continue to advocate that we can’t rely on the courts or elections, that it’s up to all of us to refuse fascism.
I am so glad to welcome back to the show, Paul and Tony. Paul, my friend and fellow member of the Refuse Fascism Editorial Board is an independent progressive policy researcher, an award-winning journalist, historian and author. His latest book is This Happened Here, America Honors Neoliberals and the Trumping of America. I am also super excited to welcome back Anthony DiMaggio. He is an associate professor of political science at Lehigh University. His latest book is Rising Fascism in America, It Can Happen Here. Welcome back. Are both of you glad to be chatting with you?
Anthony DiMaggio 05:02
Thanks for having us.
Sam Goldman 05:03
So, we have the anniversary of January 6th just happening yesterday; we have the release of the final January 6th Congressional Commission Report. You’ve both written about the report, and I do really want to get into both of your pieces. But first, two years later, what do you think are the most important takeaways? Where does the insurrection of January 6th stand in US history? What shadow is it casting over today? And where are we at right now in relation to the threat embodied in this attack? I’d love to hear from Tony first.
Anthony DiMaggio 05:42
One of the big takeaways from January 6th Is that we shouldn’t be looking at just a thousand people who occupied a building and assaulted an election. We should be looking at what this means for the Republican Party more broadly. You have a party now where the vast majority of members don’t recognize the legitimacy of elections. Now, we know that there have always been problems with US elections. We commonly use terms like bourgeois democracy to suggest that democracy is not very good in terms of being very plutocratic. But that’s certainly better than a dictatorship; or less bad.
So when you get to the point where an entire major political party doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of those elections, there’s really no way to know for sure how bad that’s going to get, what the full implications are going to be. So you get things like January 6th, and at what point in the future can that snowball into states refusing to recognize election wins in competitive states, battleground states, red states, and then you’re talking about an entirely broken electoral system; one that before functioned relatively well, at least in terms of the nuts and bolts of vote counting, and the lack of evidence of any sort of systemic voter fraud. I think that’s one of the really big points and takeaways here, that this hasn’t really been dealt with, despite the fact that there was a January 6th Commission, which did a very good job of trying in a narrow way to spot and identify and expose what Donald Trump did, in terms of trying to manipulate an election and stoking insurrectionists.
Then there’s a sort of deeper question, which maybe we can talk about later, which is where all of this big lie election fraud propaganda is coming from. It’s not just simple authoritarianism. I think it has deep-seated level with white supremacy, the mainstreaming of great replacement theory, and people scared out of their minds of becoming, “minority” in their own country. So that’s something I think we should dive into.
Sam Goldman 07:24
We’ll be sure to do that. Paul, what are your thoughts?
Paul Street 07:27
Well, we still seem to be in denial about the problem of fascism. I’ve noticed there was a brief upsurge of the use of the word because Joe Biden had kind of semi-legitimized [chuckles] it, and it seems to be gone again. I’ve been paying attention to this in the New York Times and the Washington Post. I mean, let’s get real here. This was something that many of us predicted and saw from the beginning with Trump.
You can go back and find some original predictions that there will be a coup attempt by Timothy Snyder as early as April 2017. In Salon, it’s sort of implicit in a piece, not by a Marxist like myself, but by just a kind of nice liberal writer named Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker, in a piece called Going There with Donald Trump in May of 2016. A lot of us saw this long, long, long before. Of course, Refuse Fascism, I remember, talking immediately about Trump’s response to the 2020 election as a rolling coup.
Let’s be real here about what January 6th was. It was the sort of physical culmination of an ongoing, rolling coup that was written into the neofascist, Christian white nationalist nature of the Trump phenomena, and really, as Tony was suggesting, already from the beginning was an attempted overthrow of previously normative bourgeois constitutional, electoral, and rule of law democracy. One of the really neat things about the January 6th report — and it is a narrow and in some ways a legal document, overlaid with all kinds of establishment political and ideological kind of constraints, but — it really does document, blow by blow, almost in an overkill kind of way — it would almost be boring to read if it wasn’t documenting the overthrow of capitalist democracy — of a coup attempt, of a many-sided coup attempt; fake electors, attempted intimidations of state legislatures to falsify their election counts, with Trump actually inviting and sparking and provoking a violent mob, actually trying to get people who he knew were armed with assault rifles to be admitted to the march on the Capitol.
One of the things from the report that I will never forget, and it was in the original testimony, was Trump’s takedown to metal detectors — basically, the guys with the AR-15s don’t want to hurt me. I mean, with the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers and the Three Percenters, explicitly fascist organizations in the quasi-military lead and breaking the windows and providing the entrance for the Christian white nationalist Confederate flag flying mob, and being egged on in the middle of the assault by Trump continuing his attack on Pence, and, essentially, green-lighting calls for hanging Mike Pence. Here’s this guy who could never shut up for four years, just this constant propagandistic diarrhea, of deception and malignant narcissism and white nationalism and nativism and hatred and authoritarianism, all of a sudden has nothing to say, for what was it? More than three hours. Just sitting there licking his chops and finally having to say something very weak.
The report is very good on this fascist attack, and the people around Trump [saw] that it really was a coup attempt. It was a serious coup attempt. It started before the election and then continued all the way up through January 6th. The attempts even continued afterward. But the report can’t once ever say fascism, which I wouldn’t really expect them to lead with that, but for the word to appear once. You can do a word search on the January 6th document, the word never appears, even in a passive, descriptive kind of way. This report runs 845 pages, and not even once can the Proud Boys or the Three Percenters or the Oathkeepers be even secondarily and descriptively referred to accurately as fascist organizations. That really strikes me as bending over backwards to not say that. Well, you can barely even see racism showing up in the report. It’s really just extraordinary. They’re just extremists and they’re kind of crazy, they’re wacky and and scary, but to specify the ideological character of what they were about is just not there.
Sam Goldman 11:49
So, can you talk a little bit more about this white supremacy aspect that was totally absent from the report. And why does that matter? I forgot to mention this at the beginning, but I do want to echo a lot of what Paul was saying about the substance that was in the report. It is also unprecedented that such a commission has made the recommendation that a former president — who just happens to still be the GOP front runner — and some of the co-conspirators never be allowed to hold political office again. That actually is significant, and that they recommended prosecution for committing multiple felonies. I don’t want to step over that, but I think that it is worth looking at. You both spoke to this being a legal document and there being reasons why certain things were framed the way they were, but what impact does it have that the central role of white supremacy was absent in the document?
Anthony DiMaggio 12:48
Well, it’s a good question. I think we should clarify, just to be totally clear, that it did come up — it just didn’t come up very much. There were like seven references in 800 plus pages to either white nationalism or white supremacy and none to fascism, as Paul was talking about. If we can understand why, we can understand what the implications are, because I think they’re related. In terms of why, we have to come to some conclusions as external observers, because we haven’t had a chance to interview any of these people and we’re not going to; not us three at least.
But, someone like Jamie Raskin and other people — Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger on this committee — will have to speak for themselves. I don’t think they’ll be asked to because the question of white supremacy hasn’t really been discussed in terms of the news media, political leaders, academics. They should answer for it, but they’re not going to. I think that started getting to the answer here, because there’s a larger culture of denialism that Paul is talking about. It’s not just of fascism, but of white supremacy more broadly. It’s such a weird thing that in the United States, white supremacy was openly advocated, celebrated as a virtuous thing prior to the civil rights movement; people didn’t mince words about it. Certainly, they tried to pretty it up.
The Klan, for example, they used to talk about it as a protectionist impulse, white supremacy, against those dangerous Black men who want to assault women and so on. But they were open about being white supremacist and keeping Jim Crow segregation. Since the Civil Rights era, it has become so much more difficult — in some ways, it’s like the success of that movement has been part of — I don’t want to say it’s undoing, but it’s created real challenges, because now nobody is a racist. Everybody was a racist, and nobody’s a racist. You’ve got people like Richard Spencer, David Duke, people affiliated with the Klan, alt righters who openly issue sieg heils to their fans and their audiences, and no, they’re not fascists, they’re not white supremacists, they dress nice and they get a clean haircut.
So if you get to that point in a country where even the Richard Spencers and the David Dukes are trying to argue that they’re not racist, they’re not white supremacist, you have a country that’s delusional; that is a delusional country. This is the only issue in the United States that has stoked a Civil War. Racism, slavery, white supremacy is a hugely divisive issue, it’s always been a divisive issue, and people like to pretend that it isn’t. So I think when you look at this, it’s not so much an individual like a Jamie Raskin type — because he’s smart, he knows that these people were fascists. He has acknowledged it in the committee hearings.
But we should also understand that this is a product of groupthink, these kinds of reports. So you’ve got an entire committee. You’ve got people like Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, and more moderate Democrats who are part of the American exceptionalism and denialism, and they don’t want to recognize that these things are real to an absurd point where you can’t even refer to Proud Boys and Oathkeepers and Groyper army people and alt righters as fascist or white supremacists. So there’s a silly game going on here where people know better — Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jamie Raskin — but for the sake of appearances and for the sake of this culture of denialism, these things get buried. So what’s the implication?
The implication is that we can’t have an honest discussion about this stuff in the mass culture, because people don’t want to address these things because it makes people feel uncomfortable to talk about things like structural racism, about white supremacy, about mainstreamed hatred, and bigotry and fascism. So we don’t have these discussions. So it’s kicking the can down the road, it really just means that these problems will continue to persist, and we won’t be able to address them until people get more realistic about what’s going on.
Sam Goldman 16:11
Paul, you want to share any thoughts?
Paul Street 16:13
I will just sort of tail on that a little bit and agree with Tony that some of these liberal elites know very well, what’s going on. In fact, Obama, on the eve of Trump’s election, said to Timothy Kaine — this has been recorded — Hey, Tim, this is no time to be a purist, you’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House — it’s an extraordinary kind of thing. And Hillary Clinton was near the phone and nodding along. Jamie Raskin, during one of the hearings when he was praising the Capitol police officers, said you guys are heroes, you stood up against fascist traitors.
I think the two main personalities on the committee were probably Raskin on one hand, who’s kind of a constitutionalist law, Professor wunderkind, who goes back to Harvard and the Yale Law Review forever, who’s very liberal, and then Liz Cheney, who very much had an agenda on this committee of trying to discredit just Trump. You know, you can see her influence there of trying to suppress a serious discussion of the underlying white nationalism and patriarchy that are at the core of her party, and which she still advances. She voted mainly with Trump during the whole time, but she hates the individual himself, and she still sort of clings to the old bourgeois constitutional Republican wants to carry out the neoconservative white nationalist agenda, still within a small ‘r’ republican framework.
I think between those two and also the kind of narrow legalistic goal of setting up these formal criminal referrals and sending them to the Justice Department lead to a very kind of formalistic, narrow downplaying of the kinds of bigger questions that concern left Marxist, progressive political scientist and historians like the two people you’re talking to right now. Do they have a very different agenda than the full many sided truth seeking that I think we’re engaged in here that informs my politics and Refuse Fascism.
Sam Goldman 18:06
I would just push to say that it concerns everyone. I think that goes back to what was the role of this committee and the report? Then what is the role of people who are seeking the truth and trying to advance people’s understanding of what happened and what’s continuing to happen. Those are different because it was not coming from: We’re going at this to have a complete picture of the day in the service of advancing the interests of humanity. If people were talking about this as a fascist threat, what difference would that make? I just wanted to get your last thoughts on that and then move the conversation forward from there.
What difference do you think it would have made, if it were correctly named as a fascist coup attempt?
Paul Street 18:53
That would mean that we require mass mobilization. You can’t just vote fascists out of power. That would mean what Refuse Fascism called for throughout the entire Trump administration, which was a Puerto Rican-style mass rebellion, which would have been a game changer. The goal was to get rid of the whole Trump-Pence regime, right, but also to fundamentally and qualitatively alter the political and social terrain from the bottom up — through mass action — upon which both parties were operating.
It would have led to, I think, a disciplining of the post-Trump Biden administration and would have led to a sense of a kind of different politics beneath and beyond just the quadrennial big money, major party, candidate centered, corporate crafted, winner take all electoral extravaganzas that are sold to us as the only politics. We were trying to create a different kind of politics. There should have been masses in the streets to block the original MAGA demonstrations in December of 2020, that preceded January 6th. There should have been a call of the masses into the streets to block all this insanity.
Of course, this took place during COVID, and it actually at the height of COID. People were very scared of mass actions at this time. There was a disappearance of the people from the streets as the elections grew closer, and afterwards the last sort of great gasp that I can remember was in connection with the shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And then really, from Kyle Rittenhouse on, that was it, and everything got poured into the elections — and into the killing confines of an electoral system that is tilted to the right, even without all the voter suppression — already, by the absurdly mal-appportioned Senate, by the badly gerrymandered House, and the free flow of right wing campaign finance, none of which is addressed in the report.
Sam Goldman 20:40
I wanted to go back to the Committee to get Anthony’s thought on this one aspect. After the insurrection was defeated, the Democrats took over both the White House and both houses of Congress, and there was a big informal push to go back to brunch, or to pull in Obama’s style: Let’s look forward, not backward — and almost forget that this ever happened. The fascists still had significant power, even as a minority. There was no guarantee of any kind of committee. There’s much to be said about the involvement and lionization of Liz Cheney, which you both spoke to. What do you think the role of this Committee and report has been, or will be, in terms of their role in making a case for accountability?
Anthony DiMaggio 21:24
Well, that’s one thing that you could say that the report did a pretty decent job at in terms of officially calling on prosecution at least for Trump — at least within the narrow sense of focusing on him stoking insurrectionists and trying to manipulate the outcome in Georgia; however many was, like 11 or 12,000 votes he said he needed from Brad Raffensberger. This idea that he violated federal law, that he should be prosecuted, on numerous cases, charges could be brought against him in terms of stoking insurrection — number one, which is illegal under national law, and also the idea of extortion in the context of an election. I don’t think that is necessarily something that I was disappointed with, with this particular report, because they did confront it head on.
I’m more disappointed in how quiet the Biden administration has been this whole time, because Merrick Garland, the Attorney General, Biden himself, hasn’t really said much about the looming threat outside of one speech he did talking about Big Lie propaganda before the midterm election; and that was very, very narrowly motivated for votes. That’s a real issue — that doesn’t seem to be the emphasis within the Democratic Party, Again, I wouldn’t take tissue with this committee as much because they did explicitly call for that, but within the context of the Democratic Party, there hasn’t been any pressure. I think that the reason for that is because, as Paul said, there hasn’t been a mass movement.
So I’ve been calling for a long time, and in my book on rising fascism, I talk about this in the conclusion: It needs to be not just a mass mobilization, but it needs to include many different facets of American society, like transformation in the educational institutions and how we teach history and sensitize people to what fascism is so they can identify it today. Academics taking this more seriously in terms of studying white supremacy and fascism. The media making these into serious conversations; including progressive media, which I think haven’t done enough oftentimes, to talk enough about fascism and white supremacy too.
Without this kind of mass pressure, people like Garland just aren’t feeling it in terms of the idea that they have to really take this more seriously and push. There should be some sort of reporting by now that there’s been some kind of action, or that they’re taking it seriously. I haven’t really heard anything. It’s been really crickets. That’s a sign that the party more so than the committee really hasn’t taken this seriously at the highest levels in terms of taking action for accountability.
Paul Street 23:43
The recommendation — the key policy recommendation — comes up on the eve of the Republi-fascist party taking over the US House, which means essentially the end of the Select Committee investigation. And, by the way, all this kind of smug schadenfreude about “Roe-vember,” and how “we won the midterm, they lost the US House” — and not just because of gerymandering — they lost the US House popular vote by 3 million votes. All this self-congratulatory, “wow we kicked ass.” Look at these crazy Republicans from the dismal, dollar drenched Democrats, is really kind of depressing to behold, but it’s predictable. Have you noticed watching this fiasco now in the House, the smug looks on all the liberal commentators like: Oh, we won. And it’s like: Oh, this is great. It’s like they like it. This is a freak show. This is going to be a clusterfuck for the next two years.
Where the document works is as a very formal legal criminal referral. I think that’s right. It goes to justice. I don’t know what they’re going to act on, this and that. I’ve been hearing the Trump is dead and the Trump is doomed for six years now. It makes a very strong legal case, but the one main policy recommendation that the House, and that Congress strip Trump have the right to run for federal office again, they know that has a snowball’s chance in hell of passing in the Congress that they’ve just handed over to the GOP. Whether the legal frills will work is sort of in the ball court of Merrick Garland. I don’t know what goes on in that guy’s mind and what he’s going to do. As Trump likes to say: We’ll see what happens.
Sam Goldman 25:21
We will see what happens. I’m not saying that accountability for Trump would be meaningless, and I don’t want people to interpret what I’m saying as such, I think it would be important, but because it was so zeroed in on Trump, the party that facilitated this, that fostered it, that fomented it, that was in step with it was let off the hook. If there is no accountability, no challenge of that, then it’s gonna keep going. I am so glad that we didn’t do this conversation midweek, not only because I was exhausted, but we wouldn’t have been able to discuss the madness that was the Speaker vote, one that all too many just popped the popcorn and sat back laughing at, even while what it proved was that January 6th never ended.
Refuse Fascism wrote earlier in the week on Twitter, don’t let this Speaker vote circus obscure the fact that this is one more opportunity the fascists are seizing on to push the limits of their power as hard and as far as possible. Whoever wins, this will raise the profile of the most hardcore MAGAts in the House. Now, since that was written Kevin McCarthy as of late last night did, in fact, on his 15th attempt, win. I was looking at some interesting things in terms of the connection between January 6th and this Speaker vote.
Lucian Trescott for Salon.com had something that I found very helpful. He wrote: “Nearly every member who opposed McCarthy for Speaker cast votes against certifying the election in the early hours of January 7th, 2021, after rioters had shut down the process on the afternoon of January 6th. See if any of these names are familiar: Boebert, Gates, Biggs, Cloud, Goode, Bishop, Gosar, Perry, Rosendale, Miller, Harris, Donalds, Norman one of the gang opposing McCarthy up until the 13th ballot was Eli Crane of Arizona, a freshman just elected, who has proudly attended rallies celebrating the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6th.” I wanted to see what are you thinking? What do you say to people who watched this circus with popcorn saying shit like this: At least the Republican Party is severely fractured in the long run. I don’t see how they survived from this. What would you say?
Anthony DiMaggio 27:38
I don’t see them as fractured. This is very clearly a win for the Trump-DeSantis QAnon, neo-fascist, take your pick of descriptors. Kevin McCarthy is squarely on bended knee here. This is very clear that you’re talking about a speaker who’s going into this deeply hobbled in terms of the ability to remove him at any time. Who’s had those powers that the speaker traditionally enjoyed? Trump has been the leader of this party for the last half decade. Nobody really dared cross him during his time in office. Now it’s getting to the point where there can be Trumpism without Trump. You know, if DeSantis takes over, someone like that you’ve got the Paul Gosars, the Lauren Boeberts. Matt Gaetz is one of these people who has been implicated in having sex with underage children.
So this is not a real party! This is not a parliamentary party in the normal sense of the word. They have prevailed, and they have prevailed not just because of these people and the cult of personality surrounding them, but also because of the media system that’s been in place for decades, that has stoked faux outrage, conspiratorialism, anger, white nationalism, paranoia, with people like Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson the white nationalist. This is a phenomenon, you know. Trumpism existed before Trump and will exist after him. It has taken over this party undisputedly at this point.
It’s just so far beyond even a discussion. I think that’s a sign of desperation, when people are trying to sort of laugh about this and make light of it and they’re cannibalizing each other on the House floor, almost getting into fistfights, hollering at each other between McCarthy and a few of his Republican followers like Richard Hudson, Mike Rogers, Matt Gaetz. Sure, they’re fighting with each other, but the battle has been won, and that’s where we’re at. I don’t know how you get past that as a country outside of that party imploding, outside of people not being willing to vote for them anymore and these people getting isolated or some kind of mass movement or both.
Without those things, this party is going to continue to move along, because there’s only two major parties, and there are a lot of people, tens of millions of them, who are willing to normalize this party. No matter how far it falls, there’s no floor. This was two-thirds of Trump’s supporters who said there’s never anything he could do that would make them not support him, and he’s still the front runner. I don’t think much has changed. If there’s anything that has changed, it’s simply that you have a lot of liberals and democrats in America who hate Donald Trump and Trumpism, and you have quite a few moderates, some of the people in between who were really turned off by January 6th and by Trump, and they have sort of decided they don’t really want to support him. So that’s a lot of people, but it’s still a deeply divided country, right?
One of those two main parties is still in control with fascistic white nationalist politics. I don’t see much reason to celebrate that. At best, you could say that we’ve sort of stepped back from the precipice of a looming coup, moving into 2024, if we don’t have these wackadoodle Republican Secretaries of State — who didn’t win by the way — who might not certify a win for a Democrat in those states. So that’s good, I guess, or less horrible that we’ve stepped away from the looming crisis that was within a year or two of happening. But that doesn’t really deal with the larger problem of one of the two major parties in this alleged democracy being totally dysfunctional, broken, and embracing Q-Anon-style neofascism.
Paul Street 30:47
Let me just backtrack a little bit and say, Sam, that you had mentioned something about the Democrats’ inability to deal with the overall fascism of the GOP, that while this chaos was going on appropriately enough, in the House floor on January 6th, Biden is having a bipartisan love fest, and reaching out with his arms around Mitch McConnell, who he is referring to, as, like a partner in proper governance. Mitch freaking McConnell is the guy who led the prevention of allowing Obama to appoint a Supreme Court justice, and then who participated in the rapid fire approval of handmaid Amy Coney Barrett with just weeks leading up to the election, which in turn sets us up for the decision on last June 24th abolishing woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
By the way, this Court, which is created by McConnell, who Biden is putting his arms around, is hearing Moore v. Harper, have heard the arguments for Moore v. Harper, which may permit red states to veto the 2024 presidential election in the states by invalidating electors coming out of red states if state legislatures determine that the vote has gone the wrong way. I don’t want to get too far down into the weeds and Moore v. Harper, but Tony, it does not require the Secretaries of State. In the Moore v. Harper decision, it lets Republican-led state legislatures themselves cancel popular votes and I think that’s a key point. On this insanity in the House, I noticed the media referring to the 20 Crazy arch-neofascists as the conservatives.
Things have gone so far to the right were reduced to seeing Kevin McCarthy and Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene as the lesser evil. Are you kidding me? [SG: Moderates] They’re called moderates now, right. Gaetz and his crowd are the conservatives. No. They’re the super crazy neo-fascists fighting against the more run of the mill moderate fascists. 139 people in the House voted after the Capitol riot on January 6th 2021 against certifying the duly elected Biden electors. There are a bunch of neofascists on the McCarthy side, including crazy nut job fascist Paul Gosar. And where’s that guy Perry from Ohio, the House guy who’s all over the January 6th report? He’s centrally involved in the assault and attempt to bring in fake electors and on and on. A lot of the schadenfreude that you’re hearing from the smug liberals and the liberal media is that it’s just pure aimless crazy out-of-control chaos. They don’t know how to govern. They don’t really want…
Sam Goldman 33:35
Yes. Exactly. Yeah. They can’t govern… as if they cared about it. As if they wanted to govern.
Paul Street 33:45
What do you think this Republi-fascist party is all about? It’s about pure destruction and anarchy and chaos. But they have a very real agenda. They really do. They want to end affirmative action. They want to end all civil rights. They want to roll back voting rights. They want to impose forced motherhood. They want to have a national abortion ban. They have a full right-wing neofascist agenda. They’re not just aimless. It is very consistent with January 6th, and it’s a form of violence. This little minority is sending a message to the fascist militias on the outside. Think about the messages being sent there. Chaos is okay. They’re having a kind of January 6th coup within the House of Representatives. They’re sending out a message not completely unlike what Trump was sending out after the election. They’re getting wild.
Here’s a good January 6th parallel — what’s the first thing they did when they took over the House? Even though I don’t quite follow this, because I keep hearing they hadn’t taken over the House because they don’t have a Speaker, but somehow they were allowed even before they had the Speakership to order: Take down the metal detectors that were put up to the entrance to the House after January 6th. Does that sound familiar? Take down the metal detectors. That’s what Trump said on January 6th; Let my fascist Proud Boys carry AR-15s up to the Capitol. So I guess this is to help Boebert bring in some of her assault weapons and bring them actually onto the floor.
Sam Goldman 35:09
I wanted to just echo that one point. Even more the hardcore fascist faction within the GOP brought the entire House to a halt. Anthony, you probably are going to correct me on the years of this. It was like 116 years and something like this happened, or like it never happened before. I think that was when it reached 10 votes. They were like: This hasn’t happened in 116 years. I don’t know, but basically [Since the 1800s, yeah.] Gaetz said that their goal — because for a while I was [wondering] what is their goal? — was their goal just chaos? Was to put a straitjacket on McCarthy? Who, as Paul was getting at, is not moderate. Concessions that McCarthy did grant some in order to get the votes to be the speaker.
My understanding is that the concessions Mr. McCarthy offered to win over the first 15 holdouts included allowing a single lawmaker to force a snap vote at any time to oust the speaker, a rule that would codify a standing threat that he could be removed instantly if he crossed hard-right lawmakers. Also on offer was a commitment to give the far right faction more control over who sits on key committees and a measure for open government spending bills to a free wheeling debate in which any lawmaker could force votes on proposed changes. If I’ve missed something, please correct me. What can we expect to see happen as a result of these concessions? Now that the right tone of no holds barred free for all, with fascists taking the initiative and setting the terms for everyone else to deal with.
Anthony DiMaggio 36:40
We can expect some more of the same in terms of this idea of the Republican Party as the party of No. During the Obama years, it was a party of No in a parliamentary sense of just voting against things that the Democrats wanted. But now we can expect nonstop sort of committee, inquiries about Hunter Biden’s laptop, Biden, as a fascist because of an employer mandate for COVID vaccines, and any sort of other witch hunts you can imagine that they’re going to cook up that really fuel the eliminationism; this idea that the Democratic Party is some sort of Marxist revolutionary party set on destroying America and taking away this white majority, and stoking this kind of outrage over them.
I’ve heard people describe the Republican Party as some kind of insurgency. In some sense, that makes sense when you talk about the insurrectionists on January 6th, and I think it’s just a continuation of that sort of politics within the House of Representatives. They want to tear it all down, right, and they want to get rid of the whole idea of even a two party bourgeois democracy. So that point, with that kind of elimination-ism, you’re talking about the ideal being put forward here of authoritarian governing, fascist governing, of one party sort of politics.
Now, I don’t think that that’s sustainable in the long term, because people aren’t going to be governed by an ogre by an authoritarian single party. So what’s most likely to happen is some sort of national implosion if this keeps up. If you’ve got one of the two major parties that has decided that it’s their way or the highway, we’re going to rule and eliminate and destroy the other party, or we’re going to burn it all down, which is where they’re at. That’s not sustainable in a country that claims at least, to be a democracy. There needs to be at least the facade of two parties and some sort of competitive choice, which there has been competition between the two parties for at least the presidency in recent decades.
So if you get rid of that you eliminate even the pretense of some sort of formalistic democracy and and people in blue states aren’t going to tolerate being ruled over by a would-be dictator or an actual dictator. We can see where this is going, a continuation of this sort of insurgency, I don’t think it’s going to end very well. And it’s unfortunate that people haven’t been able to be honest about what’s driving it, which is the white supremacy to a large extent. This is what my recent research has been talking about, that this insurrection at its core was driven by the popularization, and now the mainstreaming with Trump supporters, of great replacement theory. This idea that people are scared to death that they might become a minority in their own country traces back to the mid-1960s with immigration reform.
People don’t realize that before 1965 about 90% of Americans were white. It’s closer to about two thirds now because of a change in immigration law. So this is fueling this whole alt right, great replacement theory, white genocide propaganda. It’s at the core of not only what the insurrectionists were doing at the Capitol, but the mass public as well. That’s what my survey research has found, that this is a driving factor, the biggest factor in driving support and sympathy for the January 6th insurrectionists. This is the bigger macro problem here. We’ve got a party that has embraced white supremacy, and they want to — in an eliminationist way — have a one party system. Moving forward, that’s obviously not a sustainable thing unless you want to force some sort of national implosion or dictatorship.
Sam Goldman 39:48
Paul, did you want to add anything to that?
Paul Street 39:50
I want to echo Tony’s connection between January 6th and election denialism and white supremacism. There’s a lot of survey data and huge overlap between approval for the Capitol riot and acceptance of the Big Lie of a stolen election on one hand and belief in the necessity of protecting the great European values of our country, which is just sort of code language for keeping America white again. One of the big things that has brought neo-fascism, or just flat out fascism, to the fore in the 21st century — it’s made the Sinclair Lewis scenario that didn’t happen in the mid 1930s, which in some ways America’s left-most moment with the second New Deal — that actually makes the Sinclair Lewis movement the second decade, third decade of the 21st century — is the demographics. I
t’s precisely the declining white percentage of the population, which just evokes a whole lot of fear amongst a whole bunch of Caucasians who I’ve labeled Amerikaners. It’s taking the term from the South African pro-apartheid Afrikaners. I will add that Refuse Fascism — we said this — the empirical data matters and the survey data matters. So don’t get me wrong, but we in Refuse Fascism said this immediately at the time. I recall saying that it was just obvious that that that’s what was driving this notion that Biden’s election was inherently illegitimate. The white Amerikaners is just could not accept the fact that their candidate had lost, and they not completely incorrectly attributed Trump’s defeat to non white votes. This is true to urban non-white votes, and female votes and feminists votes and youth votes.
Sam Goldman 41:20
They don’t matter, because they were not human. [laughs]
Paul Street 41:24
This is our country and we’re not going to give it away to them. You know, the politics of us and them, that was the subtitle of Jason Stanley’s excellent book about fascist narratives. I think the goal right now that they have, it’s not just aimless, they want chaos. They want to disable the Biden administration, the House is very critical for all kinds of funding issues, there’s issues with the debt ceiling, there’s issues with the funding of the federal government. They’re perfectly happy out of the pure pursuit of power to produce as much cash as possible, which they hope will set up a 2024 victory.
Sam Goldman 41:54
I think that as things are now they are headed towards a trough. [laughs] I don’t think you could say anything otherwise, but I think within this tumultuous, unprecedented conflict at the top, within the powers that be, and in fact, amongst the powers that be, within the different sections, there’s also an opportunity for people who hope to see a better world and want to see a better world. But it does involve breaking out of a lot of really wrong delusional thinking, including about the greatness inherent in this country, including that — this is me personally speaking, not on behalf of Refuse Fascism — that democracy is the best we can do. That the notions that Tony was talking about, that somehow white supremacy is foreign to the American project.
These are just some of the many things that people need to break with. As, Paul, you were talking about being able to look clear eyed, and to stop being delusional about the coming storm. I think all of that is important. This Lucian Trescott piece I just thought was really an interesting read. I haven’t read him in a while. One of the other points that he had that I thought was worth noting in relation to this was he wrote: “The fight this week in the House of Representatives is over the speaker election, but it’s much larger than that. What it’s really about is who will have the power to shut down the rest of the government. Because what these people have done is what they want to be able to do more of in the future.” I thought that that was really helpful in thinking about what are they going for, and what is this all about.
In terms of legislative priorities, it seems that they’re aiming, if passed, for a package that would reinstate the Holman rule and obscure procedural rule that allows, “amendments to appropriations legislation that would reduce the salary of or fire specific federal employees or cut a specific program.” As the Washington Post reported in 2017, the last time Republicans revived the Holman role, Democrats criticized the move because it threatened to upend the federal workforce. The package would also strike the Geppert Rule, which was put in place in 1979 to allow the debt ceiling to be raised without a separate vote. It has been suspended, repealed and reinstated several times in the decades since.
I want to talk to Paul about, Paul, your analysis of the mainstream “choice orgs” in relation to all this. For example, you wrote how grotesque and cynical for the Dems to win in November — which they didn’t, the House of Representatives goes to Republi-fascists in just a few days. How about that Roe-vember? Women and girls had to lose a basic constitutional right whose attainment through movement struggle has led to a dramatic improvement in women’s opportunities and freedom. I just want to get your thoughts. You spoke briefly on this earlier.
Paul Street 44:55
Well, the cynicism is just extraordinary that took place with the Democratic Party and their allied choice organizations where they, not merely surrendered in advance to the Dobbs v. Jackson decision — which undertook this historically unprecedented total slashing of a constitutional human civil right — but actually sort of look forward to and banked on it. This was the strategy as far as I can tell. I’m not sure the strategy completely failed. I do think the Democrats contained some of the damage, they might have had in midterm elections by running on supposed defense of Roe. The cynicism is just almost beyond belief, and I had personal discussions with Iowa Democrats where they pretty much said that much; We’re looking forward to this decision.
The horror that has been inflicted — and it’s very consistent with the neo-fascist overall agenda, because patriarchy is a critical underpinning, but the horror that’s — being imposed on millions of women and girls across this country and transgendered pregnant people as well, of course, across this country is just unspeakable and is going under the radar screen. The undermining of basic medical care for women and girls and transgendered people and others is also very problematic, so that’s going on. In terms of the the legislation that they’re trying to get through on funding, and staffing, and so forth, this is all part of the neo-fascist tear down the administrative state agenda that Bannon talked [about]. They don’t really want to tear down the state. They want to shred the government’s capacity. They want to tear down the left hand of the state; any part of government that does anything decent in terms of regulation, and anti poverty and environmental control, and all of that.
We know from Axios that the right wing is just waiting for the next Trump or the DeSantis administration to fill the federal government, not just in its top cabinet offices, but all the way down into the many thousands of people with civil service appointments, to fill them with people who are vetted in advance for their politics; to fill basic administrative offices — they don’t want to tear down the administrative state, they want to fill the administrative state with Christian white nationalists. That’s what the real agenda is. The right wing always claims to be anti government, it’s not. It’s against government doing anything decent. It’s against the left hand of the state. It wants to take over the government, it wants power. They want to take state power, and they want to wield state power. I, from the Marxist “left” whatever the left is anymore, also want to seize and embrace and take state power, just for very, very different purposes than Steve Bannon and Paul Gosar and Ron DeSantis.
Sam Goldman 47:38
I wanted to close out by looping back to something that Tony had alluded to, in relation to his book earlier. It was how do we train people? How do we help teach people in this country to understand what is actually happening — in relation to, whether it be a January 6th, or whether it be what happened in the House — to recognize what’s important and what’s driving these events?
Anthony DiMaggio 48:05
It’s a good question. I guess the right answer is building a movement, but this simplest answer on an individual level is that people just need to do things. We have the benefit of Refuse Fascism as an organization, but there need to be more organizations devoted to fighting fascism. But on an individual level, people need to be willing to, in all these different circumstances in their life, draw boundaries between people who are trying to normalize fascist politics and say that they’re not going to tolerate it, they’re not going to indulge them. This requires conversations between family members, friends, colleagues at work. It requires people with privilege to be willing to say something.
It’s incredible how many academics and intellectuals and journalists and pundits just refuse to sort of deal with these issues of white supremacy and fascism, white nationalism. They’re privileged people, right, and they could do a lot potentially, maybe even if there are systemic boundaries. People can push back against them. Those people can be part of a mass movement. So it sounds sort of silly, but also incredibly important to say that people just need to do things. That’s the first hurdle. You need to recognize that there’s an actual threat so we need to get past the denialism. I think that a lot of people in the academy that I talk to you, they do recognize that privately.
You have these conversations with them, and they recognize that things have gone off the rails, this is not a normal partisan system anymore. You have one party that’s placating another party that’s become fascist. They’re mainly timid and scared. They don’t want to do anything. They have to. People who are privileged to have the ability to expose these things with evidence and data and historical context, as teachers, as professors, as journalists. If they don’t do it, then we’re not going to get there, because these are the people that have the resources that need to be part of this kind of movement. We need people on the streets and we need more people to do that, but we also need people with resources to help sort of spotlight the lies and expose the problems.
It’s not that hard. With a couple thousand dollars in institutional funding, I was able to do a national survey with the Harris Group to expose the link between white supremacy and people’s opinions of January 6th. So this is not difficult work, it can be done and it can be done with relatively few resources if you have at least some skills and you’re willing to do something. But until when people are willing to do something, it really doesn’t make sense to talk much about a movement from pacified public that’s not willing to start acting.
Paul Street 50:21
I want to jump on something Tony was saying there, which is there is this existential responsibility, I would say not just for academics, but for the professional class more broadly, to make some dramatic statements and step up here. One of the chapters in my book, This Happened Here, is a relentless attack on the just abject refusal of academics to acknowledge what was clearly, plainly in front of our face, which is we had a fascist in the White House. We had a guy in a most powerful office in the world who was in fact channeling and embodying neo-fascist ideology, politics, and policy.
Some of this was about mistaken thinking, and some of this was just about intellectual illusion and fake Marxian notions that Trumpism was a populist working class revolt. We could go on to the second mistake, a lot of it was cowardice. Cowardice, in some cases on the part of people who are safely retired or are really safely ensconced in tenure track positions, but even outside academia, we need a doctor or two or three and ob/gyn or someone to step up and face a conviction and let themselves become the symbol of resistance to these terrorists, forced motherhood, prohibition bill, somewhere in a red state and in Arkansas or Missouri, or somewhere like that.
We do need people to step up. I would like to start a Go Fund Me to get parachuted into some of these red states that have passed laws against the accurate teaching of American history and start calling and holding and organizing for the real history that your K-12 teachers aren’t allowed to teach. Wouldn’t that be something, to start a campaign and actually teach the real American history of slavery and ethnic cleansing and labor violence and assault on labor organizers, to tell the real story of American history?
There’s a book coming out right now, very soon out of monthly review press called ‘Endless Holocaust’, and it goes through one Holocaust after another. This is someone we should be helicoptering this guy into Iowa and taking him to school districts where the teachers are too scared to say anything. There’s an urban studies professor that lives on my blog at the University of Iowa and when the critical race theory bill was passed to the Iowa state legislature and signed by the governor — and the bill in Iowa goes all the way up from K to Ph. D — you’re not allowed to talk seriously about sexism, about racism.
It’s interesting, I mentioned sexism too, because we actually look at a lot of these bills. They include talking about patriarchy between you and us. I said so what are you doing? What? How is this impacting you? What kind of resistance are you organizing? And of course, she said, I’m just trying to stay under the radar screen. I don’t want to give you trouble. I don’t want to shame her completely, because there is a bill in the Iowa Senate, it’s been there forever, and it keeps working to end tenure for academics and public universities in Iowa at UNI and Iowa State and the University of Iowa. There’s some real shit going on and staying under the radar screen and hiding under your academic desk and using phrases like strong man and populism instead of fascism won’t get us anywhere. There are sacrifices involved, and there would be attacks on tenure in the state.
Sam Goldman 50:21
Well, I want to thank you both for as always sharing your expertise, your perspective, your insights, and your time with us. It’s always a pleasure. I’m going to put, as usual, links to all the good places to go to read more from Paul and Tony. Is there any other links I need to add?
Paul Street 53:49
Since this is might be the first time since you’ve interviewed me that I’ve had a bit of Substack it’s called the Paul Street report.
Anthony DiMaggio 53:56
I would say thanks for having us, but also in terms of free resources. I’m getting published about half and half right now between Counterpunch and Salon.com. So if people are interested in either one of those, they can find the archive for stuff I’m working on related to fascism, white supremacy and other issues.
Sam Goldman 54:10
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