Written By: Anton Sawyer
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There's always a time of reflection after a major violent episode shakes the nation to its core. With the events taking place at the nation's capital on January 6th, 2021, it seems this time is now ...
On that date in Washington D.C., a large gathering took place in an attempt to disrupt the democratic process of certifying our nation's election of 2020. With tensions at an all-time high, a president hell-bent on working up his followers into a violent frenzy, and then a dash of complete lack of self-awareness added in for good measure, the volcano erupted.
The multitude, who clearly failed second-grade civics when it comes to how voting and counting numbers works, were under the impression that rampant voter fraud was happening all over the country in an attempt to prevent former President Donald Trump from regaining the White House. Voting machines were hacked, ballots burned, and a slew of other accusations have flown oh so freely. The issue is that all of the lawsuits brought about were tossed out of court due to lack of evidence. They felt then that the only remedy would be found in a physical confrontation.
You'd think these elements alone would create the perfect storm of insanity and controversy, however, the police decided they wanted to add another layer to the cake.
Though a woman was shot and killed by a police officer during the melee, videos of those same police officers were seen opening the gates once the mob got too close, or threatening ... or whatever excuse it is they want to use that shifts blame off them for letting the horde storm the castle. Because a majority of the protestors were white, the Black Lives Matter organization has jumped all over this—and they might have a valid reason.
Intentions can only be speculated upon. We don't know if it was a fear of the mob, if there was some racial undertone, or because Trump and his supporters have always played the card that they are the only political organization willing to ensure the laws are being followed. But something caused the gates to be opened. Though I try not to be one of those people who immediately tie racism to these kinds of happenings off the bat, I cannot recall any time when a group of cops was being threatened by black people and the cops cowered.
Yes, some Republican leaders have rallied against this display. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said "Self-government, my colleagues, requires a shared commitment to the truth. And shared respect for the ground rules of our system. We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate realities."
Though McConnell may have had the most prestige of anyone who spoke towards this display, in reality, it was Donald Trump Jr. that had the loudest (and most accurate) proclamation of the day. "This gathering should send a message to them: This isn't their Republican Party anymore. This is Donald Trump's Republican Party."
He isn't wrong.
Having written before about my time working for the Republican National Committee in 2015 under Reince Preibus (which you can see the full backstory here), I feel that some of it bears repeating given the new world in which we live.
While working there I was researching politics and psychology. There had been a number of studies done on the way information is processed and the political leanings of those individuals. Because it was found that more often than not, Republicans use the amygdala (emotional) part of the brain for decision making, I became fascinated by the scripting verbiage and its ability to direct people into certain mental frameworks with relative ease. And all without the worry of cumbersome facts.
During this time I was a member of a Facebook writer's community. It wasn't political specifically, but rather was a place where new or under-the-radar authors could gain an audience and advice from fellow craftsmen. One of the people I knew in the group was a die-hard conservative. He had voted straight Republican tickets in every election for two decades. When I started working for the RNC, he was more than excited to hear the intricacies of his party. After working there for four months and telling him all of the stories ... well, we haven't spoken since then.
When you call someone and they believe you are on their team, they will open up to you in ways that you wouldn't hear otherwise. My friend absolutely refused to believe that ANYONE in the Republican party could say the n-word (whether in hate or passing). I would tell him bits and pieces of the scripting and it would lead to him calling me a liar because he KNEW there's no way that such apparent hypocrisies in the messaging could come from the leadership. Denial after denial. What eventually lead us to radio silence was when Donald Trump threw his hat into the ring.
My friend absolutely refused to entertain the thought that Trump could win the nomination. I disagreed. Even in the fact that I had stopped working at the RNC by the time Trump made his announcement—therefore I was only "out of the loop" for a couple of weeks—I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that he would get the nod.
I tried to explain to my friend that every political value Trump promoted were the same ones I would hear on the daily from the party base. That when in friendly company, the people would espouse all of Trump's talking points with vigor. It lead to a very heated argument. As someone of high intelligence, he denied anything and everything about Trump that he didn't see in himself. He felt that whatever was said by leadership that didn't make sense was done to frustrate liberals. He knew there was no way that Mexico would pay for a border wall, and he assumed that others in his party would know the same—that it was just a way to mess with their opposition. When I would give him examples of what people have said in relation to what Trump espoused, he would shut down. He thought Trump was an idiot that was ruining the party; I thought Trump was the single greatest personification of the beliefs and desires of his people. That conversation was the last thing either one of us has said to each other.
There are a lot of conservatives out there who do not follow the racist or misogynist ideals of Trump. Like my friend, those were the people that had to be convinced that Trump would be the best option to win the presidency. During the election, various GOP candidates in various municipalities began using some of the talking points that Trump had started, and found that when they attached to Trump, it increased their chances of winning.
A lot of those sentiments were met with a wink, or some kind of other telltale sign that let those who "really know" what's actually going on to feel secure about nominating Trump, but still keeping the faith of his ardent supporters. Beginning in 2015, Republican leaders started to ride the line between traditional conservative values and the new breed of "Trump values" in order to secure the largest amount of support from all aspects of the GOP umbrella.
What they didn't realize was that Trumpers do not have the ability to pick up on nuance. His flock took all of the hyperbole dead serious. Donald Trump and his followers share so many of the same sentiments when it pertains to almost any political topic, that when they said "he tells it like it is," it was coming from an incredibly pure place.
During his presidency, many conservative Senators and congress-people would dip their toes into the waters of Trump Values and splash around a bit, but would always run back to the shores of reality. What they found out on January 6th is that when they went out for one last swim and tried to return, the shores of reality no longer existed.
Right now the Republican party is incredibly fractured with two distinct sides: pro-Trump, or never-Trump. The level of surprise that some have shown towards this fissure truly illustrates this lack of self-awareness I wrote about earlier.
That Mitch McConnell is somehow surprised people would react to this normal American procedure—the electoral college committing their votes—with such animosity. For the last number of years, he had been misdirecting through legislation, Fox News talking heads, and press releases about the criminal gangland mentality of the Democratic party. It doesn't take a genius to realize that when you sow this level of confusion and fear to enough people, you aren't going to be able to put the beast back in the cage.
You can't have a fact-free existence coincide with centuries of cultural norms and statistics. One of them has to give. And that's where we are currently at. The Republican party is playing a huge game of chicken with itself. Eric Trump solidified this conflict with a tweet on January 6th claiming, "I will personally work to defeat every single Republican Senator / Congressman who doesn't stand up against this fraud - they will be primaried in their next election and they will lose."
It doesn't matter how good the candidates' ideas are.
It doesn't matter what their positioning is or if it could legitimately help all Americans.
Either you are with us or we crush you.
Within the GOP, one half will use violence, will stare into the eyes of truth and call it a lie, and isn't afraid to do (literally) whatever they can to ensure victory.
The other half will try and ride the rails between nuance, carefully crafted talking points, and reinstating trust in the party as a whole.
At this time, I have no idea which side will flinch first. But I think throughout all of this, there's one thing we can take away: whether from the pro-Trumpers, or never-Trumpers, you don't have to worry about the truth being brought about from the self-realization of the masses.
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