A deranged mob of Americans, fueled by lies about election fraud peddled by the president of the United States together with a number of senators and House members, sacked the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as a part of an rebellion inspired by Donald Trump to cease the constitutional course of permitting for the peaceable switch of energy going down inside the constructing.
“[Y]ou’ll never take back your country with weakness,” Trump informed the rioters instantly earlier than they marched on the Capitol. “You have to show strength and be strong.”
“We’re going to try to give our Republicans — the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help — we’re going to try and give them [the] kind of pride and boldness they need to take back our country,” he mentioned to the group on the National Mall.
The ensuing riot led members of Congress to flee in gas masks after police deployed tear fuel as an armed standoff befell between U.S. Capitol Police and rioters on the doorways of the House Chamber. Confederate flags had been paraded through the halls of Congress as rioters donned in tactical military gear and carrying zip-tie handcuffs, seemingly supposed for use to kidnap lawmakers, entered the Senate chamber. They screamed for Mike Pence’s head after Trump denounced his personal vp in an audio message. Some wore sweatshirts bearing the message: “MAGA Civil War” and the date, “1.6.21.”
On the grounds exterior, rioters erected a large picket cross and a gallows with a noose. Reporters had been beaten and threatened with death. Their cameras and equipment were smashed and burned. Echoing Trump’s long-standing calls that the press had been the enemy of the individuals, rioters scrawled “Murder the media,” on a Capitol doorway. A rioter murdered a police officer with a fireplace extinguisher. Another rioter was shot useless by a police officer whereas attempting to interrupt into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chambers. In maybe the most indelible image, rioters commandeered a scaffold and used it to take down an American flag and change it with a Trump “Make America Great Again” flag.
This was the catastrophic and prophetic end result of the Make America Great Again delusion.
Ever since Trump descended the escalator in Trump Tower in 2015 to announce his presidential marketing campaign with vicious, racist rhetoric and the tagline “Make America Great Again,” pundits and journalists have struggled to grasp his attraction and the unthinking ardour he impressed within the conservative base of the Republican Party and whether or not there was any true that means or substance to what has been known as Trumpism. The routine error on this effort has been to deal with Trumpism as a reality to be understood intellectually or to be disputed. (Not to say that refuting his lies is pointless.)
As the right-wing billionaire Peter Thiel once said about understanding Trump, “I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media is always taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally.”
Thiel tried to spin taking Trump “seriously” as that means that his supporters heard his bombastic lies and racist jibes and thought of them in concrete coverage phrases. That was additionally flawed. Trump’s supporters weren’t taking his phrases both actually or significantly, they had been taking them mythically. When Trump entered the political fray in 2015, he gave the supporters of the conservative motion that got here to dominate the Republican Party because the finish of World War II a political delusion they might die for. And myths, for the believer, can’t be refuted.
A political delusion is a story forged in dramatic kind that gives a sensible rationalization of current occasions to a selected group at a time or place. Political myths present that means, path and objective via an interpretation of what the group of believers takes to be actuality. They mythologize and interpret actual occasions, and historic info could be altered to swimsuit the parable’s objective.
There are many sorts of political myths. There are basis myths, just like the Myth of the American Founding Fathers and the 1776 Revolution, the Roman Foundation Myth or the Soviet Myth of the October Revolution. And there are different political organizing myths, just like the Myth of Norman Yoke, the Confederate Lost Cause Myth or the Myth of the U.S. Constitution.
But what Trump presents below the banner of “Make America Great Again” is an apocalyptic, or eschatological, delusion. It is a delusion foretelling a fantastic and cataclysmic future occasion the place deliverance will arrive via the exertion and sacrifice of the believers. The current order can be swept away and both a brand new one will take its place or an older order can be majestically restored.
“Politicians have used you and stolen your votes,” Trump mentioned whereas campaigning in 2016. “They have given you nothing. I will give you everything. I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.”
The French syndicalist theorist Georges Sorel offered probably the most detailed rationalization and concept for eschatological political myths in his 1908 e-book, “Reflections on Violence,” which centered on socialism and the parable of the overall strike.
Myths like Make America Great Again comprise “all the strongest inclinations of a people, of a party or of a class,” based on Sorel, that “give an aspect of complete reality to the hopes of immediate action upon which the reform of the will is founded.” They “are not descriptions of things but expressions of a will to act.” And believers “always picture their coming action in the form of images of battle in which their cause is certain to triumph.” These myths “cannot be refuted,” since they simply replicate “the convictions of a group.”
These myths are additionally to not be confused with utopian tales, which “direct men’s minds towards reforms.” Myths like Make America Great Again do no such factor however as an alternative present a story to “lead men to prepare themselves for a combat which will destroy the existing state of things.”
Trump, from the start, as many have famous, had no particular coverage program whereas operating for president exterior of symbolic proposals to construct a wall on the Mexican border, ban Muslims from coming into the nation and let police beat up anti-racism protesters. But these symbolic proposals, alongside along with his violent and racist rhetoric, galvanized the Republican Party’s conservative base in a fashion his main opponents couldn’t.
There was by no means a coverage imaginative and prescient for a Trump administration, however he promised that his election would deliver an excellent future for conservatives. But that’s as a result of he was not promising a presidential administration in any actual sense. He promised a future through which he alone would make America nice once more by smashing the left, siccing safety forces on Latin American immigrants, Black individuals and Muslims, and defending and glorifying his supporters.
The MAGA delusion urges quick motion to “take back our country” from, as Trump mentioned in July, a “left-wing cultural revolution … designed to overthrow the American Revolution.” This battle needs to be waged “without apology,” he mentioned then.
“This country will be everything that our citizens have hoped for, for so many years,” Trump mentioned, “and that our enemies fear.”
This should occur as a result of it’s the white conservatives who’re the true victims of a liberal elite that disdains them.
“We’re all victims,” Trump mentioned on Dec. 5 about his reelection loss. “Everybody here, all these thousands of people here tonight, they’re all victims, every one of you.”
Prior to the election, National Review Editor-in-Chief Rich Lowry justified support for Trump as a result of he was “the only middle finger available” that conservatives might “brandish against the people who’ve assumed they have the whip hand in American culture.”
These themes of victimhood from a leftist elite have suffused conservatism since non secular, enterprise and white racist conservatives got here collectively in the course of the twentieth century in response to the New Deal, the civil rights motion and the ladies’s and homosexual rights actions.
The John Birch Society, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), Southern segregationists and numerous others who helped create and fund the conservative motion propagated conspiracies of a secret communist cabal that included everybody from President Dwight Eisenhower to Chief Justice Earl Warren to Martin Luther King Jr. And, extra lately, after the election of the first Black president, the tea celebration motion organized conservatives to “take back our country” whereas donning the symbols of the American Revolution, such because the Gadsden Flag and tri-corner hats.
This perspective helped to construct and create the Republican Party coalition that received 5 out of six presidential elections from 1968 to 1988 and management of each chambers of Congress in 1994. But since then the celebration has more and more relied on both non-democratic or un-representative parts of the American political system, such because the Electoral College, the U.S. Senate, the judicial department and gerrymandering, to achieve and maintain energy. The most obtrusive statistic to indicate that is that Republicans have now misplaced the favored vote in seven out of the final eight presidential races. They even have now misplaced the favored vote in 4 successive presidential elections, a feat surpassed solely by the 5 straight wins by Democrats Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Conservatives, and particularly white conservatives, are more and more a political minority. And they realize it.
Trump’s Make America Great Again delusion arrived for this weakened conservatism beset by its failure to reverse the advance of a multiracial democracy as a brand new imaginative and prescient of a future the place all conservatives will win and all liberals wouldn’t solely be defeated however imprisoned. “Lock them all up,” Trump mentioned on the marketing campaign path in 2020. The current order of each events could be swept away, and the previous order could be restored. Just as Sorel described.
Where conservatives within the tea celebration acted out their drama by appropriating the legendary imagery of the American Revolution, Trump changed this apparel with symbols of the apocalyptic future he was promising. Goodbye, tri-corner hats. Hello, Make America Great Again baseball caps. Put down the Gadsden flag and pick up a Trump MAGA banner. By the tip of Trump’s 2020 reelection marketing campaign, his rallies displayed the Thin Blue Line flag more prominently than the actual Red, White and Blue.
The MAGA delusion was made actual when, towards all odds, Trump shocked the media and Democrats and received the 2016 election, regardless of shedding the favored vote. He had promised deliverance, and he had delivered. Trump would go on to explain that evening at his subsequent rallies. This was a recitation of his victory as a dramatic narrative: a delusion. The message is obvious: Trump received the place nobody else might, and America was Great Again due to him. Trump was by himself the conclusion of the parable. As he mentioned in 2016, “I alone can fix it.” Naturally, his reelection marketing campaign picked Keep America Great as its new motto. Removal of Trump via democratic elections had turn into synonymous with the autumn of the republic.
But Trump did lose reelection. As this difficult the MAGA delusion, it couldn’t probably be true. Trump, via his symbiotic relationship along with his base of supporters, each fueled their wildest fantasies by rejecting his loss with a gradual stream of lies and amplified his supporters’ conspiracies on social media. These lies needed to be true as a result of America needed to be Made Great Again, his supporters believed.
“People who are living in this world of myths are secure from all refutation,” Sorel wrote.
And so Trump summoned his supporters to Washington on Wednesday to a rally meant to cease Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. It could be a day to “save America,” based on Trump, and “Stop the Steal!”
“Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted.
This was the second that the Make America Great Again delusion had ready his supporters for. It was time for them to “take our country back.” We have all seen what occurred subsequent.
After the sack of the U.S. Capitol, which led to the deaths of 4 rioters and one police officer, Fox News contributor and Trump ally Pete Hegseth defended the rioters by quoting one of them he had talked to who mentioned they now noticed themselves as “a born-again American.”
The catastrophic Make America Great Again delusion got here to fruition, and it performed out on Capitol Hill. What it finally amounted to just isn’t clear, however that’s irrelevant, as Sorel argued when he defended the parable of the overall strike and its utility for socialism.
“Even if the only result of the idea of the general strike was to make the socialist conception more heroic, it should on that account alone be looked upon as having an incalculable value,” Sorel wrote.
The similar holds true for the Make America Great Again delusion. Non-believers, nevertheless, should wait to see what disaster it anticipates subsequent.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to turn into a founding member and assist form HuffPost’s subsequent chapter