GOP fueling dangerous cycle of extremism by embracing Trump’s ‘lost cause’ myth: historian
Capitol Rioters (Screengrab)

A Holocaust and genocide historian believes that conservatives are taking a page out of the fascist playbook by rallying around Donald Trump's election loss and turning a slain U.S. Capitol rioter into a right-wing martyr.

The right is painting itself as the innocent victim of an oppressive "cancel culture" while aggressively pushing its hypermasculine, hyper-patriotic values onto others, and historian Waitman Wade Beor described in a new Washington Post column this tactic's alarming parallels in American and European society.

"In many ways, the 'lost cause' myth is simply a refiguring of the literal aggressors of the Civil War into the valiant victims," wrote Boer, a senior lecturer in history at Northumbria University in England. "In both the lost cause and the contemporary phenomenon, what is striking is that proponents attempt an inversion of power. Though holding most of the power, victim-makers claim to be victimized by forces beyond their control."

The Nazis turned stormtrooper Horst Wessel into a martyr after the 23-year-old street brawler was shot dead in 1930, just as conservatives are painting Capitol rioter Ashlii Babbitt as a victim and comparing coronavirus mandates to the Holocaust.

"When the right associates itself with Jews in the Holocaust, it is appropriating the space reserved for victims," Boer wrote. "It is, in a sense, pushing the rightful victims out and attempting to absorb the sympathy and compassion they are owed. It is a form of re-victimization, which has as its goal negating, relativizing or erasing real suffering."

That cycle can be addicting and energizing, Boer warned, and Republicans are eagerly pushing that narrative to regain power.

"Nearly the entire Republican Party attempted to scuttle any investigation into the causes of the Jan. 6 insurrection," he wrote. "This is the first step in turning extremists into victims and then into martyrs."

"Allowing the right to weave pernicious counternarratives and to create saints from sinners will only embolden future Ashli Babbitts and spawn more violence," Boer concluded. "This is not an unreasonable prediction. Last month, a man was arrested in a molotov cocktail attack on the headquarters of the Democratic Party in Austin. The problem with creating martyrs is that they are too often born of violence and death and then used to perpetuate more violence. The cycle, as history has shown, is very hard to break."