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Hello and welcome to the 538 Politics podcast. I'm Galen Group. After a group of pro Trump extremists violently rioted inside the capital on Wednesday, two of the big questions we're grappling with are why did this happen and what happens next? Politically, impeachment seems imminent. Over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans to pass a resolution asking Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, saying that if he didn't, within twenty four hours, the House would move forward with impeaching the president.
So we're going to talk about how such an impeachment would play out and the extent to which Republicans would join the effort. We're also going to tackle the question of why this happened. Numerous forces led to the insurrection on Wednesday.
President Trump's incitement election, conspiracy theories promoted by many Republicans, white nationalism, unprepared law enforcement and more so in the second half of the show.
We're going to speak with various writers at 538 who have looked into those forces. But here with me to kick off the show and discuss the political and legal repercussions for the president, our senior politics writer, Perry Bacon Junior. Hey, Perry Hagelin. Also here with us is senior writer and legal analyst Amelia Thompson. Hey, Amelia Hagelin. And he is out this week. So, as I mentioned, House Democrats are introducing a resolution today, Monday, asking Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment.
And then if he doesn't, within 24 hours, the Democrats are planning to introduce articles of impeachment or vote on those articles. So, Perry, kick us off here. Why have Democrats chosen to go this route? It's Monday. It has been five days since this insurrection. There has been a bunch of conversations within the Democratic Party and amongst a few Republicans about how to move forward. How did they settle on this plan that I've described here?
The short answer is that the 25th Amendment did not. Pelosi was hoping that Mike Pence did the tourism himself. That did not happen. So there was one thing, and it seems like right now this is hard to imagine that a lot of Republicans in the House would support impeachment more and probably a lot of Republicans in the Senate are probably not going to support impeachment. So we were now at a point where it looks like the impeachment votes are going to be symbolic and a criticism of the president, but it's unlikely he's going to be pushed out of office.
I think the last few days suggests neither the Cabinet nor the Senate Republicans are going to actually support removing Trump from office. So now we're having votes that are basically the Democrats themselves are to some extent saying we are mad. We think Trump has done bad things, but it looks like these votes are not going to have the action of actually getting him out of office, which I would argue is an imminent threat. The way he's behaved, leaving in of us is an imminent threat.
But the votes are not there. And I do think it's worth noting that it looks like Pelosi in some ways, you know, the action happened on Wednesday. We're going to have the people vote basically the next Wednesday, a week later. If this is a real urgency, she could have pushed forward. And in my view, this is another this is a Pelosi sort of wanting to get the Republicans to take on Trump as opposed to doing herself, which we saw a lot of over these last four years.
Yeah, I mean, if it seems pretty clear that Mike Pence wouldn't invoke the 25th Amendment and there are various arguments for why he should or shouldn't, based in why the 25th Amendment was created to begin with, why are they even taking this route of waiting the twenty four hours with this resolution? Why not just jump to impeachment today?
I guess what I'm saying is I'm not sure the point this resolution today and tomorrow to get Mike Pence is something he's clearly not going to do, feels like a fruitless sort of waste of time. And I'm not sure there's any real good procedural arguments for this beyond. They want to get Republicans on the record and they want to embarrass and shame Mike Pence more. And the cabin more than the political benefit of the Democrats is the Republicans are going to be taking a pro Trump vote three times.
They're objecting to the resolution on Monday. They're going to do it again on Tuesday. They're going to vote against impeachment. So you've shamed the Republicans more, I guess, if you're Pelosi. But I think for the American people, the concern is not do the Republicans cast three votes that make them look bad, but is a dangerous president moved out of office and looks and this resolution process seems to do nothing but have more political votes going on?
I mean, what is the point of the 25th Amendment that we've just got so much at this point?
I think this is one of the complicating features of this whole debate, is that it's not really clear. And I think you can make a pretty good argument that this is not really what the 25th Amendment was intended for. Basically, the goal of the 25th Amendment is to create. Eight, a mechanism for the vice president to take over if the president is incapacitated due to disability and helpful example of this might be the 25th Amendment was passed in the 1960s.
And let's say that when JFK was shot that he hadn't died, he was in some sort of incapacitated state and couldn't actively pass on power to the vice president. And so the concern is, OK, we want to make sure that if there is a situation, God forbid, that the president is really incapacitated and also incapacitated to the point where they are unable to actually pass power onto the vice president, that there is a mechanism for doing that. It's not really clear.
And I've talked to some legal analysts and read some reports indicating that it wasn't intended to deal with a president who is not necessarily incapacitated, is just dangerous, failing in various ways in his role as president.
So, you know, I understand the political appeal of the 25th Amendment for someone like Pelosi and certainly from the Democrats perspective and also just from the political realities of what's happening with impeachment now that Perry was just laying out, it would certainly be much neater for the Democrats if they could get Trump's own administration to be the one to get him to leave office in this critical period before Biden takes over.
But it's not clear that the 25th Amendment is really the mechanism that is supposed to do that.
To say this more bluntly, we have a very will Lyondell process in the Constitution called impeachment and removal. And this should be the preferred outcome, I would argue, over a 20 year ban, which is not intended to be used as a way to remove a president who we don't like, who we think makes bad decisions, that we would be make more sense to use the actual process described written by the founders as opposed to this sort of backdoor method.
And it's like galling to see the preferred method to be I know it's faster, but it would be much better for the country, I would argue, to have the members elected by the Congress. Most people don't know who is in Trump's cabinet. No one voted for them. So the idea that he's deserving of the president as opposed to the sitting Congress is not a good precedent.
But also this idea that the 25th Amendment is faster, maybe it's a little bit faster just because of the slowness with which Congress moves. But what we saw last year with Trump's impeachment and trial that happened over a period of months, Congress doesn't have to do that.
Congress sets its own rules. And if Congress wanted to, they could do this very quickly. So, you know, this goes back to the point that Perry was making that, you know, when you were asking about Galam, it's sort of like, what's the purpose of this delay? It's not like it's procedurally necessary. There's a political choices being made to push this process along at the speed that it's happening. And there's an argument that's being made that the 25th Amendment is faster.
That's a little disingenuous, like Pelosi could act faster if she wanted to.
OK, so there are a couple of different pieces here, which is why the Democrats are deciding to take the route that they're taking and what the timeline looks for that likely impeachment. It seems the vast majority of Democrats in the House at this point have signed on. And then also how Republicans are responding to impeachment itself, but also to the president's behavior more broadly beyond just the question of whether or not they will impeach and convict him. So it doesn't seem like Mike Pence is going to invoke the 25th Amendment.
You've also made legal constitutional arguments for why that wouldn't make sense anyway beyond Mike Pence. How are Republicans reacting to the idea of impeachment and conviction?
Does the president briefly, the cabin members who might be inclined to vote are removed from their quitting instead? So, Betsy, divorce in Illinois, she quit last week. So that vote is even more purposeless now. I don't think Mike Pompeo or a bunch of other Trump loyalists are going to vote out the president. So that's out there in terms of Congress, I think in terms of members who have said unequivocally they will vote for impeachment and removal of the president, I think we're talking about Adam Kinzinger, who's a from Illinois.
House Republicans don't matter that much. But in terms of like who would actually vote for impeachment in the House and join the Democrats, I think we're at a very small number. Republicans in the Senate, it sounds like Pat Toomey, Ben Sasse, maybe Susan Collins, probably Mitt Romney. You know, you probably need 17 or 18 Republican votes for removal. I think we're talking about we're at four or five right now because I don't think you have the numbers.
Maybe a House vote moves this, but you're hearing two arguments from Republicans. The first one is basically sort of a logistics one that doesn't address the fact that Trump is leaving office in 10 days anyway. We should just, like, let him. Go out of office. He can't do anything that badly, which I disagree with, he can do a lot better, but they're sort of arguing he can't do that much better in the last two weeks or 10 days.
He is the second argument, which I think is even less convincing, is that being made by sort of Marco Rubio and others is that impeachment will be too divisive for the country. I mean, that seems absurd, like the insurrection that the president encouraged is a divisive act moving out. The president would obviously be controversial, but it wouldn't be divisive if the Republicans all voted for it, which they could do. So there are sort of like saying division that they're causing means that we can't go forward.
But in reality, even if they find these arguments to be fairly unconvincing and disingenuous, really the second one, the Republicans are natural inclination to support the president's removal. There is some polls of voters and it looks like a quarter of Republican voters support removing the president, but not anywhere near a majority. And so you're probably seeing a little bit of the core activists who are probably reaching out to members of Congress. My assumption is are probably more inclined to be against Trump's removal than being for Trump's removal.
This is a little bit of a chicken and egg problem here that I don't know that we can answer on this podcast. But if Republicans all decided en masse in Congress that they did want to remove President Trump from office, would that in itself shift Republican opinion or is like Trump, the only person who has control over base Republican opinion?
So recites one of the most important questions I think we have about this part of the world's history is could the Republican Party have reined in the official Republican Party? Members of Congress, the establishment, have reined in Trump more if they had acted early or as Trump control the base. And I think the answer is not really clear. I looks like from the polling that a big block of Republican voters are very uncomfortable with this. And I tend to think that group would grow to some extent if Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Stylist's Nikki Haley gave a joint statement saying this is unacceptable.
I think that number could grow. But I do think this will be a core Trump base that might be 40 percent of the Republican Party or so that would not go with them. So the answer is, I'm not sure. I think that there is a core Trump base, but I don't think it's like the overwhelming majority, the Republican Party. I think it's a bloc. And I think a unified Republican statement from Thursday were all Republican leaders on Thursday said Trump must go, would have moved Republican opinion, but those people didn't want to do that.
So beyond the question of impeachment itself, which relies on members of the House and senators, how are Republicans reacting?
So not necessarily on whether or not he should be impeached, whether or not he should be convicted and removed, what are Republicans doing? I mean, this is like a huge event in American history. And if they're not encouraging the president to be removed from office, what are they saying?
Well, there was the initial reaction from a lot of Republicans after the events of last week that was kind of like call off your goons and stop these people from continuing with this insurrection, which President Trump then followed up with a statement that started with, well, we all know the election was stolen, but you got to go home, which like obviously like if you are continuing to insist that the election was stolen and there are people who are rioting in the capital because of it, like that's not gonna help anything.
So that was a pretty predictable and extremely weak tea response.
And then we've seen just sort of like, you know, a variety of actions that are condemning what happened, but saying, you know, we have to move on in the name of unity and like, you know, look, it's really the Democrats who are pushing this divisiveness by trying to push for impeachment. And like, we really need to get to a point where the country can heal. And the way to do that is not by trying to insist on accountability for the president.
And as Perry was saying, like get him out of office in a time when he could still be quite dangerous.
Has there been a break with him? Like, have people disavowed Trump even if they're not calling for his removal?
I mean, I don't know what a break with him looks like right now. If it's not supporting him no longer being in office. You have people like Betsy divorcing Elaine Chao, who resigned from the cabinet. And they're like, OK, this is a bridge too far. I can't be in this cabinet anymore.
But they have served under Trump for the past four years. You know, there have been plenty of things that have pointed to something like this happening. And Trump has done plenty of things that are not inciting an insurrection, but like leading to this point. And so, you know, to say like, oh, I can't serve in this administration anymore. Oh, this president has gone to. Ah, this question of what a break looks like, I don't know what that is at this point, given that the choice is basically do you let him stay in office for the remainder of his term?
Or do you say, oh, you know, he can't really do that much damage? It's better for the country to just let him serve out his term and leave and then Biden will take over and then we can move on from there.
So Nikki Haley said in the last few days, Trump's post-election actions will be, quote, judged harshly by history. I think that's what we're talking about here. Like, that's my sense is the people who distanced themselves with Trump will use his name and say Donald Trump did bad things in this post-election period. I'm guessing Republican Party is not going to ever disavow his actions in the most of his first four years. But my sense is there will be Republicans who will say directly what Donald Trump said and did led to what happened in the capital.
And then you'll get a lot of Republicans who will suggest there was a mob and some people were with antifa and sort of other things that suggest what happened on Wednesday had nothing to do with Trump or very little. And I think that's the core difference that we're going to see disavow of. Trump is going to look like what Nikki Haley said. And I think you'll see a fair amount of people do that, even if they don't necessarily vote for removal.
And then really outside of there are plenty of Republican primary Republicans outside of Congress who don't have a vote on this. And my guess is those people will also divide in those two camps of who blames Trump for wins and who doesn't. What does Mitch McConnell said his wife did resign from the cabinet. So I think he's sort of trying to hint that he's in both camps. I don't think he's directly said Wednesday was because of Donald Trump, but I think he's tried to play both sides of this.
While some of his staffers have been hinting that Trump caused this. So I think it's like, does Mitch McConnell ever get to the point of disavowing Trump's? You know, I think he might he hasn't done so yet, is my impression. His comments have been more circumspect. He's not in the zone of like the Republicans who are not at all criticizing Donald Trump either.
And the other thing that I just add is that for Republicans, this debate over impeachment, like it's not just about whether to remove Trump from office. Obviously, it could have the effect of doing that. But also there is this option as part of an impeachment trial that Congress can bar him from holding further federal office. And so obviously, we're heading into uncharted territory here. Trump would be the first president to be impeached twice, much less to see an impeachment trial potentially continue after he's no longer president.
But that is another option. Even if the trial happens and it doesn't finish or even start until Trump has left the White House, there is this other step that they can say, OK, he's not in the White House anymore, but he really needs to not be president again. He needs to not be able to run in twenty, twenty four. And so I think Democrats are likely thinking about that and will try to I wouldn't be surprised if we see more pushing on that.
So let's dig in a little bit to that timeline, because for Republicans who are saying, you know, I condemn Trump's actions, but impeachment is divisive, part of their argument is that while he couldn't be removed from office before January 20th anyway unless all 100 of the senators decided to begin the trial immediately as soon as they received the impeachment articles from the House. So that means one Republican says no, and it's therefore not possible to remove the president before the 20th.
So how are Democrats thinking about this process, given that conundrum? Are they going to try to fast track the articles of impeachment and pressure one hundred senators to begin the trial immediately and I guess pretend that that is a possibility?
Withhold the articles of impeachment until Trump has left office, therefore, maybe slightly acting counter to what they say their claim is, which is to remove the president as soon as possible. What happens here?
So interesting thing is happening where McConnell's there was a story in The Washington Post where people close to McConnell sort of floated the idea, no, McConnell is the majority leader and controls the Senate until January 20th, is my understanding, until Kamala Harris is sworn in. So McConnell's allies floated the idea that they couldn't because of the Senate calendar and other things. They could change if they wanted to, but they floated the idea that impeachment trial could not start until January 19th and therefore an impeachment trial would therefore extend at least beyond that.
And what they're hinting is, of course, the impeachment trial. The Republicans are threatening essentially that impeachment trial will go into the first 10 days. The. Two weeks of the Biden administration and now you're seeing Biden aides are sort of anonymously telling reporters were nervous about impeachment because we don't want impeachment to get in the way of our first couple of weeks of governing. So now you get basically a situation where Republicans are hinting, if you're going to do this, we're going to really we're going to have a real impeachment and we're going to slow walk it as much as possible.
Biden is there for like I don't know what getting really in my first couple weeks as president. So I think Clyburn has suggested, we should say in the article that he should, but maybe like in March or something. This all seems a little bit convoluted because a lot of sort of like legislative gamesmanship being played here, because at the end of the day, nobody thinks that Trump is going to be removed. So everybody's trying to figure out what is the timing best for placating my individual political needs.
Is it possible, Amelio, to convict a president who's no longer in office?
Again, like this is a bit of an open question because it hasn't happened. But the consensus that I've seen from the legal experts who study impeachment is, yeah, there's nothing really to say that the president can no longer be held accountable for impeachable offenses once he's no longer in the White House.
And the fact that there are other mechanisms beyond removal for holding the president accountable suggests that, yeah, this is something that the president doesn't like immediately get out of impeachment free card as soon as he vacates the White House.
I've seen some questions as to whether it would be possible for the Senate to bar President Trump from ever holding federal office again without actually convicting him. And that question has to do with the fact that you could bar him from holding public office based on a simple majority of 51 votes, whereas conviction would actually take six or two thirds of the Senate. What kind of legal opinions have you seen on whether or not you could enact the repercussion without the conviction?
Basically, the consensus I've seen is that you do have to do the conviction vote first. And so that would need to happen even if Trump was no longer president. And then you could do the 51 vote barring from holding federal office. Obviously, from the Democrats perspective, you would be much easier to accomplish the goal of barring Trump from holding federal office if they only needed a simple majority.
But there may be a little bit of diversity of legal opinion about this just because that is inevitably the case in these uncharted territory situations.
But most of the legal experts, at least that I've talked to and I've seen write and report on this seem to assume that it's two thirds vote to convict and then you can go down the path of, OK, should this person be barred from holding federal office.
So some of the polling I've seen on this and of course, we've had five days for the public to digest what happened and tell pollsters what they think. But it's somewhere between 70 and 75 percent of registered voters opposed the storming of the Capitol, with around 60 percent saying that it's a threat to democracy and perpetrated by domestic terrorists. So there's pretty overwhelming condemnation, although not universal at all, condemnation of what happened. I've also seen polling that around 55 percent of Americans think that the president should be removed.
So that gives us a little bit of the lay of the land. Is it a political liability for Republicans if they do not move to impeach the president or I don't know what other options they have, but say it even happens after he leaves office. If they don't convict him either, does that become a political liability? I don't think so. I tend to think that the next elections are almost two years from now, I assume Donald Trump will not be on the ballot in any election.
Maybe one of his children will be, and maybe it's a problem for them. But voters have short memories. Most voters vote based on party. I'll be curious, even if you're in a swing state, does the Democrat running against the Republican even mentioned you voted three times to keep Donald Trump in office and you also voted to question the election results? I even wonder if that's an issue on the table in two years. I'm skeptical the Democrats will run on that.
I'm skeptical they'll be able to move many people. This is unpopular. Like, obviously, the insurrection of the Capitol was terrible. But I think linking that to Trump is what Democrats could do. I doubt they will. And I don't know how effective it will be. Interesting. This is unknowable. I am just surprised by how fleeting you see this being the event itself. Obviously, I think it's fleeting political repercussions. Of course, the political resources for the Republicans, I'm skeptical are very high.
It depends to a certain extent to right on what happens next. I think there is this question, are we going to see more violence around Inauguration Day and then sort of like, what is Trump going to do when he's no longer president? But still, it's also like lost a lot of his platforms for reaching people, but still presumably holds pretty significant sway over his base. So I think for me, part of it is, you know, what is Trump post presidency look like and how does he continue to activate these divisions that resulted in such horrifying violence last week?
And that's kind of the big open question for me and I would guess is something that Republicans are probably at least a little bit concerned about, like it is better for them if Trump is not there out there inciting violence when he leaves the White House, if he just fades into the background quietly knowing what we know about Trump.
I certainly don't expect him to do that. So I think that's one of the big unknowns for me.
The other big unknown, as Biden is sure, it looks like Biden wants to get up on January 20th and basically say this part of our country's history was terrible and over. And we're like starting a new page. I get the sense Biden is not interested, particularly in, like, really detailing what happened, describing it, exiling Republicans who supported this in any way out of public life. I think there's a demand on the Democratic side for looking at these last four years, looking at last week and really punishing the people who perpetuated this, particularly Trump.
But I don't think that is shared by Biden, who is the person who has the most power to influence public opinion, particularly among liberals and even among the rest of the country. If Biden is heading this, I want to move on. And that's going to have a big impact. And I think that's where he is right now.
Also, to your earlier point about where Republicans stand and whether or not they'll face political repercussions, it's just so many Republicans, the majority of the House caucus voted to overturn the results of elections, in particular states that it seems like there's almost a suicide pact at this point where if it was like a significantly smaller part of the party, then there could be some kind of movement to ostracize people.
But state level parties, the RNC writ large, the House caucus to a lesser degree, Republicans on the Senate, it was only six or seven that voted to overturn the election. But there's so much inertia here that that may well be part of the reason that they aren't held to account by the Republican Party itself. The question will be for some of these Republicans, whether they are Nikki Haley or whether they are Dan Crenshaw or people who want to pursue a future in the Republican Party are also breaking with Trump to some extent, but not talking about conviction, removal, etc.
. What are they going to do about the fact that the base is still really excited about Trump or at least excited about Trump's politics? And what path do they take in the primaries? What argument do they make to the public? I'm certainly curious to watch how that unfolds, but we're getting to the point in every conversation we have that it's we don't know yet. We have to see what happens. This is to be determined. And so let's end this here and let's talk about why this happened.
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Pro Trump extremists attempted insurrection at the US Capitol resulted in at least five deaths and according to reporting since Wednesday, seems to have come close to a significantly more dire situation.
I'd encourage listeners to read the reporting from The Washington Post and The New York Times about what happened in real time from the people who experienced it. It really gives you a sense of the extent to which the security of the country's lawmakers and everyone in the building was on a razor's edge. So one of the big questions now is how did we get here? So joining us for this segment, in addition to Perry and Amelia, is Caleb Rogers, a politics and tech reporter here at 538.
Hey, how's it going on? While also joining us is Hakim Jefferson. He's a political science professor at Stanford University researching race and identity in American politics. And he's also a contributor to 538. Hi, Hakim, thanks for joining us today. Hey, all good to be here. As I mentioned at the top of the show, the elements that led to the storming of the Capitol are numerous. There's Trump specific incitement leading up to and on January 6th, there's encouragement from Trump and many Republicans to believe that the election was fraudulent.
There's white nationalism, militia movements on and offline, a lack of preparation from law enforcement and more. And of course, many of these things may overlap. So all of you have researched and reported on these different forces. I don't want to hear from you all what your research and reporting tells us. So let's open things up with that fundamental question. Let's start with you.
You wrote an article for the site over the weekend that is titled Trump Helped Take Extremist Views from the fringes of society to a mob attacking the Capitol. So kick us off. Why did this happen?
In many ways, this was the culmination of years of online rhetoric that has been brewing and has been fueled by Trump in many ways. But among right wing, far right wing extremist groups online, there's been sort of this fantasy about taking back the country, about violent acts to take over Congress. And this has always been there in the rhetoric. But it's certainly reached a fever pitch over the last year due to the election, losing the election, Trump claiming that the loss was fraudulent and that the election was stolen.
And then you add into all that the pandemic, which is a really big factor here that I think is sometimes overlooked. There was a lot of dissatisfaction with certain liberties being taken away due to lockdowns which were necessary in order to try and curb the spread, but which many people opposed and felt like crossed a line and people were out of work. They were spending more time online, getting more radicalized by these online conversations that were happening and just feeling frightened and scared for the future, as many of us were during this pandemic.
So all of that combines together. And then you get this invitation from the president to come to D.C. on this day. And depending on the groups online, some people thought they were going to see a big celebration where Pence or Trump was able to somehow overturn the results and reveal a big win for Trump. And they would have this great moment of glory. Other people were just frustrated with the results of the election and wanted to air that frustration, as we typically do in America.
You know, this happened when Trump was elected as well. There were not my president rallies, and that's perfectly allowable. But what happened is all of this kind of brought together to create this really intense moment that was really triggered by Trump and pushed by him, especially on the day of literally telling people to go to the Capitol. And so it was kind of inevitable that with all those factors combined, something like this was going to happen.
Hakim, let's turn to you. You wrote an article for the website that was up over the weekend titled Storming the U.S. Capitol was about maintaining white power in America.
So talk about some of the forces at play there.
Yeah, I think everything the Cayley's is exactly right. And it's just compounded by whiteness. That's the thrust of the argument I'm making and the piece highlighting a lot of social science research over now many, many years that showcases the great lengths that white folks go to to maintain racial power. And for listeners less familiar with this bit of literature, we're often interested nowadays. And how are white folks responding to changing demographics in the country? And so I just want to highlight a couple of pieces of scholarship that I showed in the piece, starting with some work by Ashley Giardina, a professor at Duke University who wrote and White Identity Politics.
That's the title of the book. It's that simple identity politics. She notes that we're seeing this increasing salience of white identity for a long time. For white folks, being white was like being a fish in water, like, what the hell is water? It's where I spend all my time. It's the norm, but it's. We've seen these changing demographics, the browning of America, changing cultural shifts, et cetera, brought about by immigration, perhaps a move to the left in some domains.
We've seen whiteness become a more salient feature of these white folks identity and the work that it culminates with the ascendance of Donald Trump, whom Tallahasse Coates provocatively calls the first white president to the White House. And what we're seeing is that these white folks are responding to we're seeing this backlash to what they perceive to be racial progress. On the one hand, changing demographics as highlighted by psychologists like John Richardson and Maureen Krag. We're seeing that white people in the face of increasing precarity to their hold on power, taking great lanes, going to great lengths to maintain that power or at least to showcase their frustration with the perceived loss of that power.
And I think that's what we saw at the Capitol. And it's why we see a bunch of white folks and not a bunch of black or brown folks who, too, is Caylee, know to have lived through a pandemic, have been frustrated by economic downfall and all that. But we don't see black and brown folks going out doing this sort of thing because all of this is compounded by whiteness.
I'm curious, what are the forces that come together in white communities or amongst particular white voters that make them form political preferences around their white identity versus other white voters who may not be as driven by white identity as a motivating political issue?
That's a really great question. And there's some great work by social psychologist Claire Wilkins, I believe, who showcases this perception of a kind of reverse discrimination, this belief that white folks have this broad disadvantage in society. And this might not make a lot of sense to those of us who look at the objective reality and we say, well, white people wield a great deal of power and all of these different spaces. But this is brought about by things like elite rhetoric that's brought about by media outlets showcasing the browning of America.
It's brought about by conversations that legacy outlets like The Times, the highlights, the loss of status and the sort of diner conversations with people highlighting how they've been left behind. It's this language of grievance and disadvantage that has so populated so much of the media discourse. It's been taken on by populist and faux populists who attempt to gin up or energize base of supporters. Right. This is an elite driven. And so we we have to attend to the kind of language that we hear from members of Congress or host on Fox News who sort of parrot this language of loss and status, deprivation.
And so it's a confluence of things that are coming together. But we can't discount the role of elites, the role of media. And this begins to trickle down, as it were, to these localized communities where if you're hanging out and talking with white people, even white people who are sometimes in the circles that we move in, you hear this kind of language of loss or a sense that there's a kind of disempowerment that white people are experiencing and the country as they perceive the increased status of racial and ethnic minorities.
And of course, there are other folks more expert in the space, but we can't discount either the fact that this is likely gendered in a particular way, such that we seem to hear, at least anecdotally, these kind of feelings being expressed more often, it appears, by white men than by white women. And that's not by happenstance either, because alongside these perceptions of minority status increase, we're also likely experiencing among white men a sense that women, people who have once been thought of as being secondary are now advancing as well.
And so all of this is in part a story about perceptions of loss. Even of those perceptions run counter to the objective reality that any sensible person would recognize.
Looking at the world, I just want to note really quickly that a lot of these online communities, especially the more savvy far right and white supremacist and white nationalist groups, take advantage of that very experience that a lot of white men are expressing. They know that that's happening and they use that as kind of a hook to pull them in and say, you know, your feelings are valid. This is happening. You're the enemy of the left. But we love you.
We accept you. We're here for you. Come join this community. And, you know, they don't start off with their very extreme views. They start off with this place of understanding and acceptance which everybody is seeking. So that is one way that they take a. Advantage of those feelings to try to lure people in and broaden their support base? Well, and I think the other thing that's really striking about what we saw last week, but also what I think has just been brewing for the entire Trump presidency and even before then is how Trump has spoken to all of these different groups that wouldn't necessarily identify with each other, don't necessarily think of themselves as having the same ideology.
But his language of grievance and his people have described as like his willingness to say the quiet part out loud has made those people feel seen and he's made them feel empowered and he's made them feel empowered to do something like invade another branch of government violently because they feel like that is what they need to do to take back their power. And I think two examples from my reporting that I've been thinking a lot about is, one is white Christian nationalism and the other is the militia movement.
And I think there's evidence that there was a presence from both of those strains at the riots. I mean, there's probably some overlap between those two movement threads, not necessarily a ton, but what you see with with white Christian nationalists. And I think this fits really well with what Kim was saying, that it's you know, it's not just about race, it's about the preservation of an entire social order that people see as fundamental to what it means to be American.
So it's not just about America was founded as a white country. It was America was founded as a white Christian country where people had certain places in the hierarchy. And that's what America means. I think the gender piece is complicated because, yes, we saw more white men at the Capitol. Probably there are also a lot of white women who, you know, more conservative white women who feel like they benefit from their place in this traditional social hierarchy and that something is being taken away from them, too, by the feminist movement and gender discrimination law and all of those changes.
And so Trump, you know, has really spoken to people who I think have Christian nationalist beliefs that were not necessarily the mainstream among Christian conservatives or weren't the thing that was said out loud and weren't the most prominent leaders 10 years ago. And there's a long history in that movement of feeling like when the order is upset, you have the right and maybe even the imperative to take up arms and go out and defend that order. And so then you look also at something like the militia movement, which I wrote an article last fall with my colleague, Maggie Curth, about how we sort of got to this moment where Trump has managed to become this figure to people in the militia movement, which is very like pro-gun, pro individual liberty, that he is this figure who's both of the government and not of the government.
And so he can be in the White House inciting an attack on another branch of government. And that's not inconsistent that he is saying, you know, these are your fundamental liberties, go and protect yourself. And the whole ideology of the modern militia movement has to do. I mean, there are many different strands to it, and I'm oversimplifying grossly. But, you know, a lot of it has to do with this idea that a fundamental part of being American is your ability to protect your own property, to take up arms and protect your family and protect your liberties.
And so the point I'm trying to make and I'm curious what other folks think is Trump has spoken to a wide range of groups that I think all in some ways were on the fringes or perceived themselves to be on the fringes, perceive themselves to have something taken away from them. And also many of them have long histories in their movements of thinking that violence is an answer. And so that, I think, is one of the reasons that we ended up where we did on Wednesday.
And, you know, to some extent, like with the malicious piece that I wrote, I was talking to experts last fall who were saying, I think violence is coming. I don't know how this can't end in violence. And so it was certainly, obviously shocking and we're still reeling. But this is something that I think has been brewing for not just the past year and not even just the past four years.
Yeah, I'm curious about how you try to answer the question of why did this happen to me?
It comes down to this is very reductive. It comes down to Donald Trump. It's like in 2015, Nikki Haley, an up and coming Republican. Her big act was to have the Confederate flag taken down from the Capitol in South Carolina in the twenty twenty. One of Trump's final acts was to veto a bill to rename Milia. Bases whose names are Confederate generals, I just think there's a world in which Donald Trump doesn't run and then I think a maybe a Marco Rubio wins, maybe even a Scott Walker or Ted Cruz, like I don't think any of the other figures who were running or considering running would have been this amenable to white nationalist movements, white entity politics.
Some of them were closer, some of them were further away. But the fact that this person whose first acts were to hire Steve Bannon and Steven Miller to work in the White House, people who would never have been senior advisers to Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Nikki Haley, etc., like this particular man with his inclinations becoming the American president was shocking. And I think the story is to some extent, he won the primary. The Republican Party then got behind him because they wanted to win the election.
And then at every turn, it's been a choice. At some point, the Republican Party was no longer defending Trump. They were defending themselves because each week, each year, they get more invested in defending Trump to the point where people who obviously know that Joe Biden won Pennsylvania and Arizona feel like they can either say Donald Trump won or I've been full of shit for the last four years. And I'm unsurprisingly, they've went for the first as opposed to the second.
And so I think that is why it is like having someone of the leader of your party who constantly requires you to sort of fulfill a loyalty oath that don't involve telling the truth. This is where we are like the fact that all those Republican House members would not like. I've known Kevin McCarthy for a long time. He started off being a person who wanted to move the Republican Party and include more minorities in the fact that he's ended up where he is defending Trump being Trump's perhaps one of Trump's biggest loyalties.
Is this kind of shocking to me, but that's kind of where the party has gone because Donald Trump has taken the party there. And I just think on some level, all these factors contributed to. But I think Donald Trump just has changed America. Yeah.
I think that this whole thing there are many elements at play that kind of came together, but none of them on their own would have tipped it over the edge without Trump. Trump was necessary for this to happen. And every step of the way, Trump had the power to de-escalate this. So had he accepted the election results on election night or a couple of nights later, when we finally had the results and hadn't made up this lie about election fraud, his followers would have believed him and there maybe would have been some whispers or conspiracy theories, but it wouldn't have been anywhere near as widespread as it was.
And also telling them to come to DC. That was Trump's decision going on and speaking in front of them and firing them up on the day. That was Trump's move. And all of those things inspired those people to do what they did and to storm the Capitol. And I know from reading in these communities online and reading what they post, that a lot of them don't trust anybody except Trump. So he holds so much sway and so much power that he had the ability to deescalate this and prevent it just by doing what a normal president would do and conceding defeat.
I've been thinking, as we've been talking about some work that one of my graduate students is doing it in the very early stages of this work. But setting out to examine whether we can capture among the body politic something like a white nationalist orientation.
And the fact is that scholars who study race and who study whiteness, even including my friend Ashley Giardina, we've sort of stopped at the most extreme manifestations of whiteness, which I think were on display at the Capitol. Right. There's a kind of investment in whiteness that is so deeply entrenched that it would cause you to enter the capital under threat of state or police violence and shot out. Whereas Mike Pence, there's a kind of investment in maintaining that kind of power that's closer to something like a kind of white nationalism that today we've been as scholars is really slow to capture, in part because we've thought I think that you can't ask white people whether they're white nationalists and got any sort of sincere answer.
And we've not, like, gone to any great lengths to devise strategies to do that. Well, the graduate student of mine, and I'll just preview some of the early findings here, has set out to try and capture this orientation. And so what she's done and she's taken these items that were once used to capture black nationalism. Right. What we might think of as a more legitimate kind of ideology. And there are items like black people shopping black owned stores and.
The media that targets black consumers, et cetera, and we can think about how as a legitimately oppressed racial group, that kind of ideology might take hold. And so what my student, Ellen Capn, did was just take this set of questions and somehow the word black with the word white. And do we observe that white people are willing to take on these kind of white nationalist beliefs that express the kind of belief that white people should have media targeted at them, that they should have the kind of advantages that that would look something like nationalism.
The long and short of it is in these early findings. We see a significant share of white Americans willing to say this and the pilot data, about 20 percent, 20 to 30 percent of white people are willing to take on some set of these beliefs. And it's bound up with the sense of erasure, the sense that white people are being not just disadvantaged economically, but they're being removed from the center of American life that people behind the scenes are conspiring.
Right. Conspiring to erase whiteness. And this kind of racialized conspiratorial belief, that is one that I think we're going to have to attend to a bit more, because it's the kind of thing that can force people to travel from across the country to D.C. and storm the Capitol as they did. This is really dangerous. But I think the scariest part to this point, it is about Donald Trump. But I think one question we should all be thinking about is like this is a sustained post, Donald Trump.
And I think unfortunately it does. And that, I think, is what's really scary about American politics right now.
I think it's important. I want to say one other thing, and this is something that I think is not yet been studied in the social science research. I truly think and from talking to the Republican discussions that I hear, the June and July was scary to a lot of Republicans. It was like in the sense that they saw that a lot of people who are liberal don't just want to return to Barack Obama's America. They see a different America where there are reparations, where the police are really questioned harshly about what they do, whether maybe there will be there aren't.
Police sources like the movement of June and July suggested there was a huge yearning for a different kind of America where the leaders of America are not just one black person, but many black voices, where the policy choices are entirely different. What we do now and I think that also on the right has had a radicalizing effect as well. It's not just that Joe Biden might win, but we know the sort of AOC, BLM, Bernie Sanders, that kind of thing might be coming into power, too.
And you've seen some of that over the last week, as Republicans are saying. I think Joni Ernst of Iowa exact exactly like this, which is like basically these rioters were terrible, just like the ones in June or July. Obviously, these movements are completely different. And the people protesting in June or July eight were not trying to overturn an election violently and kill the members of Congress and be the police greeted them with the not greet them at all, treated them very aggressively in a way that the protesters on Wednesday were not treated or the people on Wednesday not protesters.
The mob on Wednesday was not treated. But I think there is a radicalization in the Democratic Party is moving in a leftward direction. And people who thought Barack Obama was too was was a far left crazy person. Not true, but some people thought that. I do think there is a sense the world in which AOC is a prominent, respected voices in America I don't want to live in is a view that is not just shared by white nationalists, but a lot of people who are just conservative on politics.
And I think that division and fear that we're seeing really everywhere is one of the reasons that, you know, it's a real question of like, OK, what does Biden do about this? And like when Trump is no longer in the White House, we don't know what he's going to do. We don't know how his supporters are going to respond. We don't know if there's going to be more violence. But this sort of idea that we can kind of like pivot to unity, I mean, there's like first of all, the question of citing of precedent of we've had presidents engage in wrongdoing before.
And when they leave the White House, it's better to let them kind of fade into the background and it helps the country to facilitate healing. And I think there can and should be questions about whether accountability for what Donald Trump has done over the course of his presidency is whether Americans want something different. I don't think we should assume that this is a situation like we saw with Clinton or Nixon. And even when Nixon got pardoned, that was really controversial.
So I think that's one question of like what? What does it mean for how Biden approaches questions of accountability for Trump? But then also like, how do our leaders address the fact that people have arrived in such different places and that a significant. A number of Americans are increasingly willing to condone political violence. I mean, that's not a reality that's going to change after January 20th. And some of this is one of the problems with this unity discourse is I think it just ignores the basic reality that Trump was in power for four years.
Whether you think this could have happened with or without Trump, you know, set that aside. It did happen. And now what is like unity and healing look like at this moment? I don't know.
I want to add a little bit to this. Know, you mentioned are Americans now seeing violence as a legitimate answer? There's a piece out of The Washington Post today by Liliana Mason and Nathan Karmo that tracks Americans openness to violence as an answer. And they see it increase over Trump's tenure in office to now about 20 percent that say that it's at least a little bit OK.
And this is across various surveys to use violence. A lot of people have tried to make sense of why this has happened. And something that Perry mentioned on the podcast last Wednesday was that the rhetoric here has reached a fever pitch and particularly on the Republican side. Right. Trump's rally on Wednesday, he said, quote, If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore. Right. In Georgia on Monday, he said, quote, America, as you know, will be over and it will never, I believe, be able to come back again.
That's Trump. But you didn't hear particularly different messages from the senators, Perdue and Lefler during their campaigns in Georgia. You heard very fever pitch pitches to Republican voters that essentially life, as you know, is on the line. And if you take one step further back, like what is the environment, the system structurally that makes it appealing to Republicans to campaign to voters that way? Right. Because a lot of these perceptions, a lot of voter behavior is coming from elite signals and the messages that they hear from the people that they trust.
And of course, President Trump did not win the national popular vote in 2016. We've seen he didn't even have majority support. He had relatively slim plurality support in his primary early on in 2016. We've seen that in a lot of state legislatures. And even in Congress, there are things like gerrymandering that lead to majorities that are not actually won through a majority support. And so listeners who have listen to the podcast for a while know that I'm really interested in these structural issues from the gerrymandering project to the primaries project that we did earlier on in twenty twenty.
But there is also this dynamic at play between the primaries, between gerrymandering, between the Electoral College, the structure of the Senate that makes it politically appealing to make these kind of extreme arguments. And so there's all kinds of people that we can place blame on here and look at as coming together to create this environment. There are the individuals, there are the online forums. There's President Trump himself. There are the politicians, the white nationalism, the structures of power in America.
There's also the actual political structure in which everyone is behaving. And I think it's important to look at that structure as well in all of this. If anyone wants to respond to that, feel free. I should also say mean you were starting to get to the point of what happens next. Where do we go from here? And I'm curious what people think. It doesn't seem likely in my mind that a lot of those structures that create the political incentives will change.
I'm curious if anyone thinks I'm wrong on that. But from the different things you've laid out from the militias, the online forums trump himself a feeling of white grievance. What happens next and how do we make sure this never happens again?
I just wanted to jump in on Glen's point about the institutional bit of this. So I'm a political psychologist. I think a lot about emotions, feelings, all that stuff. But you can't think about any of that without this really important point that Republicans increasingly realize. I think that they can ascend to power without a Democratic majority, without being elected by a majority of constituents. And this is, of course, we see this at the state level. We also see it, of course, with the presidency.
And so I think what that means is that Republicans can look at the world, recognize the institutional structures that disadvantage Democrats, a system that is designed undemocratically and say, well, there is no real utility and trying to expand the base or create messaging that brings in a diverse constituency. Instead, we can focus on a base of supporters who is sort of burdened with all of this grievance. And it leads to the kind of extremity and rhetoric and in behavior, I think, that we saw at the Capitol.
And so. I'm so happy you raised that point, because if Republicans had to sort of vie for a broader constituency, they'd have to be more measured and their approach to politics, because they don't have to they're able to engage in this racist and often violent rhetoric that gives rise to the kind of thing that we saw at the Capitol.
That's a great point. And I mean, I think it's important not to ignore the fact that what's happening in the backdrop of a lot of this is that we had an election year in a pandemic where it was necessary for logistical and public health reasons to make it easier for people to vote.
But that is something that the Republican Party has been trying pretty systematically to do the opposite. They've been trying to make it harder for people to vote. And, you know, it's I think not a coincidence that this is all happening in the decade after the Supreme Court gutted a crucial section of the Voting Rights Act. And, you know, it's something it's a conversation that I hope we're having. And I know Gayle, and you're going to do great reporting on this going into redistricting this year and even sort of conversations that we've had about who gets counted in the census data that that make up the basis of like who is a as a person in this country actually counts in terms of representation.
So I think a lot of this is about fundamental questions of is it Republicans not wanting to make it easier for people to vote even in a pandemic and in red states? Perry's done a lot of great reporting on this, not just making it easier, in some cases making it harder. And so the structural issues are so important and it's something that's been baked in for so long that I don't even know which piece of it to talk about.
First, I had a question for Kelly, but maybe others as well. Like how big of a part of this what happened, Lindsey, particularly in social media? And then secondly, with taking into account how do you view Twitter and other social media's decision to ban Trump?
I think the Internet at large played an important role here. It's hard to imagine that whole event taking place without the ability to organize and plan and get fired up on all of the platforms. And it wasn't just one space. You know, people were discussing this on parler, but they were on tock. They were on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, everywhere, Instagram, you know, planning and preparing, organizing rides like the whole thing was set up online and then had very important real world consequences.
I think, you know, a lot of the conversations and rhetoric that happens online, a big chunk of it is people venting frustrations, going along with the crowd posting. But the problem is that you only need a few hundred, a few dozen people to be taking it seriously for people to get hurt and killed, as we saw.
And so that's the product of what's happening online. And now we're in this really interesting space where the ramifications of that are some social media sites banning Trump. Amazon took the servers from parler offline. So Parla is no longer around. And it's a really interesting moment because there's a lot of conversations around platforms. You have a story that's going to come out this week about whether de platforming, quote unquote works. But this is a unique case because it's the president of the United States.
It's not Alex Jones talking about the water turning the frogs. Okay. This is the leader of our country still. And so it's going to be interesting to see how that all shakes up.
But I think it gets to an underlying issue, which some of the experts I spoke to pointed out as well, which is that we are currently in a state where there's not a whole lot of regulation around hate speech online, around inciting violence online. And so in lieu of that, we've left it up to the CEOs of these companies that profit from hate and disagreements online. And so they're left with this decision where they're weighing the profits that they earn versus their reputation, which at this point tipped the other way, and they end up banning Trump and going that way.
But is that really the solution that we want, where we want to leave it in the hands of Silicon Valley to make these decisions sort of on our behalf? Or do we want to set up some framework that we as a nation decide for ourselves of what is acceptable and what is not? And then I think that that would actually allow for more free speech because people wouldn't be just black or white. We would be able to know where this falls and not leaving it in the hands of just a few executives.
It's a really troublesome time, but it'll be interesting to see what the ramifications of it are.
Yeah, I think this is really a really hard problem because on the one hand, we know from LILIANNA and Nathan's work that the rhetoric of elites matter. Right. And so deep forming a president who's inciting violence instead of quieting his supporters. It's probably a good move, at least in the short run. But then the second question, and this isn't my area, but one of the things that it makes me think about is what happens when people feel silenced in one domain.
Or in one space, Hala, was an outgrowth in part, right, I think of people feeling like these other outlets were quieting them or silencing them. And so the long run consequences of this, I think, are difficult to square that it's good to these platform somewhat inciting violence. What happens when people feel that they can't say things in this space? Do they then go and express more extreme rhetoric and other spaces? And so I think that's the tension, at least that I've been thinking about it.
Yeah. And I know that Gabb, which is another free speech. So they say a social media site that a lot of far right users were already on has said that they've been gaining like 10000 users an hour and claimed that they had half a million users sign up yesterday when Parler was taken down. So there's a lot of different things to weigh here. It's not as simple as Ban Trump and all the white supremacists go away. Yeah.
So I'm realizing that while I had planned for this podcast to sort of get into a deeper discussion about how to stem some of these things, that might have to be another podcast, because there are a lot of interlocking forces at play here. And I don't want to make those podcasts go on for two hours. I don't know. You will have other things that you have to do. But let's just leave this here. What are you thinking about what happens next and whether this has the effect of spurring more violence or whether it has a cooling effect?
And people say, wow, like we've really let things get out of hand. We need to take a step back and chill out. Does anyone have a sense of which path, at least in the near term, is pursued?
I think what's concerning to me is that there's a possibility for both. You know, we saw to some extent Trump roll back some of his comments and condemn the actions and sort of half concede to the election results. And there were certainly some people who were in DC that just wanted to peacefully protest that I think were shocked and disturbed by the attack on the Capitol.
But at the same time, the lack of response from law enforcement and the ease with which this mob got into the building and took over, this was not very well organized and could have been a lot worse. And that worse scenario might be brewing now, where more organized, more violent groups saw that how easy it was and could now be plotting like, OK, well, if they could do that, I think about what we could do.
So that's concerning to me.
I guess my worry is as long as the message on the right and far right particularly is the election was stolen, but don't be too mean about it and don't protest too much. No, if people genuinely think the election was stolen in their votes were not counted, they're probably going to be motivated to be pretty aggressive and maybe pretty violent in contesting it. So my biggest worry is the message on the right has to change to the reality that Donald Trump lost.
And until it does, and I think we're going to continue, is this idea that the government is illegal? I mean, there was a huge plot to kill the governor of Michigan a few months ago. This is not a random incident that we saw at the Capitol. So as long as the message is political leaders who support Kobie restrictions, who are Democrats, who won states in which there was mail in voting, as long as it is they are illegitimate holders of power who are taking away your freedoms, I think you're going to continue to have violence around that.
The message on the right has just has to be something beyond don't commit violence. But these people are taking away your freedoms is not consistent and it has to change.
I think that's exactly right. I think the thing to watch is what folks on the right do and say. I mean, the real problem about thinking about any positive spin on this is that whiteness ain't going anywhere right. That this sort of deep investment in whiteness and white power and white dominance is a concern that's been longstanding. And the US that any moment of progress for racial minorities, for black folk in particular, has been met with this kind of racial backlash from white people.
And so I think all of these lies about the election are meant to further this idea that this power of whiteness is being illegitimately taken away. And I think until members of Congress on the right and other political and media elite really tell white people have a community meeting of sorts that says that this kind of crazy, I think we can expect that whiteness will continue to present the kind of violent problems that we observed this past week. So I want to be optimistic, but whiteness always frustrates that kind of optimism.
I'm not sure what I have to add to what my colleagues have said, except that I can't stop. Thinking about the plot against Gretchen Whitmer last fall and how that happened and there was so much else happening and we sort of moved on from it and yeah, I mean, I think the Republican message has to change.
I also wonder what the message has to be to turn down the heat on this, because some of the reaction even to Trump telling people to go home last week was this sense of betrayal at Trump.
I don't know what would happen if Republicans decided to pivot on this and Trump conceded that he lost. I think it would take a lot of the air out of this for sure. I guess my other fear is it's just not going to be easy to put the toothpaste back in the tube with this. And I genuinely feel uncertain about what needs to happen as we move forward. And so, again, like you, Hakim, I think my impulse is always to want to be optimistic, but I just feel very uncertain about the future right now.
All right. Well, I think that's a fair place to leave things because I don't have the answer either. So thank you so much, Perry, Amelia, Hakim and Kaylee, for gathering today to discuss this on Thanksgiving. Thanks for having me. Scarlett, excuse my name is Gail. Andrew. Tony Chow is in the virtual control room. Claire Bit, Gary Curtis is on audio editing and get in touch by e-mailing us at podcasts at five thirty Ekom.
You can also, of course, tweet us with any questions or comments. If you're a fan of the show, leave us a rating or review in the Apple podcast store or tell someone about us. Thanks for listening and we'll see.