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Trump has been inciting white people since -- at least -- 2016

Predicting what was likely to come next during Donald Trump's tumultuous presidency was tough because we usually found ourselves navigating uncharted waters. But you didn't need to be clairvoyant to know that if he lost, he would claim that the election was rigged and incite his base to violence because that's what he did when he won in 2016.

The truth is that he has been making angry white people feel comfortable expressing and acting on their bigotry since he descended that gaudy golden escalator and claimed that while some Mexican immigrants may be "good people," for the most part, Mexico was "sending us" their "rapists" and "not their best people."

In 2016, shortly before the election, University of Massachusetts political scientist Brian Schaffner conducted a study. He divided over 1,100 non-Hispanic whites into different groups. He showed one of them, a control group, three standard-issue campaign claims made by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the preceding year. The second group was shown the same three statements, but also treated to an excerpt of Trump's infamous Mexican-rapists speech.

He then asked all of his study subjects to say whatever popped into their mind about different groups of people, some who have been historically marginalized and others who had not: Black people, Mexicans, white people, politicians, the middle class, and millennials.

And those who were shown Trump's tirade about Mexicans made significantly more negative comments about all of the groups they were asked about than those who only saw more banal campaign rhetoric.

Schaffner considered the possibility that respondents were simply mimicking Trump's own words when they were fresh in their minds, but was able to control for that possibility. He told me in 2018 that he didn't think that Trump's rhetoric had changed the way respondents felt about Mexican-Americans or millennials. Rather, it gave them tacit permission to be explicit about their prejudices. "People aren't always sure what the norms are in terms of what's OK and what's not OK to say," he told me. "There have been several psychological studies showing that people tend to take cues from their peers when they're asked to talk about other groups. When they hear somebody saying something offensive about some group, then they basically say to themselves, 'Oh, I can say that because this other person said it, so it must be OK.' And I think something similar is going on here. People hear a politician who is running for president using this inflammatory terminology, and they think, 'Well, if a major party's presidential candidate is using this language then it must be acceptable for me.'" Trump didn't make them more bigoted; his candidacy just signaled that new norms had arrived.

In 2016, as in 2020, Trump insisted well in advance of the vote that if he lost it would be proof of fraud even though he had trailed in the polls for much of the campaign. When he won the presidency, he nonetheless claimed that the election had been plagued by fraud because he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by a margin of almost 3 million ballots.

But his relentless insistence that he, and in turn his followers, was a victim went well beyond that. Like most of the conservative movement, he insisted that the media, debate moderators and everyone was else was rigging the vote against him.

And so his supporters reacted to his Electoral College victory with targeted violence. According to a 2018 report by the Center for Investigative Reporting, "nearly every metric of intolerance in the U.S. has surged over the past 18 months, from reported anti-Semitism and Islamophobia to violent hate crimes based on skin color, nationality or sexual orientation."

This renaissance of hate features something new: xenophobic, racist and homophobic attacks punctuated with President Donald Trump's name. To understand the scope of the phenomenon, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting identified more than 150 reports of Trump-themed taunts and attacks stretching across 39 states over the past year and a half.

Interviews with the targets of and witnesses to these incidents showed a striking pattern. The abusers had a clear message: Trump's going to take care of a problem – and that problem is you.

The evidence for this "Trump Effect" isn't just anecdotal. Research by Ayal Feinberg, Regina Branton and Valerie Martinez-Ebers, three Texas-based political scientists, found that 226% more hate crimes were reported in counties where Trump held a rally in 2016 than in counties with similar demographics where Trump didn't make an appearance.

This was the president who said there were fine people on both sides of the Unite The Right Rally in Charlottesville (conservatives insist he was talking about people who attended a protest against taking down Confederate statues the day before the deadly riot but they were the same people). His followers have targeted those who he claimed had wronged him with pipe-bomb campaigns and mass shootings.

Trump was always going to claim fraud if he lost, and probably if he won. He was always going to tell his supporters that they had to "fight hard" to keep their country, and they were always going to respond to his rhetoric with violence. Republicans will probably vote to acquit him for inciting the deadly Capitol riot, but that reality will always be a stain on his legacy and on his movement.

How the gun lobby helped fuel the deadly Capitol insurrection

There is ample blame to go around for the MAGA insurgency that has so far resulted in eight deaths and left the rest of us on a knife's edge. A number of those charged for storming the Capitol have made it clear that they believed they were heeding on Donald Trump's call to action. Every Republican who acted as if Trump's claims of a stolen election had more validity than when he accused Ted Cruz of cheating his way to a victory in the Iowa Republican caucus in 2016 or said the Emmy Awards were rigged after "The Amazing Race" edged out "The Apprentice" is culpable to a degree.

But we need to look deeper to understand why hundreds of people who saw themselves as law-abiding "patriots" not only ran wild through the seat of American government but felt sufficiently entitled to do so that they later shared their criminal exploits on social media. Whiteness alone doesn't explain it.

The United States is unique among mature democracies for having a political culture in which the idea that ordinary citizens have a right and a duty to respond to what they perceive to be government overreach with violence. That belief has been called the "insurgency theory" of the 2nd Amendment, and it has been heavily promoted by the gun manufacturers' lobby—both the NRA and even more reactionary groups like Gun Owners of America—for decades.

The Framers of the Constitution saw the separation of powers as the primary bulwark against tyranny. It was the co-equal branches of government protecting their own turf that would prevent the executive from accruing too much power and coming to resemble a monarch.

They were fearful of armed rabble usurping legitimate government, so they guaranteed the right to bear arms in conjunction with a well-organized militia. They did see the 2nd Amendment as a safeguard against tyranny, but not in the way today's reactionaries would have you believe.

As Charles Dunlap Jr., a colonel in the US Air Force, wrote in the Tennessee Law Review during the debate over the now defunct Assault Weapons Ban, the right to bear arms was a key a compromise between Federalists, who favored a strong central government with a standing army, and Anti-Federalists, who "had a deep distrust of professional militaries."

Their English heritage...taught them that standing armies could be tools of a tyrannical monarch or a rogue military commander.

The linchpin of the scheme to counterbalance the potentially dangerous standing army was an armed citizenry, a force [Anti-Federalists] considered superior to any body of regular troops that could be raised in the United States.… Among the solutions the Framers devised to ensure that state-based militias remained effective and free from federal encroachment was the Second Amendment.

But the 18th century notion that citizen militias who could be called up to respond to threats were a safer bet to preserve democracy than big standing armies doesn't sell guns and makes for a poor front in the culture wars. So beginning in the 1970s, the NRA and other gun rights absolutists began to push the once-outlandish idea that the Constitution contained an individual right to bear arms.

As Dahlia Lithwick wrote some 40 years later, when a conservative majority on the Supreme Court abandoned any pretense of following the original meaning of the Constitution and adopted that view, "the current interpretation of the Second Amendment… is a hoax."

[It resulted from] a decades-long effort by exceptionally well-organized, well-funded interest groups that included the National Rifle Association—all of whom "embarked on an extraordinary campaign to convince the public, and eventually the courts, to understand the Second Amendment in their preferred way" It's rather miraculous, if you stop to think about it: In a few short decades the NRA's view of the Second Amendment became the law of the land. By 2008, writing the majority opinion for the Supreme Court in District of Columbia et al. v. Heller, Antonin Scalia enshrined this view for first time that: "The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."

Modern states now have professional standing armies, but the theory that ordinary people need access to military-style weapons to stave off tyranny persists among American gun-rights absolutists. This belief inspires the militia movement, and the Oath Keepers—former soldiers and law-enforcement officers who vow to resist laws they consider to be unconstitutional, several of whom have been charged with conspiracy in the Capitol attack. It formed the basis of the armed standoffs with federal law enforcement by the Bundy family and their supporters at their Nevada ranch in 2014, and again in Oregon in 2016. It animates the dimwitted bravado of people like Rep. Lauren Boebert, who may have brought firearms onto the House floor, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who praised the violent insurrectionists the day after they stormed the Capitol.

And it played more than a passing role in convincing several thousand people that their belief in crackpot conspiracy theories about the 2020 election justified them rising up against Congress and the Capitol Police standing between them and their democratically elected quarry. Once you believe that you have an individual right to bear arms to stave off tyrannical government, it only goes to follow that you are also empowered to judge whether the government has slipped into tyranny. So even if dozens of courts reject Trump's claims of fraud, and Republican election officials insist that everything was done by the book and members of Trump's own national security team assure the public that the election was free and fair, if you believe some guy on YouTube who says Hugo Chavez rigged the voting machines, you're justified in storming the Capitol to "stop the steal."?

81 million Biden voters are seething with anger--the burden of 'healing' is on Republicans

The American right seems oblivious to the seething anger that the 81 million Americans who braved a multifaceted voter suppression campaign and a raging pandemic to vote against Donald Trump feel over Republicans' relentless attempts to silence their voices with Donald Trump's ludicrous election fraud conspiracy theories.

This week, many of them sought to weaponize President-elect Joe Biden's campaign theme of bringing the country together after four years of Trump's bomb-throwing. The very same Republican lawmakers who objected to counting the Electoral College votes that gave Joe Biden a resounding victory claimed this week that impeaching Trump would violate Biden's promise to promote healing and seek greater unity. "Rushing this resolution to the floor will do nothing to unify or heal the country," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) during this week's debate. "These actions, again, will only continue to divide the nation."

But it is not on us to comfort the 74 million Trump voters whom Trump, most Republican lawmakers and the conservative media whipped into a frenzy. These calls for unity are premature--a transparent efforts to obtain impunity for those who brought us to the point where a mob of wingnuts clad in military gear and red hats planned to assassinate a Republican Vice President on Capitol Hill and there are now more troops stationed in DC to defend Biden's inauguration than there are on the ground in Afghanistan.

So it is vitally important for conservatives to understand that while Joe Biden appears to be earnest in his desire to bring the country together, as is appropriate for a president in these circumstances, most of us on the left have no interest whatsoever in "healing" or seeking "unity" with those who have long refused to acknowledge the basic legitimacy of Democratic governance until they undertake a reckoning with that strategy.

Perhaps more importantly, they must understand that the burden of beginning the process of healing our frayed polity falls squarely on them. It is their tribe that stormed Congress, attacked the cops and is engaged in an ongoing, violent insurrection in response to losing an election, and it is on them to figure out how to pull their movement back from the brink.

We will consider their ideas. But there's a necessary order of things that must be followed before we can even begin to "lower the temperature" in this country. We must first establish some truth before we can even begin talking about reconciliation.

At a minimum, that means publicly acknowledging not only that Joe Biden won this election, but also that there were never any serious questions about his victory. After all, making bogus claims of fraud has long been one of Trump's signature moves. When The Amazing Race beat out The Apprentice for an Emmy Award, Trump claimed that the Emmys were rigged; when he lost the Iowa Caucus in 2016, he claimed that Ted Cruz had cheated; he said there had been widespread fraud in the election that he won in 2016 and started claiming that he could only lose in 2020 as a result of fraud back in 2019.

After he trailed Biden by 6-10 points in the polling averages for the entire campaign, and never lead in even a single high-quality poll, Trump's outlandish assertion that he not only won, but did so in a landslide were always laughable.

This week, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), the leaders of what has been dubbed the "Sedition Caucus" in the Senate, tried to have their cake and eat it too by acknowledging that Biden was the winner but continuing to insist that "millions of voters concerned about election integrity deserve to be heard," as Hawley put it. That won't fly because those "concerns" were promoted by virtually the entire conservatives movement--including Hawley and Cruz—and they were always transparent nonsense. So the "we're just asking questions" gambit isn't going to cut it.

Reconciliation is also impossible to contemplate without accountability for at least those who are the most culpable for bringing us to the brink of armed conflict.

Ideally, Republicans would join with Democrats to expel any members of Congress who voted against counting the duly-certified Electoral College results. Given how numerous they are, that's impractical, but certainly those who spurred on the mob or coordinated with the insurrectionists must be held accountable before the GOP can again claim to support law and order without being laughed out of the room.

The standard operating procedure for the right in these circumstances is to claim that investigations into wrongdoing by Republicans can only be politically motivated "witch-hunts," and that Democrats and the left don't really care about the underlying allegations. Healing won't be possible unless the right abandons that spin and acknowledges that our anger and fear are genuine and justified, and that our need for justice isn't merely a quest for vengeance. This shouldn't even be a partisan issue.

This week, a number of Republicans chose to quote from Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address in 1865, when he said, "with malice toward none, with charity for all, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds." But as Colombia University historian Eric Foner pointed out, that snippet was cherry-picked to create a false impression of what Lincoln was trying to express. "He also said that this war, the Civil War, was God's punishment on the nation for the evil of slavery and, that if it was necessary to have every drop of blood drawn by the lash repaid by one drawn by the sword - that's Lincoln's words - that would still be justice," Foner told NPR. "In other words, what Lincoln is saying is reconciliation needs justice to come with it. Reconciliation needs accountability. You can't just wash your hands and say, let's forget about the past and move forward with healing."

A disgraced Donald Trump will leave office as one of the biggest losers in history

Donald Trump will end his disastrous presidency violating the central, overarching promise he made to the public in 2016: That he and his supporters would win so much that they'd be "sick and tired of winning." Trump vowed that he alone would bring back lost manufacturing jobs, restore white, Christian America's dominance over an increasingly diverse country and punish those politically correct elites who looked down their noses at his voters.

Now, four years later, the walls are coming down around him. Two years after Trump led his party to one of the most bruising midterm defeats ever, he lost his own bid for re-election and then lost dozens of court cases attempting to overturn the results. And he was widely credited with handing Democrats control of the Senate by depressing Republican turnout in Georgia.

He wasn't done losing. On Friday, his beloved Twitter account was permanently suspended, a loss that his aides say caused him to "go ballistic." This week, Lehigh University revoked the honorary degree it bestowed upon him more than 30 years ago and the Iraqi government issued an arrest warrant for him.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 57 percent of the public want him immediately removed from office after inciting the insurrection at the Capitol this week. As of this writing, it looks like the House of Representatives will move to impeach him for a second time next week, a feat that no future president is likely to match.

It is clear that Trump's crackpot coup attempt and continuing incitement have served as an inflection-point. A number of regime officials resigned in disgust or out of self-preservation, leaving Trump isolated and increasingly morose, according to reports. Joe Biden abandoned his typical moderation and called the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol "thugs" and "seditionists." The legacy media are being unusually clear in describing the attack on Congress as an act of insurrection. Newspaper editorial boards, including that of the conservative Wall Street Journal, are finally calling for Trump to resign and some current and former Republican officials have echoed those calls.

The movement Donald Trump leads is also suffering severe losses. Some of those who heeded his call to come to DC in a futile effort to halt the count of Electoral College votes feel betrayed after Trump, under pressure from legal counsel, turned around and condemned the rioters. Many seem surprised to learn that they may face legal consequences for their actions.

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are also facing calls to step down for their roles in fomenting this week's chaos. White House aides are worried that they'll be unemployable. Politico reports that some have already "been snubbed by potential employers, told they would be a 'liability' and in one instance were even compared to the 'Hitler Youth.'"

In addition to suspending Trump's Twitter and Facebook accounts, social media companies have booted dozens of prominent MAGA figures for continuing to spread disinformation about the election and inciting more violence. Google Play announced that it would stop distributing the application for Parler, the conservative alternative to Twitter, for failing to moderate its users' content. The Apple Store is likely to follow suit.

Trump also leaves office having lost most of the policy fights he's taken on and failing to advance the bulk of his agenda. There is no wall on the Mexican border. Obamacare remains the law of the land. DACA hasn't been repealed. The middle-class tax cuts he promised his followers became a typical GOP give-away to big corporations and the wealthy. The Biden administration will rejoin the Paris Accord and at least attempt to reenter the international nuclear compact with Iran. Trump's trade agreement with Canada and Mexico only delivered moderate alterations to NAFTA and he never finalized that great trade deal with China.

Trump has lost in other, less tangible ways. Public opinion polls have found that his xenophobic rhetoric backfired, with a sharp increase in the share of Americans who say that immigrants make the country stronger and a decline in the number who believe they're a burden on taxpayers and take natives' jobs. The American public's view of Islam also became more positive as he demonized Muslims and called for them to be banned from the country.

In a few weeks, Trump and many of the people within his inner circle will be exposed to criminal liability at both the state and federal levels. Pardoning himself would only force the Biden Justice Department to test the legality of that act in court and ultimately increase the likelihood that he faces federal charges. His businesses have faced steep losses that are only going to get worse when he can no longer leverage the power of his office to support them.

This staggering collection of defeats is vitally important for the future of our democracy. Historians caution that failed coup d'états are often followed by successful ones. Trump's success in effectively taking over the Republican Party and winning the undying fealty of a large swath of its base have led many observers to worry that a more disciplined and knowledgeable demagogue might be more successful in bending the institutions of our government to his or her will in the future.

Losing as badly as Trump has over the past few months is the best safeguard against that. His party is splitting apart and has been shut out of power at the federal level. The movement whose loyalty he commanded is also fracturing.

Trump is ending his presidency as a disgraced loser—one of the biggest losers in our country's history. And in doing so, he has offered a model that no would-be authoritarian would ever want to emulate in the future.

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