WASHINGTON — The congressional inquiry into the security failures surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol assault has barely begun, but one outcome already seems certain: The Capitol Police Board, the secretive three-member panel that oversees protection of the complex where Congress meets, is headed for major changes, if not outright elimination.
Lawmakers of both parties in the House and Senate, some previously unfamiliar with the sweeping authority of the board, have expressed astonishment at its lack of accountability and its inability to rapidly respond to the riot at the Capitol.
“It seems nonfunctioning to me,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, which controls money for Capitol security. “Nobody is in charge. When something goes wrong, no one has the ultimate responsibility.”
Like many things on Capitol Hill, the board is a remnant of the past that has survived in large part because it suits those who hold power in Congress. A long line of House and Senate leaders in both parties have favored its existence because they handpick two of the three of its voting members, giving them tremendous influence over security operations with little public scrutiny.
disarray and inaction on Jan. 6 and in the days leading up to the riot.
Under the current system, the board has broad authority for Capitol security and the police force and consists of the sergeants-at-arms of the House and Senate, who are chosen by the leader of each chamber, and the architect of the Capitol, the Senate-confirmed official responsible for buildings and other facilities on the grounds. The chief of the Capitol Police, who must be approved by the board, is a nonvoting member.
At House and Senate hearings in recent days, lawmakers have been struck by the fact that two days before the attack, members of the board dismissed a Capitol Police request for National Guard troops to be on hand on Jan. 6 based on a rising threat identified by intelligence. They acted with no vote, little discussion or consultation with other authorities and no involvement by the architect of the Capitol. Board members then struggled to connect during the riot to agree to declare an emergency so that troops who were standing by to assist could be summoned to the Capitol.
“If the police chief feels he doesn’t have the authority to even call in the National Guard in the middle of an insurrection and has to call two people in the middle of doing their jobs guarding members, we have a problem,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and chairwoman of the Rules Committee, which is investigating the assault with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “You need a different structure, or you at least need a very clear line of authority that allows the police chief to make these decisions.”
The Capitol Police force was formed in 1828 and the board was created in 1867, when the supervision of the police was shifted from the commissioner of public buildings to the sergeants-at-arms of the two chambers. The board’s role has remained fairly consistent since, with the Senate and House officials granted wide responsibility for overseeing the police, the Capitol grounds and the safety of lawmakers.
With Congress exempt from most public disclosure requirements, the board has operated mainly behind closed doors, slow to respond even to requests from the congressional committees that control security spending.
Even before the assault, the board was the subject of criticism by lawmakers for its lack of transparency and responsiveness. But members of Congress tread carefully around the board because of a tendency to defer to security officials on Capitol Hill.
A 2017 Government Accountability Office report requested by lawmakers who oversaw funding for the police faulted the board for lack of openness and for not following widely accepted management practices. It said the unique structure of the board hindered the watchdog function of Congress and that lawmakers “saw the bicameral structure as a factor limiting accountability.”
“For example,” the report said, “a single committee cannot call all of the board members to a committee hearing because one of the two sergeants-at-arms is not under that chamber’s jurisdiction,” it said.
The report also noted that the board must declare an emergency before calling for help, a critical contributor to the problems on Jan. 6, since it was the board’s failure to agree on an emergency declaration on Jan. 4 that left the department without sufficient personnel and immediate backup during the riot.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the senior Republican on the Rules Committee, said the assault underscored longstanding problems with the police board that necessitate major changes.
“I don’t think it works well in the best of circumstances and I think it’s almost totally unworkable in crisis, and Jan. 6 was a great example of that,” Mr. Blunt said.
The two sergeants-at-arms on the board on Jan. 6 — Paul Irving from the House and Michael Stenger from the Senate — resigned immediately after the riot, along with Chief Steven Sund of the Capitol Police. They are participating in the review of what happened.
Mr. Stenger said he too saw a need for changes in the board to make it a “little more nimble.”
“There’s a lot of statutes out there in the Capitol Police Board that go back many, many years,” he told the two Senate committees investigating the Capitol assault. “It’s probably not a bad time or idea to take a look at what’s there.”
Ms. Klobuchar offered a tart response: “That’s probably an understatement with what happened,” she said. “But thank you.”
Without more research, Mr. Blunt said he was not yet ready to talk about how to reconfigure the management of Capitol security and the police department, which is now seeking a significant budget increase and hundreds of new officers.
“I think there are a number of options, and I haven’t settled on one yet,” he said.
But significant change is coming for the board, long a little-scrutinized Capitol Hill power center.
“It absolutely has to be restructured,” Ms. DeLauro said.
The number of single women buying homes has grown during the pandemic, according to a report released yesterday, a surprising trend as Covid’s economic effects have disproportionately impacted the same group.
Compared with the same time last year, single women bought 8.7% more homes in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a report from real estate company Redfin. In comparison, single men saw an uptick of 4.6% in home buying during the same time period.
Despite the uptick, the percentage of home buyers who are single women has remained relatively stable at 15% and is still slightly lower than the percentage of homebuyers who are single men, which is 18%. New homeowners are most likely to be couples, who made up 49% of home buyers this year compared with 46% last year.
The real estate industry made an extraordinary comeback after dipping in March and April of last year at the beginning of the pandemic. From January 2020 to January 2021, 6.69m homes were purchased, a 23% increase compared with the same 12-month period the year before.
That single women are buying more homes may seem surprising given that Covid’s recession has dealt a blow to women, especially Black and Latina women, as industries where women are overrepresented – such as leisure, hospitality and education – were hit particularly hard. The pandemic has also pushed young working mothers out of the workforce, more so than young working fathers dealing with the same childcare issues, as women took on more household responsibilities during the pandemic.
But overall, the pandemic’s economic impacts have been kinder, and even beneficial, to wealthier Americans regardless of gender. With record-low mortgage rates, more savings from less traveling or eating out and a desire for more space to work from home, buying a home during the pandemic made sense for many Americans, including higher-income women.
Other trends in real estate affirm the continuation of the US’s K-shaped Covid recovery, where those with higher levels of education and income are getting richer, while those who are low-income are seeing the most job losses. Data from the National Association of Realtors found a 15% dip in 2020 in sales of homes that were priced below $100,000. Meanwhile, homes that cost between $500,000 and $750,000 saw an increase in sales of 65% and homes that cost more than a million an increase of 94%.
In its report, Redfin noted that the Boston metro area had the highest number of homes purchased by single women in 2020 of all major metro areas. In the city, nearly half of women hold college or advanced degrees, and many women are in well-paying jobs in industries that have high representation of women, such as higher education and healthcare.
“While millions of women have lost their jobs during the recession, the impact has largely been on lower-income women. Meanwhile, most women who were able to afford homes before the pandemic are likely still able to afford homes, and low mortgage rates – especially at the end of 2020 – have been incentivizing them to buy,” said Redfin’s chief economist Daryl Fairweather in a statement.
“This is another illustration of America’s uneven financial recovery.”
After a months-long investigation, a suspect has been arrested for allegedly vandalizing a stone tablet believed by some to be thousands of years old at a site in New Hampshire known as “America’s Stonehenge”.
For nearby residents the charges of felony criminal mischief against Mark Russo of New Jersey, an apparent adherent of the QAnon conspiracy theory, come as a welcome answer to a lingering local mystery. But for everyone else it has created a new one: wait, there’s an American Stonehenge? The answer to that is: eh, yes and no.
QAnon slogan meaning “Where we go one we go all”, and a lesser-known series of letters, “IAMMARK”, which probably stumped investigators at first – before they realized it was just the guy’s Twitter handle.
Since deleted, the account once posted that he had been to the site. “Oh made a few improvements at American Stonehenge. Sorry … my bad,” he wrote. “Do you see any reason not to take down their portals? Boston specifically oh and the 66 Baal shaft?” the IAMMARK account also posted.
Like most things when it comes to QAnon supporters, it is not entirely clear what in the world he was talking about there.
At the time the Facebook account of America’s Stonehenge posted pictures of the damage done.
The exact origins of the archaeological site have been fiercely debated over the years, with some suggesting the series of chambers, walls and a sacrificial tablet were built by 10th-century Irish monks. Others think the structures were built by William Goodwin, a man who purchased the land in the 1930s and dubbed it “Mystery Hill Caves”.
Regardless of its actual provenance, the site has come to be popular among those who adhere to new age-type beliefs as well as roadside travelers looking for local oddities on vacation. A fan of such megalithic structures, HP Lovecraft is said to have visited in the late 1920s. One wonders whether a man as attuned to cosmic horror as he was could have even dreamed up a force as powerful as QAnon taking over so many people’s minds.
On Wednesday night, the House of Representatives voted to pass the George Floyd Act, named after the Black man killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin last summer. Among many reforms, the act seeks to ban racial profiling, overhaul qualified immunity for police, and ban the use of chokeholds. While these seem like good measures, they are woefully insufficient to stop police violence. These reforms could not have even saved George Floyd’s life.
To be clear, Floyd did not die from a chokehold. A police officer put his knee to Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. A medical examiner’s autopsy reported “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression”. Floyd also had blunt force trauma to his head, face and shoulders. Banning chokeholds is important, as we should reduce the number of tactics that the police can employ to be dangerous. However, the problem with policing is precisely that – they can kill people using a diverse number of tactics. Shooting, kneeling, punching, suffocating, Tasing. Congress banned one practice, and not even the one responsible for the homicide.
Floyd was also probably not racially profiled. He did not have to be if he was breaking the law. Reportedly, Floyd tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. The clerk called the police because using counterfeit money is illegal. The definition of racial profiling is when police uses someone’s race to suspect that they have committed a crime. Here, Floyd’s act may have constituted a crime and the police showed up to fix it. What’s more criminal than counterfeit cash is the society where people live off of these transactions in corner stores in the first place. The police cannot solve this problem. They can show up and attempt to stop the crime, but they can’t stop the underlying conditions that give rise to it: class exploitation and poverty. Floyd appeared to need cash, not the police.
Congress has had several opportunities to give people what they actually need under the pandemic: money. George Floyd had tested positive for Covid-19 in April. By the time of his death, lawmakers had only distributed $1,200 to the public, and not everyone received this stimulus check. I wonder if Floyd would have used a counterfeit $20 if Congress would have issued $2,000 a month to the public as several activists and progressive legislators have been demanding. George Floyd’s blood is on their hands.
But instead, Congress does what it always does when the police kill people: give cops more money. The George Floyd Act, named after someone who died because he didn’t have money to cover cigarettes, gives millions of dollars to police in grants. And lawmakers gave the police more money right after they failed to secure a $15 federal minimum wage and failed to deliver on the $2,000 checks they promised to voters who put Democrats in office. But, Congress made sure to include $750m in the George Floyd Act to investigate the deadly use of force by law enforcement. Protesters have been demanding to defund the police to keep us safe; not spend millions of dollars to investigate how we die. We know how we die – the police.
The Democratic party has repeatedly said “Black Lives Matter” since the Ferguson uprising in 2014. The Democratic national convention featured images and families involved in racial justice protests. Yet the party has mostly downright ignored the largest network of Black-led organizations, the Movement for Black Lives, who have been demanding that lawmakers pass the Breathe Act, the most comprehensive criminal legal package in the history of the United States. Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib announced the legislation last summer. The Breathe Act invests resources in all communities to alleviate police violence by building sustainable neighborhoods and reducing contact with law enforcement. The Act calls for investments in gainful employment, quality housing, and pilots for universal basic income. But Congress would rather pay for police than give resources to the masses of people suffering police violence.
And under the George Floyd Act, police will still kill more than 1,000 people every year. The victims will be overwhelmingly poor, Black, and disabled.
I completely understand that the political climate might require some compromises on the bill text. Top Democrats will hide behind these arguments to suggest that they will not find support for more progressive legislation. But political will starts with them to plant the seeds among their colleagues to make this possible. They cannot use their Republican colleagues as a shield from criticism when it is actually them, Democrats, who are not committed to more transformational policies. Vice-President Kamala Harris could have overruled the Senate parliamentarian who decided to remove the $15 minimum wage from the new Covid-19 relief package; she did not. The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could have stood up and championed the Breathe Act; she kneeled for a photo opportunity wearing Kente cloth instead. And Joe Biden could have kept his promise for $2,000 checks for people facing evictions, hunger and unemployment; he and the first lady put giant hearts on the White House lawn for Valentine’s Day instead.
Jennifer King sat in her office prepping for one of the Washington Football Team’s final regular season games when head coach Ron Rivera popped in to pass along some news. King’s promotion from season long intern to full-time assistant running backs coach was official.
King said a quick thanks, then in true coach form went right back to work.
There were no immediate screams of joy or silent celebratory dancing once Rivera left the room. There was no calling everyone she knew to let them she was now the first Black woman to become a full-time coach in the NFL. And a positional coach to boot.
“I was excited and thankful but I never thought about the magnitude of it until things started blowing up,” King says.
Once her promotion became public the elation and outpouring of support was omnipresent. Heavy hitters in NFL circles and beyond, including fellow trailblazer Billie Jean King, sent congratulatory messages. More importantly, so did a plethora of Black girls who now can see themselves as future NFL coaches.
King’s journey to the NFL began when she played women’s professional football from 2006-2017. She also coached college basketball: from 2016 to 2018 she was the head coach for the Johnson & Wales women’s team, who she led to the USCAA Division II National Championship in 2018.
In a stroke of serendipity, Johnson & Wales is adjacent to the Carolina Panthers’ practice facility and stadium in Charlotte. King could hear the sounds of football from her office, sounds that were orchestrated by the then maestro of the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera.
King would observe Panthers practice from her side of the fence whenever she could. Her NFL coaching dreams were only solidified by what she saw.
Then happenstance coincided with intentionality.
Around 2015 Sam Rapoport, a former quarterback turned NFL senior director of diversity, equity, and inclusion pitched an entirely new initiative to normalize football by creating a pipeline for women to hold NFL careers in coaching, scouting, analytics, football administration and a bevy of other x’s and o’s jobs that had long been reserved for men only. Commissioner Roger Goodell, a “girl dad,” as King likes to point out, was all in.
The NFL held its first Women’s Careers in Football Forum in 2017, joining together qualified women with head coaches and executives. These aspiring women not only got inside access to some of the best NFL minds, but also got to make real connections. Prior to the forum’s existence these women were shut out of NFL inner circles because they didn’t play for a certain coach (even though so many played and coaches in women’s leagues) or have a certain dad. And, yes, because of deep-seeded stereotypes. Luckily for the game, times are changing.
Despite working a stone’s throw from the Panthers facility, King only met Rivera in the second year of the forum. She was placed in his breakout room and seized the opportunity. She peppered Rivera with questions about coaching strategy and sold the skills she had learned at Johnson & Wales. After they got back to Charlotte, Rivera invited her to rookie minicamp for two days.
“He kept inviting me back for two days at a time and suddenly two days turned into 40 days,” King says with a chuckle.
After her coaching internship with the Panthers, King bolstered her coaching resume with a role at Dartmouth and a stint with the short-lived AAF. When Rivera was hired by the Washington Football Team last year, he brought on King.
King’s rapid rise is just one example of the shifting landscape in the NFL. While even Goodell has acknowledged the disturbing lack of diversity among head coaches, the rapid growth of the pool of women on NFL club payrolls is a testament to the forum’s promotion of diversity in the coaching and scouting ranks.
“The interactions themselves have helped change people’s minds. That’s a huge step up from where the forum started and just participating in the diversity program because it looks nice,” says NFL senior manager of football development Venessa Hutchinson who works in concert with Rapoport to manage the forum and identify qualified participants.
Since the forum’s inception in 2017, 118 opportunities have emerged for women in both the NFL and collegiate ranks. Eight women now work as NFL coaches and 12 as scouts. Many are alumni of the forum but some are not, a signal that the league’s mindset is changing.
For those on the fence, the success of the current crop of female coaches is undeniable. Six of the eight coaches reached the most recent playoffs – King, Browns chief of staff Callie Brownson, Rams strength coach Chelsea Romero, Titans strength coach Kristi Bartlett, and, from the Bucs, assistant defensive line coach Lo Locust and strength coach Maral Javadifar. Locust and Javadifar are now Super Bowl champions.
“It shows diversity wins. A lot of people are curious about the idea of diversifying their staff, you bring new eyes and new ideas to their staff. It’s really cool,” King says.
One of the head coaches new to this year’s forum, which took place last week virtually, was six-time Super Bowl champion Bill Belichick, a major coup for Hutchinson and Rapoport.
“He was extremely interested,” Hutchinson says. “Honestly, based on the interaction if we had asked him sooner, he probably would have participated sooner. He respects coaching. He respects developing coaches.”
Belichick, whose daughter is the head lacrosse coach at Holy Cross University, joined Titans head coach Mike Vrabel in a breakout room with 11 women interested in coaching. The two could have put in their time and bid adieu but instead gave out their email addresses and encouraged the coaching hopefuls to keep in touch.
They follow in the footsteps of Bucs head coach Bruce Arians who two years ago strongly encouraged forum participants to email him. In true Arians form it was more like, Why the hell have none of you emailed me yet? You can’t get ahead if you don’t stick your neck out! (A directive he repeated last week.)
Arians also vowed to hire a full-time female coach at that forum. A few weeks and a heavily clogged inbox later, he hired two. It seems to have worked out for them all.
While Year 1 of the forum may have been rooted in altruism, Year 5 has a growing number of coaches and front offices who consider it a legitimate outlet towards building an inclusive staff and culture, something they genuinely value. And given the success the current crop has seen, coaches like Belichick and others have to view it as a pathway to competitive advantage. After all, the NFL is the ultimate copycat league.
Hutchinson acknowledges that even today a few clubs still check the box when it comes to diversity and eight women out of approximately 500 NFL coaches does not equate to normalization. But she can see the pipeline strengthening.
“We at least feel like minds are being changed. We don’t expect anything to be overnight, but here’s the thing, we have head coaches and general managers coming into place and diversity, equity and inclusion is in the front of their minds. Less of hopping on the bandwagon, organizations that just value a structure of diversity from the get go. It’s going to make the most difference when you look back in five years.”
And in five years King hopes that we will be so much closer to normal, that when a female coach is hired the reaction will be, “Oh they hired a woman. Water’s wet. Let’s move on.”
A few days after the insurrection at the Capitol, my father Jack started sending emails from his Lincoln, Kansas, home to his representative and senators in Congress. For some reason, he was also cc-ing me on these exchanges.
There was a new email almost every day, and the tone swung between pleading, angry, bewildered and frustrated. There were emails asking his senators to vote to impeach Trump, emails demanding proof supporting the allegations that the election had been stolen, emails trying to untangle their twisted logic.
One such email read, in part: “Your actions, and the actions of other Republicans like you, are destroying the Republican party. As I have been a lifelong Republican, I hate what has happened to the party of Lincoln and Reagan and the ideals of the past, to see it reduced to a personality cult.”
The politicians’ responses made it absolutely clear no one was taking my father’s criticisms seriously. Kansas representative Tracey Mann sent a form letter response, saying “we must unify as a nation”, which presumably meant moving on, forgetting the extravagant misdeeds of the Trump administration and voting against impeachment. When I asked my father if he had any expectation that his representatives would take responsibility for their involvement in the insurrection (Kansas junior senator Roger Marshall joined with those who claimed there was fraud during the election), he said, “No. Well … no.”
My father’s frustration with the Republican party had been building for years, but something seemed to break with him after the insurrection. The riot at the Capitol was, he believed, stoked by unscrupulous politicians who for four years cared more about power than rule of law and who, when that power slipped, would rather let the country continue to fall apart than work to rebuild.
The Republican party is in the midst of an identity crisis, brought on by a big shift in voting demographics and a new generation of more radical and paranoidpoliticians. As Democrats move away from their historically working-class constituency to become instead the party of the urban, college-educated liberal, Republicans find themselves attracting the loyalty of the religious, those not formally educated and the rural. The institutions which previously cultivated Republican voters – the university system and white-collar employment – now lead Americans to the political left, leaving conservative leaders and thinktanks scrambling to figure out how to accommodate their new, more blue-collar base. Many Republican politicians clearly find it easier to appeal to their base’s fears and resentments than to provide working-class Americans with stability and resources. This has led to some strange pageantry, like the Yale Law graduate and Missouri Republican senator Josh Hawley cosplaying as a man-of-the-people populist.
The Bulwark podcast, which is one of the few conservative media outlets my father still listens to, and which prides itself on its “civil” discourse, has been monitoring this identity crisis daily. In its episode “Post-Impeachment GOP”, host Charlie Sykes described the slow decline that seemed to accelerate once Republican voters believed the lie that the Trump’s re-election had been stolen and their politicians refused to deny or disavow it. “The Republican party has been willing to look the other way over lies, racism, all the corruption and xenophobia, but now it’s willing to look the other way [on] violence, extremism and anti-democratic authoritarianism.”
My father Jack likens his estrangement from the Republican party to the rise of the recently deceased Rush Limbaugh. He had listened to him in the 80s for about a year, at first finding funny his jokes about the hypocrisy of Democrats. But soon Rush’s tone changed. “He had been saying outrageous things about people and then laughing – but then he started to sound like he was really believing it. He wasn’t entertaining any more; he was vicious.” He was further turned off from Limbaugh, who exploded in popularity during the Clinton administration, by his reliance on cheap misogynist and homophobic jokes.
The Republican party as a whole was going down a similar path – choosing culture war battles over ideological integrity, and warmongering over supporting the institutions of family, religious freedom, strong communities, and small business the party professed to value. This was particularly visible in the politics of our home state of Kansas, which is often portrayed as hardline conservative, but whose local politics are far more nuanced than outsiders perceive. It’s worth remembering that the state has a strong local Democratic party, a history of far-left progressive politics, and that the current governor is Democrat Laura Kelly.
But back in 2011, Sam Brownback was elected governor and decided to make the most radical tax slashes the state had ever seen. This decimated the budgets of hospitals, schools, and other agencies, and they began to fall apart. Politicians ran against Brownback promising to raise taxes, something almost unheard of. The “Kansas experiment”, as it was called, revealed the emptiness of Republican rhetoric and their lack of new ideas beyond “cut taxes”.
Clearly my father is not the only conservative feeling estranged from the Republican party. Gerald Russello, editor of the conservative cultural journal the University Bookman, echoed the feeling. “The political conservatives you see on TV or in Congress are either Trump clowns or Reagan-era old guys who believe the free market solves everything,” he told me recently. “Who speaks for me? I can’t associate myself with clownish racists.”
It’s not yet clear how extensive the fallout from Trumpism will be, but a larger number of Republicans are changing their official political affiliation than Democrats, and there is talk of the possibility of forming a splinter political party, called the Integrity party. (The Lincoln Project founders were involved in this idea before the organization was racked by sexual harassment accusations and larger questions about its financial and political purpose.) Building a new political party into something that can attain power and influence is a long-term goal, but it would strive to give a voice to fiscal conservatives and social moderates, occupying a center-right position, left of where the Republicans currently sit.
When I asked my father if he could ever be persuaded to vote Democratic, he thought for a while. “I doubt it. I get this feeling from the Democrats of ‘We’re from the government and we’re here to help you’ that I don’t like. I want to know how can we best solve [a] problem instead of just throwing money at it.” What he considers problems – things like the national debt and overspending on military – the Democrats don’t seem to acknowledge, nor do the Republicans acknowledge what my father believes are looming disasters, like climate change and the broken healthcare system. But my father has no faith in the ideas Democrats have put forth to solve these issues.
Both my father and Russello expressed frustration with Republicans claiming to be a pro-family party while allowing families to suffer on their own through a pandemic.
“Give the people money!” Russello said. “It’s not socialism – that’s an argument from the 80s.” And he’s worried about the future if the party continues to abandon what should be its primary concern. “There’s a strain of conservatism with men and women in their 20s and 30s who have given up on politics. They say, you don’t know how bad things are for us.” The Republicans have little to offer them, as small towns and the middle of the country are allowed to decay into unemployment, de-industrialization and addiction, but these places are also Republicans’ strongholds.
For now, change looks unlikely to come from the top. Conservatives are still intellectually reliant on thinktanks in Washington, which have been spitting out the same ideas about the free market for decades. There are writers and intellectuals on the right who are trying to plot a course forward, but they are frequently drowned out by media personalities on Fox News and alt-right podcasts. Russello pointed out that after the media was so surprised by the election of Donald Trump in 2016, many publications pledged to go into these neglected regions and give coverage to their concerns. Very little of that coverage materialized; there have been few big splashy books on so-called “Trump country” apart from, say, Strangers in Their Own Land or Hillbilly Elegy. The focus has mostly remained on the more sensational side of Trumpism, like the QAnon conspiracy and insurrectionists, and less the outlook of the average conservative voter.
As for my father’s plans, he is still involved in local government, where he has served for decades now. He recently fought off an attempt by a committee to invite a Robert E Lee impersonator to the Lincoln Days festivities in honor of the town’s namesake, pointing out the general was a traitor who was lucky he wasn’t hanged. And despite the lack of results, he’s still sending those emails. Another one went out this morning.
Nearly 90% of the people charged in the Capitol riot so far have no connection with militias or other organized extremist groups, according to a new analysis that adds to the understanding of what some experts have dubbed the “mass radicalization” of Trump supporters.
A report from George Washington University’s Center on Extremism has analyzed court records about cases that have been made public. It found that more than half of people facing federal charges over the 6 January attack appear to have planned their participation alone, not even coordinating with family members or close friends. Only 33 of the 257 alleged participants appear to have been part of existing “militant networks”, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers anti-government militia.
The dominance of these “individual believers” among the alleged attackers underscored the importance of understanding the Capitol violence as part of a “diverse and fractured domestic extremist threat”, and highlighted the ongoing risk of lone actor terror attacks, the George Washington researchers concluded.
Other analysts have argued the Capitol attackers should be understood as “not merely a mix of rightwing organizations, but as a broader mass movement with violence at its core”.
‘Mass radicalization becomes mass mobilization’
While individuals associated with far-right networks were critical in escalating the violence at the Capitol, the report found that members of organized extremist groups make up only a small minority of the people charged so far.
About a third of the people charged were part of “organized clusters” of family members or friends who planned their participation together. These small groups allegedly include a father and son from Delaware, a mother and son from Tennessee, several husband and wife pairs, two brothers from Montana, and a group of acquaintances from Texas, including Jenna Ryan, a real estate broker, who took a private plane to Washington together to storm the capitol.
Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers that the election had been stolen from Trump and wanted to do something about it.
Michael Jensen, a senior researcher who specializes in radicalization at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, said the results of the analysis were not surprising.
“What we witnessed on January 6 wasn’t a one-off extremist plot,” he said. “We witnessed an instance of mass radicalization which turned into an instance of mass mobilization.”
Trump’s “big lie” about election fraud, repeated for months across social media and traditional media platforms, had succeeded in radicalizing “potentially millions of individuals who have collectively adopted an extremist viewpoint” about the legitimacy of the election, Jensen said.
“We’re seeing a lot of folks [charged] who look like pretty normal people,” he said. “They tend to be older individuals, that were married, with families, that had jobs. These are not hardcore extremists. These are individuals who got caught in a really extraordinary circumstance.”
Many of the unaffiliated people charged in the attack might not have even known what an Oath Keeper or a Proud Boy was, Jensen said, “but they know who the president is … and the president was providing a narrative of fraud”.
A different analysis of court records by the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, looking at 290 arrests connected to the Capitol attack, found very similar results to the George Washington University report, including that only 12% of alleged participants were part of militias or other organized violent groups.
This initial data revealed, the Chicago analysts wrote, that “‘normal’ pro-Trump activists joined with the far right to form a new kind of violent mass movement”.
The Chicago report also warned that typical counter-terrorism approaches, such as arresting members of dangerous extremist groups, would not be very effective to confront this complex threat, which may require “de-escalation approaches for anger among large swaths of mainstream society”.
The George Washington University report also revealed how instrumental the alleged rioters’ own social media posts have been to building criminal cases against them. Roughly half of people charged over the riot had their own alleged social media posts used against them as evidence, while about 30% of people charged had “been possibly incriminated” by the social media accounts of friends.
As the election returns rolled in showing President Donald J. Trump winning strong support from blue-collar voters in November while suffering historic losses in suburbs across the country, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a Republican, declared on Twitter: “We are a working class party now. That’s the future.”
And with further results revealing that Mr. Trump had carried 40 percent of union households and made unexpected inroads with Latinos, other Republican leaders, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, trumpeted a political realignment. Republicans, they said, were accelerating their transformation into the party of Sam’s Club rather than the country club.
But since then, Republicans have offered very little to advance the economic interests of blue-collar workers. Two major opportunities for party leaders to showcase their priorities have unfolded recently without a nod to working Americans.
In Washington, as Democrats advance a nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus bill, they are facing universal opposition from congressional Republicans to the package, which is chock-full of measures to benefit struggling workers a full year into the coronavirus pandemic. The bill includes $1,400 checks to middle-income Americans and extended unemployment benefits, which are set to lapse on March 14.
rebuffed the plan as “welfare.” Mr. Hawley has matched a Democratic proposal for a $15 minimum wage, but with the caveat that it applies only to businesses with annual revenues above $1 billion.
Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster whose clients have included Mr. Rubio, was critical of Democrats for not seeking a compromise on the stimulus after a group of G.O.P. senators offered a smaller package. “Seven Republican senators voted to convict a president of their own party,” he said, referring to Mr. Trump’s impeachment. “If you can’t get any of them on a Covid program, you’re not trying real hard.”
As the Covid-19 relief package, which every House Republican voted down, makes its way through the Senate this week, Republicans are expected to offer further proposals aimed at struggling Americans.
Mr. Ayres said that the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., last weekend, the first major party gathering since Mr. Trump left office, had been a spectacularly missed opportunity in its failure to include meaningful discussion of policies for blue-collar voters. Instead, the former president advanced an intraparty civil war by naming in his speech on Sunday a hit list of every Republican who voted to impeach him.
“You’d better be spending a lot more time developing an economic agenda that benefits working people than re-litigating a lost presidential election,” Mr. Ayres said. “The question is, how long will it take the Republicans to figure out that driving out heretics rather than winning new converts is a losing strategy right now?”
Separately, one of the highest-profile efforts to lift blue-collar workers in the country was underway this week in Alabama, where nearly 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse are voting on whether to unionize. On Sunday, the pro-union workers got a boost in a video from Mr. Biden. Representatives for Mr. Hawley — who has been one of the leading Republican champions of a working-class realignment — did not respond to a request for comment about where he stands on the issue.
a long-term trend in which the parties have essentially swapped voters, with Republicans gaining with blue-collar workers, while white-collar suburbanites moved toward the Democrats. The idea of “Sam’s Club conservatives,” which was floated about 15 years ago by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, recognized a constituency of populist Republicans who favored a higher minimum wage and government help for struggling families.
most benefits went to corporations and the wealthy.
Oceans of ink have been spilled over whether the white working class’s devotion to Mr. Trump had more to do with economic anxiety or with anger toward “elites” and racial minorities, especially immigrants. For many analysts, the answer is that it had to do with both.
His advancement of policies to benefit working-class Americans was frequently chaotic and left unresolved. Manufacturing jobs, which had continued their slow recovery since the 2009 financial crisis, flatlined under Mr. Trump in the year before the pandemic hit. The former president’s bellicose trade war with China hit American farmers so hard economically that they received large bailouts from taxpayers.
“There was never a program to deal with the types of displacements going on,” said John Russo, a former co-director of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University in Ohio.
He projects that once the economy snaps back to pre-pandemic levels, blue-collar Americans will be worse off, because employers will have accelerated automation and will continue work-force reductions adopted during the pandemic. “Neither party is talking about that,” Mr. Russo said. “I think that by 2024, that’s going to be a key issue.”
It’s possible that Republicans who are not prioritizing economic issues are accurately reading their base. A survey last month by the G.O.P. pollster Echelon Insights found that the top concerns of Republican voters were mainly cultural ones: illegal immigration, lack of support for the police, high taxes and “liberal bias in mainstream media.”
exit polls, these voters preferred Mr. Trump over Mr. Biden by 35 percentage points.
Among voters of color without a college degree, Mr. Trump won one out of four votes, an improvement from 2016, when he won one in five of their votes.
tweet that the future of the G.O.P. was “a party built on a multi-ethnic multi-racial coalition of working AMERICANS.”
After the Trump presidency, it is an open question whether any other Republican candidates can win the same intensity of blue-collar support. “Whatever your criticisms are of Trump — and I have a lot — clearly he was able to connect to those people and they voted for him,” said Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, a Democrat from the Youngstown area.
Mr. Ryan is gearing up to run in 2022 for an open Senate seat in Ohio. He agrees with Mr. Trump about taking on China, but faults him for not following up his tough language with sustained policies. “I think there’s an opportunity to have a similar message but a real agenda,” he said.
As for Republican presidential candidates aspiring to inherit Mr. Trump’s working-class followers, Mr. Ryan saw only dim prospects for them, especially if they continued to reject the Biden stimulus package, which passed the House and is now before the Senate.
Monmouth University poll on Wednesday found that six in 10 Americans supported the $1.9 trillion package in its current form, especially the $1,400 checks to people at certain income levels.
But Republicans who vote it down may not pay a political price, said Patrick Murray, the poll’s director. “They know that the checks will reach their base regardless, and they can continue to rail against Democratic excesses,” he said.
“There would only be a problem if they somehow managed to sink the bill,” he added.
On 20 March 2019, Thierry Baudet provided Dutch television viewers with two surprises. The first was news of his landslide victory in that day’s senate elections. Baudet’s far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD) was a newcomer in parliament, holding just two seats out of 150 in the lower house. But that day, from scratch, Forum gained 12 of the senate’s 75 seats, putting it on a par with the governing liberal party (the VVD) led by prime minister Mark Rutte.
The second surprise was Baudet’s victory speech. “The owl of Athena spreads her wings as evening falls,” he started, and across the country, jaws dropped and drinks were spilled. The Netherlands is not a country noted for oratory. Our politicians would rather downplay their intellectual prowess than borrow from Greek mythology.
Back then, the future must have looked promising for the dynamic young leader: if he could win the Senate elections, could Baudet win the general elections in March 2021?
Most commentators thought he had a chance. For many years the far right of Dutch politics had been served by Geert Wilders’ PVV (Freedom party). Wilders is not known for quoting political thinkers, and tends to be coarse in his speech, for example speaking about imposing a “head-rag tax” on hijab-wearing women. For the better educated, socially conservative, small government-minded voter who is not a fan of immigration, voting for Wilders is not an option. The “civilised right”, as it’s often called in the Netherlands, would either continue to vote VVD or for one of the conservative Christian parties.
he said, “we are being demolished by the people who should have been protecting us.”
It was difficult not to interpret “boreal” as anything but a dog whistle to the extreme right, for whom the word is code for “white”. Baudet Baudet has always denied he is a racist and insisted that “boreal” was just another way of saying “northern”. People seemed to give him the benefit of the doubt. Or at least his poll numbers were growing, as was membership of FvD and its youth wing. He assembled an electoral list including seasoned establishment politicians and young upcoming conservatives. The party looked like a serious contender.
Then it all fell apart – first gradually, then suddenly. The slow decline was a direct result of the pandemic. Voters Baudet might have stolen from the liberal party rallied behind Rutte who, early on in the crisis, began enjoying a 75% approval rating.
Baudet questioned Rutte’s increasingly strict lockdown policies as a “corona dictatorship”, then questioned the virus itself. Wasn’t it just a little flu? Wasn’t the World Health Organization trying to control the political order?
The more seasoned politicians in his party started to get anxious. Embracing conspiracy theories would lose them the ear of “the civilised right”.
And then it all blew up in a Death Star kind of way. In November, antisemitic remarks from the Forum youth wing’s WhatsApp groups were leaked to the press. Instead of investigating the claims of antisemitism, Baudet expelled the whistleblowers.
This did not sit well with others on his electoral list, and a few days later it was leaked to the press that Baudet had said that George Soros “invented” Covid, and that “practically everyone” he knew was an antisemite.
In the controversy that followed, Baudet stunned everyone by stepping down as party leader but then reversed, demanding a party referendum on his position. Flabbergasted, most of the party’s remaining candidates now wanted him out altogether. It was mayhem. In one of the more media-savvy moments, they had the locks changed to the party headquarters, so Baudet couldn’t come in again.
When the party leadership gave in to the referendum the more seasoned members simply quit. As did many Forum politicians in local councils and in the Senate. Of the 12 senators who won seats in the 2019 election, only two are still attached to his party.
More leaked WhatsApp conversations followed, this time of Baudet himself allegedly making racist remarks. On live TV Baudet disclosed that he’d had a romantic entanglement with Eva Vlaardingerbroek, a young woman on his electoral list, who was engaged to a French associate of Marine Le Pen. The TV show then played an audio clip of Vlaardingerbroek speaking about her disappointment in Baudet’s antics and what she claimed was “callous racism”. Baudet looked briefly shaken and in a small voice said that he had to “readjust himself to this news”.
The introspection didn’t last long. Instead of backtracking, with the elections less than a fortnight away, Baudet has now gone into full Trump mode. His anti-lockdown, anti-vaxxer rhetoric has become more extreme, more conspiracy minded, more anti-media, even suggesting that his followers use “creative” solutions to optimise proxy voting to the party’s advantage.
Since last week he’s even been donning a baseball cap.
The one thing that was constantly said about Covid last year, was that it was a great revealer; it revealed the gap between rich and poor, the employed and the unemployed, the old and the young. Covid has also now revealed what Baudet really is; not just the flamboyant and outspoken intellectual that he wanted people to believe he is, but a conspiracy-mongering antisemitic populist, willing to undermine facts, health care, the free press and even democracy, to remain a focal point in Dutch politics.
Is it working? Half of Forum voters now believe Covid was developed to suppress the civilian population.
The problem for Baudet is there are not too many Forum voters left. He is marginalised in the polls and the media have moved on. Don’t be fooled by overblown reporting of the recent anti-lockdown, anti-curfew riots which are not a factor in the election.Baudet’s radical turn has lost him the support of more mainstream voters, because that’s also what Covid revealed: that the Netherlands is not a country for baseball caps and a paranoid style of politics. In times of crisis, we like to stay close to what we know. So the mainstream Rutte, in charge for 11 years now, commands a lead in the polls that seems insurmountable by any party.
Baudet’s demise has helped Wilders’ support to recover. His party is expected to take 20 seats, more or less the same level of support he’s had for a decade. But these are seats that are next to useless, since no mainstream party is willing to work with him, just as he is not willing to work with them. Wilders seems happiest when he is far away from government responsibility.
Baudet will probably keep his current two seats in parliament, if he’s lucky he might gain a couple. But he’s no longer a contender.
Then again: like Trump, Baudet doesn’t believe in the polls.
Most people enjoy variety. We like to eat different foods from meal to meal. We wear different clothes. We like to try new activities and visit new places, which may be hard to remember right now in our tiny, socially isolated rooms, but it’s true. Likewise, with too little variety we become bored. Your favourite food might be duck à l’orange, but you wouldn’t want to eat it for three meals a day, every day.
Nevertheless, there’s one place we tend to dislike variety, and that’s in each other. We often have a hard time with people who look different from us, practise different rituals, wear unfamiliar clothes, or hold beliefs or values that we do not share.
There are biological reasons for this discomfort. When you’re exposed to new and different things, your brain works a bit harder than usual. Your neurons require more resources when you’re learning, such as water, salt, glucose and various other chemicals. This extra metabolic activity can feel unsettling and unpleasant. And it can feel worse if your nervous system is already under pressure, such as right now in the midst of a pandemic.
This sort of variation may be uncomfortable for individuals, but it’s actually critical for the survival of any species. If all finches were identical, for example, and their environment changed in some significant, detrimental way, such as an increase in temperature or a decrease in water, all of them would be equally vulnerable and the species might become extinct. But if finch bodies and brains have enough variety, then some individuals may be more suited to a hotter climate or more parched surroundings, and the species is more likely to survive. This insight about variation comes from Charles Darwin, and it’s known as population thinking. Most people associate Darwin with his evolutionary theory of natural selection, but population thinking may be an even greater scientific achievement. The idea of “survival of the fittest” implies that individuals must vary. Some are more suited than others for a given environment, making it easier for them to survive, thrive, and reproduce. Variation is therefore a prerequisite for natural selection to work at all.
Human variety is also important in our everyday lives. Take the workplace, for example, where variation is more commonly called “diversity.” “Companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially,” notes a well-cited 2015 research report by McKinsey. Data suggests that “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above national averages”. This isn’t a huge surprise, given that staff with a range of perspectives will be able spot a wider array of both problems and opportunities, helping the organisation to thrive.
A range of perspectives is vital to our trust in science as a way of learning about the world, too. The historian Naomi Oreskes writes: “A community with diverse values is more likely to identify and challenge prejudicial beliefs embedded in, or masquerading as, scientific theory.” Science is more objective and useful as a tool for living when people from different backgrounds, with different starting beliefs and different experiences, interrogate their observations through free and open debate.
Moreover, variation is crucial for the survival of a culture. A working democracy, for example, is necessarily a compromise among diverse views. Too much sameness may breed authoritarianism or even totalitarianism. The founders of the United States understood this, and they built checks and balances into the governance of their fledgling country to encourage debate and compromise among its citizens. (Except for certain people who weren’t granted a voice at all. Tolerance of variety in 1787 had its limits.)
Variation is even wired into our brains at a microscopic level. All humans share a single, basic brain plan with about 120bn neurons and two hemispheres, right and left. But the neurons inside every skull wire themselves differently depending on the environments they are raised in – varied environments that are curated by our varied fellow humans. In this manner, we wire the brains of the next generation, passing down our values, behaviours and norms. It’s a major reason we can maintain a wide variety of cultures around the world, and survive and thrive in so many physical environments. A single brain plan creates many kinds of minds.
Even within a single mind, variation is a good thing. For example, people vary in how finely they experience emotions. Some people experience surprise, amazement, astonishment, bewilderment, consternation and awe as distinctive instances of emotion, whereas others experience them all as equivalent. The ability to construct finer-grained emotions, called higher emotional granularity, is linked to better mental and physical health, and faster recovery from physical illness. The more tools you have in your emotion toolbox, the more precisely your brain can plan your actions and shape everything you experience.
Human variety is vital for our species, so it’s important for us to learn to deal with the more challenging kinds of variation that we find in each other. This is particularly relevant in today’s polarised world, where people with different beliefs or opinions have difficulty even being civil to one another. So I offer you a challenge. Pick a controversial political issue that you feel strongly about: religion, immigration, the climate crisis, Covid-19 lockdowns, Brexit, or perhaps a local issue that’s important to you. Spend five minutes a day deliberately considering the issue from the perspective of people you disagree with – not to argue with them in your head, but to understand how someone who’s just as smart as you can believe the opposite of what you do. I’m not asking you to change your mind, just to truly embody someone else’s point of view. If you can honestly say, “I absolutely disagree with that view, but I understand why people might believe it,” then you’re actively helping to create a less polarised world.
Dealing with the vast variety of humankind can be demanding and unsettling, and even maddening at times, but it’s a good investment, sort of like exercise for your brain. When you meet someone who looks or thinks differently than you, treat your discomfort as a cue to be curious and learn, not as a signal of a problem or that the other person should be silenced. Ultimately, this mindset can make you more flexible in adapting to challenging situations, more resilient in the face of change.
Lisa Feldman Barrett is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, Boston, and the author of Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain