When a violent mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 in the hope of stopping Congress from certifying Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, some of the rioters were carrying Confederate flags. Historian Heather Cox Richardson, in a Substack article published this week, outlines some parallels between Confederate insurrectionists of the American Civil War and the Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol Building almost half a year ago.
And from her point of view, history doesn't bode well for the Trumpists — including former Attorney General Bill Barr, who is trying to rehab his reputation.
"That Barr is trying to spin the past now is a good indicator of current politics. While we are still in a dangerous moment, the former president is losing ground," she wrote. "Trump's Big Lie has a number of elements that echo the argument behind the organization of the Confederacy in 1861. Like the Confederates, the Big Lie inspired followers by calling for them not to destroy America, but to defend it."
People like GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, though, see themselves as inheritors of the American Revolution.
"The insurrectionists of January 6, and those who continue to insist the election was stolen, do not think of themselves as domestic terrorists, but as patriots in the mold of Samuel Adams," Richardson explains.
Richardson continues, "The Confederates, too, believed they were defending America. In February 1861, even before Republican President Abraham Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861, lawmakers for the Confederate States of America wrote their own constitution. It was remarkably similar to the United States Constitution — copied from it verbatim, in fact — except for three key changes that they believed made the original constitution better: they defended state's rights, denied that the government could promote internal improvements, and prohibited any law that denied or impaired 'the right of property in Negro slaves.'"
The historian goes on to say that after Confederate leaders "declared an insurrection," they "found it hard to keep up enthusiasm for it."
"Once the (Civil) War had begun, white southerners were committed," Richardson notes. "Wars are far easier to start than to stop. Trump's insurrection seems to be facing the same waning enthusiasm that Confederate leaders faced."
Richardson observes that supporters of the "Big Lie" — the false claim that Trump was robbed of a second term in 2020 because of widespread voter fraud — are looking increasingly ridiculous. And prominent conservatives, according to Richardson, are pointing that out. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah has made it clear that he accepts Biden as the legitimately election president, and former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, once a Trump loyalist, has described Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud as "bullshit."
"Rather than looking like heroic patriots," Richardson says of the January 6 insurrectionists, "they increasingly look like dupes."