In the run-up to the 2020 election, Political Research Associates warned that Trump would never concede defeat and that his volatile mix of supporters would take to the streets to contest the results if he lost at the polls. We recognized the danger of an attempted “soft” coup (lacking support of the military or other security forces), helped social justice groups prepare, and for weeks followed the various factions of the U.S. Right that have openly planned actions and threatened political violence.
On January 6, a right-wing mob incited by President Trump breached the Capitol complex in Washington, D.C., forcing lawmakers to delay the traditional certification of the presidential election. Only hours before, Trump had doubled-down on his election-results denial. “We will never give up. We will never concede,” he told his followers during a 70-minute address at the Ellipse, concluding with a call for them to “walk down to the Capitol.” They heard. Proud Boys chanted “1776!” as the crowd became a mob marching to confront Congress. A mixed group of hundreds of White nationalists, militia members, QAnon conspiracists, anti-abortion militants and MAGA provocateurs brushed past the police and barricades, breaking windows to force their way into the building. In the chaos that followed, legislators were evacuated, and one person, apparently a member of the pro-Trump mob, was shot and killed.
Law enforcement allowed the siege to persist for several hours before clearing rioters from the scene after 5:00 pm ET. President Trump eventually told the lawless crowd to go home in a video address where he expressed appreciation, stating “we love you, you are very special.” While the pro-Trump mob scaled Capitol walls, destroyed property, taunted police, and assaulted journalists, state capitals in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and other states faced concurrent disturbances by armed or unruly supporters of the President.
Trump and his agents of insurrection threaten the peaceful transfer of presidential power and offer an alternative path to authoritarian rule. Senators Cruz and Hawley and all other leaders attempting to overturn the election share responsibility for this violent assault on democracy and should be held accountable alongside the mobs. A much broader circle of political figures, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence, have been complicit “gravediggers of democracy” and must also be held to account.
Prior expressions of White supremacy, whether from vigilante or state forces, have been deadlier and more painfully endured, but it does not diminish these sacrifices to be alarmed by the dramatic images of a Capitol takeover saturated with racist, misogynist, antisemitic, and anti-democratic symbolism. All of this is intolerable. Our only comfort is rooted in righteous multiracial movement building and unbreakable solidarity. The Black-led progressive victories delivered in Georgia on the same day as the insurrection will soon shift the power balance in Congress, yet we remain engaged in a much deeper struggle over who is an American—who belongs and to whom government is accountable. And, beyond that, who governs.
The relative quiet in the wake of the election apparently lulled many to a sense of security. Yet, White supremacist and “Patriot” militia organizing often surges when these movements lose ground in the electoral arena, as they shift emphasis from the ballot to the bullet. PRA advises social justice and democracy organizers to prepare for a sustained period of far-right mobilization against the incoming administration—and against social justice movement-building—fueled by conspiracy theories, bigotry, and rejection of the most basic democratic norms.
Yesterday’s dramatic far-right insurrection marked the first successful assault on the Capitol in over two hundred years. On that same day, the United States recorded a record number of deaths from COVID-19. The quiet violence of systemic racism, patriarchy, and severe economic inequality continue to erode democracy and social justice and create the conditions for right-wing populist and authoritarian movements. These systemic inequalities were not created by and will not come to an end with Trump’s presidency. Rather, we who believe in emancipatory multiracial feminist democracy must both block the further capture of politics and society by authoritarian forces, and continue to build more just and democratic political and economic systems. Certifying the results of the presidential election is mere prelude to the deeper fight for authentic democracy.