January 7, 2021 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Trump’s ‘confederate’ insurrection

How scared is polite white society? We’re about to find out.

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At the end of yesterday’s edition of the Editorial Board, I said you should not expect the Republicans to change. They lost the White House. They have now lost the US Senate. But they won’t do any soul-searching. They won’t pull back from the brink. They will do what they were elected to do. They will represent a wholly imagined nation-within-a-nation, a confederacy of the mind and spirit where “real Americans” live and where anyone who is not a Republican is, no proof required, the “enemy of the people.”

As I pressed the publish button, an enraged mob broke off from a massive rally in Washington in support of Donald Trump on the day the US Congress was set to tally electoral votes showing Joe Biden to be the next president. Under Trump’s explicit direction, the mob lay siege to the Capitol. They broke windows, smashed doors, ransacked offices, and generally overran security. Guns were drawn. Police fired teargas. A woman was shot and killed. Lawmakers were rushed away, provided with gas masks. The most striking images from ground zero were those of rioters waving flags honoring the old Confederacy. Cory Booker, a Senate Democrat, later connected those dots. That flag represents old political forces that nearly brought down the republic. That flag represents new political forces that are trying to do it again.

Political violence on the outside of “democracy’s temple” was paired with political violence on the inside.

Legislators reconvened in the evening. They finished the job about 3 this morning. But as I watched the Post’s coverage, I sensed from reporters speaking that the tone in Washington had changed. I was told the Republicans were chastened by displays of real violence, real blood, and real tragedy. But even as reporters spoke, even as some Republican senators pulled back, the rest of their party put the lie to such happy talk.

Representative Andy Harris nearly started a fistfight after Conor Lamb, a Democrat, said the attack “didn’t materialize out of nowhere. It was inspired by lies—the same lies you’re hearing in this room tonight.” “He called me a liar,” Harris was heard saying. He’d have come to blows had aides not stepped in. Political violence on the outside of “democracy’s temple” was paired with political violence on the inside.

Pre-putsch, it was possible to see attempts by the Republicans to overthrow the election as familiar Washington theater. The Democrats control the House. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is in no more mood for Trump. All of this is sturm und drang. Nothing to be worried about. If something serious happened, they’d surely check themselves. Politics is one thing, after all. Real life is something else.

Post-putsch, it’s impossible. This isn’t theater. They mean it. Their intentions are clear. Josh Hawley and six other Republican senators really did vote to deny the legitimacy of Pennsylvania’s lawful election. Nearly 140 House Republicans really did the same. Ted Cruz and five other Republican senators really did vote to deny the legitimacy of Arizona’s lawful election. More than 120 House Republicans really did the same.

They declared where they stand—against the Union and for a confederacy of the mind and spirit. Through it all, they repeated the same lies, the same propaganda and the same venom that fueled insurgents storming the Capitol, leading to a woman’s death. The Republicans were not chastened. They were not humbled. They were inspired.

The only way for the Republicans to change is to break them. We have the first steps. Take the presidency. Take the Senate. But the Democrats can’t, and apparently won’t, stop there. Biden called the putsch an “insurrection.” In short order, respectable white people were following suit, even McConnell. The Post used the word without quotes. (So did public radio’s “Marketplace,” of all things.) Chuck Schumer, the next Senate majority leader, stepped past “insurrection” to call Trump’s mob “domestic terrorists.” All of this pushed Twitter to lock Trump’s account temporarily. Facebook banned him indefinitely. White House attorneys reportedly warned aides they could be tried for treason if they go along with Trump. His Cabinet is reportedly discussing invoking the 25th Amendment. Polite white society seems to be universally appalled, and scared.

It should be. But is it scared enough? Trump really is the leader of an insurgency whose participants are armed, paranoid, dangerous and deadly. Some on the inside of the GOP—Hawley, Cruz, Republicans in the House, et al.—really are working in tandem, or in coordination, with an illegitimate movement seeking to replace our nation with a wholly imagined confederate nation within our nation, one where “real Americans” live and anyone who opposes Donald Trump is “the enemy of the people.”

He’s going to be president for the next two weeks. A long two weeks. “What happened at the US Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” Schumer said today. “This president should not hold office one day longer. If the Vice President and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president.” How scared is polite white society?

We’re about to find out.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. realsaramerica on July 30, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    Call me cynical, but having lived in Greenwich for 20 years, they are more scared of a Democratic Congress raising their taxes than they are in the fall of the Republic. Maybe I’m being unfair, and maybe the appalling scenes on the TV yesterday has reminded them that democracy is fragile, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 11:27 pm

      I read somewhere a long time ago that the fall of Roman empire was really caused by the self-absorption and lack of public concern by the patricians living happily and safely on their wealthy estates. Since I’m around environments with high net worth people, I hear the same carelessness that you mention. I suspect that the people you describe and I recognize are very happy with whoever is running the government so long as their taxes are low and they can avoid the rabble.

      When I hear their apocalyptic rantings that marginally higher taxes equals “COMMUNISM!!!”, I just laugh and shake my head. Maybe they care more about their money than for our country. It’s our responsibility to remind them of the civic responsibilities that you and I regard as sacred and holy.

      • realsaramerica on July 30, 2021 at 11:27 pm

        It’s interesting – I don’t live in Greenwich anymore, but the First Selectman, Fred Camillo, (R) came out with a strong statement against the violence. I’m filing it under “too little, too late,” because I had literally begged him several times over the years to speak out, and he not only refused, but claimed that I was unreasonable. I wrote about it: https://greenwichfreepress.com/letter-to-the-editor/letter-candidate-camillo-continues-silence-in-face-of-trump-hate-rhetoric-127262/

        • Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 11:27 pm

          I read your letter to the editor and of course, GOPers can’t see any violence, physical, political, or rhetorical, so long as it doesn’t affect them personally. Since they have little emotional or social connection with Jewish people, African-Americans, or other minority individuals, they simply don’t have the personal experience of the potential violence that those of us from those groups may encounter. Only when the destruction is massive or affects something they care about is when they act.

          Given the long-standing moral weakness and depravity that Camillo, Kriskey, and the multitude of clowns in Congress have demonstrated, you’re absolutely right – it’s too little, too late. And it’s way too little, too late for me personally to grant any moral authority or credibility to these anti-American seditionists.

  2. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    I said to family members yesterday that Hawley’s and Cruz’s stunts were constitutional terrorism happening inside that reflected the white domestic terrorism going on outside. We’ll see if the safe and respectable white Americans are finally shocked enough to quash this anti-American rebellion.

  3. Bennett on July 30, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    The worst possible response is a “this too shall pass.” Biden’s old instincts would be to compromise, find common ground, and all that other nonsense. He would do far better to have far larger sticks than carrots. Indeed, the only legitimate carrot is a simple “you’re either for the rule of democratic law or not.” Where you are not–and where you have not been so in the last four years–there is only the stick. That’s the minimum requirement, obligation or expectation. It also makes for good politics. If Trump supporters are so desirous of a strong man, I can’t imagine Biden having an easier time making use of the fullest extent of the law in its execution. It’s what’s due to the “law and order” party anyway. In terms of politics, I see no blowback and little viable martyrdom. (“How dare you give me jail time for trashing the Capitol?” Really? I ain’t seeing it.)

    In short, Biden has lots of room to drop hammers. He easily has the high moral ground; it’s good politics to both the progressive base (who want to see these idiots and fanatics punished soundly) and the moderates (who are usually so “all in” for law and order in their own typically mealy mouthed way); it’s good management (removing the cancer of Trumpism from within the federal government should be a priority, and politically easy) and its good policy when it comes to ensuring stable government. The one very real trouble point his administration will have is in the one arena that has sorely exacerbated the entire matter: social media. Here he runs headlong into free speech protections, and I think with the right tone in terms of legal argument (penalization for fraud, slander/libel, endangering the public) and political positioning (in short, making social media companies feel the heat and potential regulatory consequences of their amoral profiteering), he has a chance of reigning in the misinformation machinery that social media companies treat so lightly and that endanger us so greatly.

  4. jibal jibal on July 30, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    Check out Andy Harris’s Wikipedia page. He’s the worst of the worst.

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