All of this has happened before.
No, in fact, no major American political party has ever attempted to overthrow the government in a violent insurrection. That’s a spectacularly unique item for our charming day and age.
But white supremacist terror, culminating in an attack on democracy itself? Yup, we’ve done that.
You see, back in 1898, the city of Wilmington, North Carolina elected a new municipal government that consisted of both white and Black citizens. Thousands of white men, furious that the election didn’t go their way, refused to accept the result and overthrew the local government. They rampaged through the streets and murdered hundreds of Black people.
This remains “the only successful coup d’état in the history of the United States and a story of racial terror largely obscured from the annals of American history.” No one was ever prosecuted or punished for the coup, more than 100,000 Black people fled the city, and no Black citizen would serve in Wilmington public office for almost 80 years.
So yeah, just like the Tulsa riots, everything worked out great for the bloodthirsty bigots.
Well, master-race enthusiasts are attempting to relive their glory days. White supremacy is on the rise in this country and around the world. Violent racists are winning GOP approval, and attempting to destroy democracy is now a point of pride for Republicans. Indeed, the “party of law and order has gone noticeably soft on terrorism—or at least this kind of terrorism.”
And it is a specific form of terrorism that we’re talking about. It is brutal white supremacy that seeks to cement the government as an unbreakable pillar of institutionalized racism.
Of course, America’s current state of thuggery took some time to develop.
To get Republicans comfortable with the idea of terrorism, xenophobes had to first convince conservatives that they were under attack. This was surprisingly easy to do, and soon, a majority of conservatives believed that discrimination against white people was a bigger problem than discrimination against Black people. So white supremacists moved on to the idea that liberals are “trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants and people of color who share their political views.”
That also worked, and today, there is “a striking degree of mainstream GOP consensus around a falsehood that’s a cornerstone of white-supremacist rhetoric.” This idea has “no basis in reality,” but when have Republicans actually cared about facts and truth?
The next step was to discredit democracy, which was also relatively easy to accomplish. And now we are on to the final stage, where white gunmen target Latinos and murder Black people en masse in attempts “to inspire others to commit similar racially motivated attacks.”
But wait—it’s “both sides,” right? No, it’s overwhelmingly right-wingers who threaten to hunt down individuals who disagree with them. And it is almost exclusively white Republicans who believe shooting people is good politics. Violence remains a predominantly conservative problem.
One could argue that the fundamental divide in our society is “between those voters and places most comfortable with the demographic and cultural changes remaking 21st-century America and those most hostile to them.” In essence, millions of white Americans really don’t want Latinos, Black people, or any other ethnic minorities to have an equal say in what goes down in this country.
Unfortunately, just “a brief glance at history will tell you how terrible… how violent, how unstable, how unjust the future will be if we fail to make diverse democracies work.”
And that is where we’re at right now. White supremacist terrorism is the biggest threat to America’s stability. But one political party sees it as advantageous to continue riling up the crazies.
So what’s next? A civil war?
Well, that’s a discussion for next time.
Featured image: A noose hangs near the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021. (J JMesserly/Public Domain)