Far-right hate and violence peaked during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, but time and justice are slowly turning the tide against the Donald Trump inspired culture wars.
A number of key developments this year suggest that Thanksgiving could mark the beginning of the end to the anti-democratic movement that rode Trump’s coattails following his surprise election as president in 2016.
The death knell was sounded by Trump’s own defeat in 2020 after one tulmultuous term in office.
That was followed by the utter, almost comical, failure of his “stop the steal” campaign.
It died on the Capitol steps in a last gasp insurrection to install Trump as president over the democratically elected candidate, Joe Biden.
But the most incouraging signs have come in the weeks and months since then. The message is clear, violence and lawlessness have consequences.
The Capitol rioters and far-right militant groups, like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, are systematically being held accountable for their actions.
The rule of law they sought to undermine is being upheld by Congress, the administration and in civil and criminal courts across the country.
That’s precisely what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they established legislative, executive and judicial branches of government to serve as a check and balance on political overreach and tyranny.
At last count, more than 650 Capitol rioters have been arrested for storming the Citadel of our nation. Many are facing jail terms while more are being rounded up every day.
Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of those arrested have pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
But of significance are the statements they made as part of their plea bargains. They were genuinely inspired by former President Trump and intent on violence.
In the case of one Capitol rioter, both prosecution and defense lawyers agreed that rioters were “radicalized” by falsehoods and misinformation spread on social media and right-wing news shows on Fox and other hard-right networks.
Now higher ups are drawing scrutiny for their actions.
Trump exhibited a flagrant contempt for the rule of law while president. But in a key showdown with Congress, the former president and acolytes, like Steve Bannon, are finally being held accountable.
Courts have backed a House Select Committee’s request for Trump White House documents as part of its investigation into the Jan 6. insurrection.
In a more far reaching development, a federal grand jury indicted Bannon earlier this month on two counts of contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena. He faces up to a year in jail.
The court ruling and indictment send a clear signal Trump can no longer shield his actions from public view.
The committee has also subpoenaed a number of Trump admimistration officials and five individuals who helped or had knowledge of the planning and financing of Jan. 6 events.
The investigation could lead to members of Congress who may have aided and abetted rioters in the days before the insurrection.
Republicans engaged in an unprecedent campaign of violent, divisive rhetoric to promote Trump’s baseless election fraud claims.
“We need to fight back,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) urged viewers in one segment.
“We’re not timid folk. We’re people who understand when there is a challenge in front of us we rise to the challenge. We fight, finish, keep,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in a Dec. 12 speech.
“It is time to stand and fight,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla) exhorted in a Dec. 19 speech. “The swamp isn’t truly drained until we nail the hides of the alligators to the wall.”
House minority leader Keven McCarthy (R-CA) insisted Trump won a month before the riot. “Do not be quiet, we can not allow this to happen before our very eyes.”
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) urged conservatives to “lightly threaten” lawmakers.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called on Republicans to “grow a backbone and fight.”
“This is our 1776 moment,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga).
Explosive speeches by Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Trump family members on the day of the rally capped the inflammatory campaign.
Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Jr., whipped up the angry crowd; Giuliani urged “trial by combat.”
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-Mo), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-SC) all contributed to destabilize and fire up the mob.
Fox News talking heads like Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs, Steve Hilton, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin also made fiery, violent exhortations to “take back” the country.
Pirro even went so far as to compare the Trump mob to George Washington crossing the Delaware during the Revolutionary War.
Alex Jones, one of the most vile spreaders of far-right conspiracy theories, finally got his comeuppance over his vapid lies about the Sandy Hook mass shooting.
The House vote censoring Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) for a meme showing him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) finally drew a line on violent far-right rhetoric among elected officials.
Far-right misinformation campaigns are still continuing, but they have since become cariacatures of themselves.
Carlson’s dramatically revisionist account of the Jan. 6 insurrection aired earlier this month. But it was so patently false, even Fox News anchors denounced it.
Trump, of course, the chief source of misinformation and lies, lost his megaphone when he was banned last year from social media. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have since stepped up efforts to weed out misinformation and falsehoods.
Trump is facing his own criminal and civil investigations over business dealings that could engulf his two sons and daughter Ivanka Trump.
Meanwhile, the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) is cracking down on right-wing militia groups.
Arrests in the wake of Jan. 6, uncovered evidence that far-right extremist groups were deeply involved in the plot to overthrow President Biden to keep Trump in power.
Kelly Meggs, a purported leader of the Oath Keepers, repeated Trump’s call to descend on the Capitol and go “wild, in the weeks leading up to the insurrection,” according to court papers.
Meggs and other Oath Keepers were arrested for their role storming the Capitol.
Six California men, four self-identified as members of “Three Percenter” militia, were indicted in June for conspiring to obstruct congressional proceedings on January 6.
Fifteen alleged members or affiliates of the Proud Boys have been also charged in four separate conspiracy cases. Trump infamously called on the Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by” during a 2020 presidential debate.
In another setback for far-right groups, a jury this week (Nov. 23) awarded more than $26 million in damages against White nationalists who organized and participated in a violent 2017 Charlottesville, Va., rally.
Violent clashes led to the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal and millions of dollars in damages.
The event four years ago empowered White supremacists and nationalists after it drew Trump’s tacit support.
Some of the most prominent figures of far-right extremists — Jason Kessler, Matthew Heimbach, Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell — are among the defendants now facing huge judgments for violating state conspiracy laws.
The protests were sparked by city council votes to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and rename its location Emancipation Park.
Such statues honoring the Civil War Confederacy can be found in dozens of locations around the country. They were considered for years to be no-so-subtle symbols of white supremacy and Jim Crow.
The far-right derisively labeled the campaign to remove them “wokeism.”
But attempts to trivialize the movement for racial and social justice are failing to gain traction.
To the contrary, juries in the George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery trials signaled that the police and white vigilantes will be held accountable for the wrongful deaths of minorities.
The Kyle Rittenhouse trial stands out as an exception; he was acquitted of killing two men and wounding a third during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis.
The jury determined he’d fired his AR-15 rifle in self defense. But detailed video of the incidents left the nation in collective shock.
In a war zone, someone with a gun would be considered a combatant. That’s how troops distinguished friend from foe in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a high-threat environment like the Kenosha protests, armed civilians posed a similar danger.
It remains to be seen whether the Rittenhouse incident dials up the potential for violence at future rallies and protests. But it renews the debate over the proliferation of open carry laws in 31 states.
Every American citizen has a constitutional right to go to work or a shopping mall, or school with a reasonable expectation they will be safe.
But multiple mass shootings have instilled a broad fear in the public. Kyle Rittenhouse is a symbol of that fear.
The time is coming when Americans must decide if the supposed Second Amendment right to own and carry any kind of gun should outweigh the right to public safety embodied in the 14th Amendment.
But that’s not all the nation has had to fear. The far-right and GOP lawmakers have waged another cultural war against public health.
Since COVID-19 spread nationwide out of Trump’s mishandling and coverup of the virus in the early days of the pandemic, the far-right has joined in lockstep to play down the pandemic, fight pubic health initiatives and promote quack cures.
Nearly 800,000 have died during that time, and nearly 120 million unvaccinated Americans continue to allow the virus to sustain itself and potentially incubate into new, deadlier variants.
Against that backdrop, the unvaccinated are increasingly being viewed as an impediment to bringing the pandemic under control.
The Biden administration has chosen to impose vaccine mandates on companies with 100 or more employees, federal agencies, the armed forces and federal contractors.
But Republican states are suing to block the mandates amid a flood of misinformation on Fox News and other hard-right news outlets, often promoting treatments that are ineffective against the virus.
In Florida and Texas, Republican lawmakers are going so far as to pass laws banning mask mandates and other prevention methods in schools.
“We’re not just fighting a epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus and is just as dangerous,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).
This winter may finally discredit far-right COVID misinformation once and for all. The nation is seeing the beginning of yet another infectious surge.
A heavily mutated virus that may be even more infectious than the Delta variant has also been detected in Africa.
“Probably by the end of this winter, as is sometimes cynically said, pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, cured or dead,” said German Health minister Jens Spahn.
The same could be said about the United States. The death toll could top 1 million if a significant surge materializes like last winter without more mass immunizations.
That may be the darkest hour before the dawn. By next year, the far-right threat to our democracy will have been fully exposed and the nation will finally be on its way toward healing and a return to normalcy.