• Monica Cruz

A year later, what are the lessons from the Trump-backed insurrection of January 6?

Brian Becker, National Director of the ANSWER Coalition, talks about the insurrection of January 6, 2021, why Donald Trump has only grown more popular, and why the Democrats have failed to bring any of the true perpetrators to justice

Tens of thousands of Trump supporters overtake the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Photo: Twitter

A year ago today, a fascist mob took over the US Capitol building in Washington, D.C., stunning the country and the entire world. Called to action by Donald Trump and instigated by his false accusation that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, the mob stormed the building and briefly stopped the certification of the electoral college votes. The attack would not have been possible without collusion from high-level military, police and security officials. Yet, none of them have been brought to justice. At the same time, Congress formed a special committee on January 6th which has no legal authority to persecute the people responsible for it.

The insurrection was a historic attack on one of the most fundamental tenets of US democracy – the peaceful transition of power between the two ruling class parties. Though Trump distanced himself from the events that day, developments over the year have done nothing to stomp out the movement that carried out the attack. In fact, this movement has been galvanized so much so that Donald Trump planned a press conference for the first anniversary of the insurrection at his resort in Mar-a-Lago.

To understand the root causes and implications of January 6, Monica Cruz spoke to Brian Becker, host of The Socialist Program and National Director of the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition.

Monica Cruz: Trump cancelled his press conference after receiving warnings from members of the Republican Party and the media establishment. What do make of the fact that he even planned to do this?

Brian Becker: When Trump decided to hold a press conference at Mar-a-Lago in Florida on the first anniversary of the violent assault that dispersed Congress, it was clear that he was trying to take ownership of what happened on January 6. He wanted to identify with it. He said in his statement announcing the press conference “Until then, remember, the insurrection took place on November 3rd, it was the completely unarmed protest of the rigged election that took place on January 6th.” This meant that there was an effort to destroy American democracy by the theft of votes. As a consequence, he was deprived of his rightful re-election to the White House. And that the protest in January was not a violent insurrection, but rather a righteous effort to right a wrong, in other words, to save democracy.

So he’s completely back in the mode of encouraging, supporting and embracing those who carried out the violent assault on the Capitol. Now, what makes that important is that in the days after the violent assault, Trump distanced himself from the attack. He went on TV in fact, and said disparaging words about those who would employ violence. He said the people who carried out the violence didn’t represent him. And that showed that Trump was very much on the defensive in the days after January 6. But today, a year later, Trump is no longer on the defensive but is very much in an offensive, aggressive mode. And that’s a reflection of what has changed in the last year – instead of weakening Trump’s base, instead of weakening the right-wing movement in the United States, the events on January 6 and what took place afterwards have in fact consolidated the rise of this very far-right movement.

And Trump is the leader of that movement. His decision to cancel the press conference was because the Republicans in the Senate, the Republicans in the House of Representatives and Republican-oriented, right-wing media like Fox news – these are the more mainstream, but still very far-right forces within the Republican establishment and party politics – thought it was a tactical mistake for Trump to take ownership of January 6. They felt that it would diminish and weaken Trump, and they felt he was making a tactical error. So he listened to their counsel. So while he cancelled the event, it doesn’t change his political orientation or his feeling of strength. It’s simply a tactical decision not to directly be in the cross-hairs on the day when all of the media will be showing vivid images of the January 6 assault and just how violent it was.

MC: Can you summarize what the reaction of the Democrats and Republicans has been over the course of this year to the attacks on January 6?

BB: I think the most important failure of the Democratic party was the way they did not encourage the prosecution of the chief architects of the violent assault, meaning they did not file charges against Trump and his entourage who clearly planned this event. They were the ones who summoned tens of thousands of Trump supporters to Washington in the middle of the work week. People had to get on planes and come to Washington or come by other modes of transportation. But the reason they came that day in the middle of the week and not a Saturday was that it was when Congress was going to certify the elections after which there was no doubt that Trump was leaving the White House and Biden was coming in.

So this was a last ditch effort to bring people to Washington DC and at the rally at the White House, Trump told them to march on the Capitol, to fight and show no weakness and said he would accompany them. So when these people marched on the Capitol, they thought they were doing the bidding of their leader. And in fact, they were. Donald Trump was telling them that if Mike Pence doesn’t use his authority in the Senate to overturn the election outcome, he would be nothing short of a traitor, and as a consequence, when they got to the Capitol, they were chanting, “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!”

So it’s clear that Donald Trump was the architect of the whole operation. And so instead of prosecuting Trump, which would’ve really made a big difference, or his entourage, the only negative thing that happened to him was he lost his Twitter account. Meanwhile, the government then prosecuted hundreds of rank-and-file people who were basically following the direction of their leader. And instead of prosecuting Trump, they decided to impeach him, which was nothing other than political theater, performative theater, because Trump was on his way out in two weeks at the time of the trial. So that allowed Trump, who did not face serious criminal prosecution, to make the argument to his political base: ‘Look, they’re impeaching me even as I’m leaving, which makes no sense.’ He could claim that the impeachment was one more indication that all of this was a political hit job. And so he was able to reframe what January 6 was and what happened afterwards as him being politically persecuted. In other words, he was able to assume the position of a victim of a political adversary, rather than what he really was, which was the architect of a seditious conspiracy to overturn a constitutionally mandated process.