Terrorism expert explains how to break alliance between Trump voters and right-wing insurgents
Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol. (Tyler Merbler/Flickr)

Donald Trump's insurgent loyalists believe they're patriotic defenders of American democracy, rather than its greatest threat -- and cracking apart this contradictory delusion is necessary to restoring order, according one expert on terrorism.

The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol could have been much worse, but former U.S. Navy intelligence officer Malcolm Nance said in a new Washington Post column that shouldn't lull anyone into a sense of complacency about the threat posed by right-wing extremists emboldened by their apparent impunity inside the halls of Congress.

"During the assault on the Capitol, the deference encountered by some violent insurrectionists — in stark contrast to the massive preemptive deployments of force experienced by Black Lives Matter activists in similar situations — could only have served to confirm their assumption that they were protected by their Whiteness," Nance wrote.

Trump still commands 87-percent support among Republicans after the violent assault that the House impeached him for inciting, and the Department of Homeland Security has warned the Capitol riot could inspire additional plots to kill elected officials or destroy government facilities to restore the former president to power.

"As an expert in counterinsurgency, I believe we need to take seriously the possibility that Trump's most zealous supporters are now creating the conditions for long-term conflict — extending, at its worst, to persistent terrorist or paramilitary violence," Nance wrote.

The only way to break that cycle, according to Nance, is to highlight the divide between those extremists and mainstream Trump voters to establish that anti-government rebellion is not a legitimate form of protest.

"Trump's fledgling insurgents are embracing the narrative that they are a modern-day, hyper-patriotic version of the 'Sons of Liberty' or the defenders at Lexington or Concord," Nance wrote. "For them, this faith in their own purity is a force multiplier, but it is also a major vulnerability. We must attack this belief head-on."