The Coming Fight Over the Story of the MAGA Insurrection
We can’t be too confident about how history will record the events of January 6
Even as the first draft of the history of the January 6 insurrection is still being written, it’s not too early to consider the version that will be memorialized in high school history and social studies textbooks a decade from now. Will it tell the story of a defeated president who incited a seditious mob to attack the Capitol? Or will it show a president who stirred patriots to act based on the claim he was cheated of a second term by election fraud?
It would be short-sighted to conclude the second story will not gain currency over time. According to a PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 69% of Republicans say the president is at little or no fault for the events at the Capitol. Americans who get their news from Fox, One America News Network, Newsmax, and other right-wing outlets are already hearing that the riots were the work of antifa disguised as Trump supporters. The past five years have demonstrated that the right-wing narrative of any events unfavorable to Trump will mutate into conspiracies unhindered by facts or evidence.
The MAGA insurrection has made one thing clear: The United States is at war with a toxic ideology that has taken root among more than a third of the population. It is an ideology predicated on white supremacy and xenophobia, but it does not end there. Misogyny is also hard-wired into the script.
It is hardly a coincidence that rioters first stormed the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rather than soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The view fueled by the gun rights lobby that any regulation of firearms is a violation of the Second Amendment is another article of faith. This deadly mixture of hate and militarism is blanketed by a mistrust of government and the mainstream media that manifests in deep state conspiracy theories, ranging from Pizzagate to the denial of the mass shooting of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
From white supremacy and xenophobia to the paranoid style, none of these individual elements are new to American politics. Most of them can be traced back to the founding of the republic. What is new is a sitting president using the modern media environment to stoke an ideologically driven insurrection.
The history of other modern nations that have overcome a toxic ideology is incomplete at best. It took Germany decades to come to grips with its Nazi past and begin teaching a different story. The war for the story of the MAGA insurrection and the ideology that drove it is on. It is a war that the democratically elected leaders of the United States have to win.