Topic: The January 6 rally that turned into riot, and the fallout and aftermath of these unprecedented events, from impeachment to the inauguration. Experts from University of Washington and others will discuss these topics and take questions from media.
Journalists and editors are invited to attend this live virtual event and ask questions either on camera or we can relay your questions to the panelists. Register to attend and receive the on-demand recording after the session is concluded.
- Patricia A. Zapf, Ph.D. Forensic and Clinical Psychologist, Vice President, Continuing & Professional Studies, Palo Alto University
- Rashad Shabazz, Ph.D - Associate professor of African and African American Studies in the School of Social Transformation here at ASU.
- James D. Long, Ph.D - Associate Professor of Political Science and a co-founder of the Political Economy Forum at the University of Washington & Host of the "Neither Free Nor Fair?" podcast
- Victor Menaldo, Ph.D - Professor of Political Science and is affiliated with the Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences (CSSS) & co-author of “Authoritarianism and the Elite Origins of Democracy.”
- Joshua Arthurs, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University.
When: Tuesday, January 19, 2PM-3PM EDT
Where: Newswise Live Zoom Room
Registration for media, as well as colleagues from participating Newswise member institutions
This live event will also be recorded and transcribed for use by media and communicators after it is concluded. All registered participants will receive a copy of the transcript, so even if you can't make this event, we recommend you register.
Thom: Welcome to today’s Newswise live event, we have with us five panellists to talk about the recent capitol riot on January 6th and the aftermath of these events, including the inauguration scheduled for tomorrow of President elect Joseph Biden and the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, which is expected to begin in the senate in the coming days. To start off with, I’d like to introduce Dr. Patricia Zapf, she's a PhD, she's also a forensic and clinical psychologist, and she's vice President continuing in professional studies at Palo Alto University -thank you so much for joining us Dr. Zapf and I want to start off by asking you about some of the psychological motivation for the events of the January 6th capitol riot. In an interview with scientific American recently – Bandy X Lee, a forensic psychologist and an author, she's written the book recently, profile of a nation – Trumps mind, America’s soul. In that interview she said, when a highly symptomatic individual is placed in an influential position – referring to Trump, the persons symptoms can spread through the population through emotional bonds, heightened existing pathologies and inducing delusions, paranoia and propensity for violence. Even in previously healthy individuals. The treatment is removal of exposure. Do you agree with Dr. Lee’s thoughts about this and this phenomenon of shared delusion or share psychosis? What are your thoughts about how we can analyse this?
Dr. Zapf: Thank you for having me first of all – so yeah when I think about these comments or I think about these statements, I think it’s important to be careful not to pathologize things too much, we’re talking about individuals here and a spectrum of personality traits and so I – certainly there are some personality characteristics of our Presidents – current sitting President Donald Trump that are – perhaps at the end of the spectrum. So narcissism, maybe grandiosity, but I want to be careful about calling these delusions – certainly this is false information, these are false beliefs. For some individuals they appear to persist despite information to the contrary, but I think it’s – we’ve got to be careful about calling this delusional sort of – I don’t want to consider anyone mentally ill or having these symptoms, but you know, people do look to their leaders and they do look to individuals with strong personalities and charisma and that’s attractive to individuals. So that does kind of pull them in and especially if an individual is not going to read widely in terms of the various media sources or use critical thinking in trying to tease apart some of the information they're hearing, its really easy to go along with what a leader is saying and what they are so persistently pursuing in terms of their beliefs. So I just want to be cautious about pathologizing too much, but also recognising that in a position of leadership and having certain personality characteristics and style, it is easy to kind of bring people along with your thinking and have people just in some ways blindly follow that.
Thom: I want to next introduce Professor Rashad Shabazz, he is at Arizona State University, he is an Associate Professor of African and African American studies in the school of Social transformation. Dr. Shabazz, I want to preface my question here with showing a quick video clip, because yesterday was Martin Luther King ay and there were some events in New York City captured on Twitter, of police responding to those protests and responding with force, this is last night in New York – I want to ask you Professor Shabazz to compare and contrast for us the reaction to a Martin Luther King Jr. day demonstration and the events of the Capitol Riot on January 6th where insurrectionists were given many hours to occupy the capitol steps and roam about inside the building – what are your thoughts about the apparent double standards apparent here?
Prof. Shabazz: Thank you for having me, the double standards are maddening but they are well understood – I mean look, we live in a country where racism is profoundly real, where anti-blackness is part of the lingua franca of the nation, and the protest that we saw, the video that you just showed – yesterday from New York City – the protest that we saw over the summer against police violence and the sacking of the capitol two weeks ago, they all highlight this double standard, and that double standard is grounded in the belief that black people in particular and people of colour in this nation are dangerous and they must policed and that the long arm of the state must be used to keep them under control and we also know that given that these people of colour are seen as the domestic boogieman, conversely white Americans are given latitude. So, as a result we see all of these men very angry, hostile white men, sacking the capitol, attempting to harm members of congress and attempting to thwart an election. So we should have no illusion that our institutions respond to people differently based on their race. Yesterdays protest, over the summer and the sacking of the capitol two weeks ago are illustrations of that. What that means is that – we must come to terms with the fact that our institution – particularly policing, does not work. We have to unearth its racist history and make it a part of our public discourse and construct a public safety system that responds to the needs of all people and not simply one portion of the population, and without doing that, we are going to find ourselves back in this place again and again and again.
Thom: In attempt to put these things into historical context, I want to introduce our next professor Joshua Arthur, he’s PhD Associate professor of History at the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University, professor Arthur, if you could put this kind of action in historical context, an attempt by a mob to fort, delay or in fact completely overturn the recording of the electoral results – what are parallels – what are similar events in history, in particular in the rise of European fascism that have similarities here that ought to be examined?
Prof. Arthur: Well thanks for having me and certainly as you suggest for me as an historian of fascism, watching the events of January 6th, it was inevitable that I should draw parallels or conclusions based on what I was seeing.
Initially I’d point out three interconnected points of reference. Fundamentally what we saw at the capitol and I would say that we saw in similar events historically like Mussolini’s march on Rome in 1922, or the Beer Hall Putsch led by Hitler in 1923, is these are assaults on the institution of the nation that are made in the name of the nation. That the nation is understood here not in terms of representative institutions or citizenship or majority is understood in numerical terms, but rather in a kind of mythic essential way that there is a – in the American case – a real America that is understood to be white, conservative, mono cultural exclusionary – and in the same way historical fascist movements presented themselves as representatives of the genuine nation. Some kind of a mythic core of what it meant to be Italian or German.
This also means that marches on the capitol or seats of power, are framed as acts of reclamation, that they are taking the country back from evil forces, from a corrupt political class or a corrupt establishment, the Swamp in today’s speak – from subversives, from minorities – from any force seen as corrupting that mythic core of the nation, posing a threat to it. And then I’d also emphasise the use of violence. Not just as a means to an end but as an instrument of psychological warfare that these actions are meant to intimidate and terrorise opponents, they're meant to force acquiescence from the authorities, I think we certainly saw that in the case of capitol police for example who stood aside to let these insurgents in and I’d say its also part of the tactic of what I’d call accelerationism. Namely, using violence to create realities on the ground that you want to see – that by fomenting disorder and chaos and conflict, it helps create the very reality that these groups hope to engineer – one of racial conflict or ideological conflict. So it’s meant to hasten and magnify divisions in society.
Thom: Thank you Professor Arthur. I want to introduce our next guest Professor James Long, thank you so much for joining us. He is a PhD and associate professor of political science and cofounder of the political economy Forum at the University of Washington. James also hosts a podcast called Neither Free nor Fair? Along with Professor Victor Menaldo, one of our other panellists who joins him on that podcast I believe, James if you could draw in from what Professor Arthur was just describing, in the events leading up to and even after the January 6th capitol riot, senators from Red states were objecting to the electoral vote totals of Blue states, particularly states like Pennsylvania, on the basis of their being irregularities or other shenanigans with vote totals coming in, days and days afterwards because of the way the vote counting was set up. What do you make about these objections and their validity as part of the process of confirming an election and the results and the transfer of power. Was this the time and place for these senators to do this, what else is behind that and how does that set up the debate or the question of – are there legitimate grievances here on one side or the other, versus this being something that we could chalk up more towards the category of delusions?
Prof. James: Thank you Thom for having me, I think it’s a great question. I've been observing elections internationally for more than 15 years now, including the United States, but primarily in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, and I've never seen a riot take place in protest to an election, to which there was not a single piece of fraud committed at all.
So let me repeat that – there was not a single piece of fraud cited by the President or his legal team to which anyone could turn to that was evidence of somehow there was systematic irregularities in these elections. So I think that’s the – when people discuss the big lie, we tend to think of it as just being about what the President was saying, but there's no evidentiary basis for any of the lawsuits that the Presidents team proceeded in. we’ve seen more than 60 lawsuits, as well as the certification of the vote count of 50 states that there was not any evidence of fraud. So that’s number one.
Number two – It is congress’s job, although its primarily ministerial -to count the electoral college votes that come in on January 6th and give their thumbs up or thumbs down on that – the congress does play a role as a gatekeeper in the certification process, in the event that a state submits two dualling slates of electors. That happened in 1876 for example, where states sent two different lists of how their electoral college votes went. Now, that did not happen in this election – there were not dualling slates of electros. So there was no adjudication the congress had to do to decide between one slate or another, but even so, if there's only a single slate of electors, it is under Congress’s purview to potentially question that or ask for an investigation which sort of happened early in the day on January 6th with the certification from Arizona. The problem is that when this has been done in the past, it has been done with evidence that perhaps the state should not be certified. If you think of perhaps Florida in 2000 or allegations against Ohio in 2004 – in this year although congress had the opportunity to question in a legal sense, in a technical sense, the vote count coming from the states, none of the objections were made in good faith. None of them were made with evidence ever cited as a reason for the objection and all of them were apparently to proceed with the creation of some sort of advisory board that would investigate electoral integrity, which in general I think most Americans would probably be in favour of, but probably not in the wake of what I would consider to be one of the freest and fairest elections in living memory in the United States. Certainly the one that was most secure from outside influence. So I think that leaves to question Thom – why Holly, Cruz and others did make the objection – its not for me to say whether it’s kind of – please the base or kind of throw red meat – but it was definitely made in bad faith and it was definitely made without any evidentiary basis.
Thom: Thank you James, I want to introduce James’s colleague professor Victor Menaldo, he’s not available on video but he is with us on audio- he’s professor of political science at the University of Washington and co-founder of the political economy forum. Professor Menaldo – what if any silver linings do you see in these recent events, as we’ve all been glued to it, as it unfolds. What is this bringing to the fore in terms of our national conversation about protecting our democracy and any of these other issues that you’ve recognised here?
Prof. Victor: If you think about Trumps Presidency and especially the lame duck window after the election – our democracy underwent a major stress test and let me bit of a contrarian here, I would submit – it had passed with flying colours in some ways. How is American democracy stronger?
Well Trump inadvertently highlighted aspects of the electoral process that a lot of Americans were unaware of, and this ensures that the public is better informed about the mechanics, the details of our elections, especially as professor Long just illuded to, the electoral college and congressional certification process – professor Long also mentioned that voter turnout was higher than it had been for a century and there was absolutely no evidence of any sort of fraud or any irregularities. And this is despite Covid-19 and polarisation and record turnout, making it difficult to conduct an election, and despite the pandemic and Trumps incendiary rhetoric and his lies and his serial violations of the rule of law and even some threats of foreign tampering, the 2020 elections were incredibly secure. Most secure in living memory.
Also, major media organisations continue to explain and document the actual facts around the election and insurrection and this is challenging the Presidents disinformation campaign, his lies and conspiracy theories. I’d also say that if you’d take a step back outside of the elections and think of our institutions, they have been strengthened in several respects.
Think about state election officials from both parties, they followed the appropriate procedures in the face of bullying and threats, obviously the officials in Georgia, those Republican officials are probably the poster children of this, but it happened across the country. And distinguished Republican lawyers and conservative intellectuals, decline to put their reputations on the line to support the weak claims that were put forth by the Presidents campaign when it sought to litigate the election results in the courts. And when the cases came up for judicial scrutiny, the courts that were filled – many of them with Trump appointees decide according to the law, not politics – they did not bend to the Presidents bullying.
Two other things to think about – the American military’s commitment to the constitutional order has never wavered and widespread disgust with the capitol riot has ensued and in a sense some of it or a lot of it is bipartisan. I could also rattle off a few of the consequences in terms of accountability if you don’t mind –
Trump is one of only four Presidents in the last century to be denied a second term. That’s important.
He leaves office with the lowest polling numbers in Presidential history.
He will forever be branded a loser and an insurrectionist.
The Republicans lost control of not only the presidency but of the house and the senate.
Only one in six of his voters supports the capitol riots.
Donors withdrew support from the Republican politicians who put up objections to the electoral collect voting congress.
Corporations withdrew support from those same politicians, and Republicans in general, in the national association of manufacturers usually stalwart support of the Republican party, called on Vice President Pence to consider the 25th Amendment.
Finally I’d say, law enforcement and the FBI are bringing rioters to justice, and President Trump currently is impeached by the house and the senate trial is due to start in short order. So if you think about it, this could help get rid of Trumpism or at least weaken it and its strengthened our constitutional system and might I hope return conservatism or at least the Republican party to a constitutional party, one that adheres to the rule of law – that is the jury is still out on that, we’ll see – hopefully that will be the case.
Thom: Thank you professor Menaldo, professor Shabazz, what are your thoughts about the Red state senators objecting to Blue states vote totals and in particular the kind of racial signalling that that has to do with a lot of it when a senator like Ted Cruz says that its fishy that there were so many millions of votes out of Philadelphia, a predominantly black city voting for Biden, there's something more to that, help us to unpack it a little bit and why is it that they are so willing to give up on democratic principles when they didn’t get their way at the polls.
Prof Shabazz: Well it all signals that Republicans have been anxious about demographic change in this country for decades. If we think back to the early part of the 20th century, they pushed by then democrats to keep Blacks out of the polls through mechanisms such as poll taxes, but also and most explicitly through the violence in reality of lynching and white terrorism in the south. So there has always been this anxiety, this deep fear of opening the democratic process to the polity – particularly people of colour, immigrants and women. So what we are seeing therefore in this current charge that there's something fishy in blue states or in cities like Philadelphia or Chicago, its really a way of saying – we don’t want these people to vote, and their voting has an impact on Republican power graphs.
But I think we should also see this as a signal of something else. The Republican party has been willing to do and to participate in democracy, and so far as they can get their way. Whether that means through excluding people from the poll, through mob violence or attack or taxes or poll taxes -whatever they could do to keep people at bay, and so far as they could get their way, they were willing to participate in democracy and the last four years of the Trump presidency has illustrated that the Republican party is no longer interested of at least – a significant segment of the Republican party is no longer interested in democracy because you can't get your way in a democracy, you can't just ban abortion, you can't just raise taxes – you have to engage in this democratic process and the sacking of the capitol and the rejection of the legitimacy of the election are both indications that again Republican party is recycling these old narratives about the problems of having immigrants and people of colour in the voting booth and they're also signalling that democracy is not something that they are fully on board with anymore, because in order to be on board, they have to engage with the broader polity, which the Republican party is no longer interested in. and I think we should see this as a profoundly problematic turn in the Republican parties politics, because it means that a significant portion of half of the political establishment in the United States, has given up on the democratic project.
Thom: Dr. Zapf I want to ask you about your thoughts on the possible charges of incitement and how that factors into both the impeachment as well as other potential criminal exposure for Trump or other speakers at the rally that day – lawyer Lin Wood – the Presidents attorney Rudolph Giuliani all are on camera using the language that certainly exposes them. So I wonder what your thoughts are about those charges of incitement and where that goes – both from the speakers intent and what we know about that, as well as from the way the crowd received it. The crowd is on video in some videos going viral saying the President invited us here – for example. So there's clear indication that they thought that this was a real move and not folly. So what are your thoughts about that?
Dr. Zapf: Yeah so any time someone is in a position of leadership, its implied that they are going to have appropriate behaviour – so I think there's a couple of things here – first of all in terms of the leadership for this particular day, January 6th and the rallies that occurred before hand, so putting aside the fact that there was lots of chatter on social media about this event and a call to have people come to Washington for this event by the President and the Presidents colleagues, promoters – and so when you have the people congregating on that day and the President is telling them – we need to fight, we need to take this back, you have Mr. Giuliani using words like trial by combat and some of the video that I saw panning into the crowd and showing people saying – he said trial by combat – like really kind of taking that on, it’s all within the context. So you're there and you're asking people directing them to march on the capitol, down Pennsylvania Av. – and take this back – fight. You’ve got to use force, and we’ve got to be strong, all of this within the context of the day and the social media chatter that was happening beforehand, and then with a leader basically asking people to do this – so a couple of things – as someone in the crowd, you either are there because you absolutely believe in this, you believe this misinformation that’s going on, you believe that this is a call to action, or its ambiguous. You're not sure, there's a lot of stuff going on, and we know in situations of ambiguity people fallback on their biases, they fall back on what’s natural to them. So, you have a bunch of individuals, there's a diffusion of responsibility and with somebody in a leadership position in essence directing individuals to march on the capital and take this back – trial by combat, you really are inciting individuals to carry out these actions and so we know from classic studies in psychology, that people will be obedient to those in positions of authority, Milgram’s experiment where people would shock other individuals, give them an electric shock – we know that its difficult for individuals. In a group especially they group think, they are incited by leadership and context of ambiguity. If it was ambiguous for these individuals – so it’s scary when the leadership is not being clear and directive and also this idea of being complicit. So its one thing to say information that’s false, it’s another thing to also be promoting that information by sharing it and not – other individuals, not President Trump, but people around him, if this information is clearly false and they're not coming forward and saying that its false – they're complicit in this promotion of false information as well.
Thom: Professor Shabazz, it seems hard to defend against the incitement charge when members of the crowd, the capitol rioters – whatever you'd like to call them – came with. Firearms. Zip Ties. Molotov cocktails, they clearly had given some thought to what might develop this day and came prepared. They even erected a gallows with a noose on the capitol lawn and were heard chanting hang Mike Pence – so I want to ask you about that in particular, this willingness to throw under the bus former allies with the slightest whiff of betrayal when Mike Pence seemed to have been simply adhering to the law, others like McConnel or Senators Romney and Cheney who have come out saying that impeachment is appropriate. The base these insurrectionists have turned on these people whole heartedly. What are your thoughts about that and why are they so willing to do that and even treat the same people from their side as though they were the same as their enemies.
Prof. Shabazz: Well yeah part of it again is about the discarding of democratic principals among many on the right and again the conservative party, the Republican party has given them ideological space within the party. So we had to recognise that despite the fact that some conservative Republicans have a relationship to democracy and want to continue it, they have opened the door and given ideological space to many within the party who don’t.
another reason of course is a power grab- if they can not get what they want – people like Lin Cheney and others have to be thrown under the bus. They have to be sacrificed for the greater good of minority rule and let’s be clear here – that is what we are talking about. Keeping people out of the voting booths and the long racial history of that has been bout maintaining white minority rule in the way we have seen it in former Rhodesia as well as south Africa. But this other rising isn't solely ideological or political. Yes that is definitely part of it – they're seen as turncoats, they're seen as not supporting the party and not supporting President Trump, but that other rising is also deeply embedded with race and the way in which that functions is that in the US and in much of the west, the ideological other, or the way in which we think of the other is deeply racialised. Indigenous people, people of African descent and so on, so that notion of the racial other, becomes a kind of tool to look not only at racial others, but gendered others, sexual others and in this case political others, and so these sort of moderate Republicans who upheld their constitutional duty and validated a free and fair election, or ideologically racialised as other and the violence that has come along with racializing others in terms of indigenous people, in terms of people of African descent for example – was deployed upon these other party members and so in that way – race is always a kind of subtext to our politics, its never outside of our politics. Its always deeply ingrained and that the realities of racism can also have an ideological intra racial function, that the ideologies that shape white supremacy, that they ideologies that share anti black racism, can have intra racial implications and that’s what we saw two weeks ago in DC with the attempt to hang multiple members of congress.
Thom: I want to give you one more question before I know you have a hard out to go teach a class Professor Shabazz, so building on that narrative and how racial attitudes really do infiltrate the way someone looks at everything, what are some of the narratives about this base of Trump supporters and their “economic anxiety” that’s been the narrative over the years of his appeal, how does that square with other overlap and roots in far right movements such as the tea party, militia and white supremacy and how these things all – none of its happening in a vacuum.
Prof. Shabazz: Well you know, the United States even under the Obama administration was unwilling to examine internal white supremacy and again – we have a long history of that going back to the turn of the 20th century, places like Rosewood, Florida, obviously Tulsa, Oklahoma, we could go on and on – not investigating domestic terrorists and the racist reality of domestic terrorism. So there is that precedent. But in terms of your question- we have to be really mindful of the way that race operates as a kind of lingua franca. That we all are participating in, regardless of our political or even class position, but in terms of the economic anxiety label that’s been given to this portion of the Trump base – it belies the way in which race and class are tethered together. Its not as if race and class are these separate realities. Race is lived through class and class is lived though race. So while there might be – and there probably is a deep economic anxiety, it is informed by a racial framework that says – my economic immobility is contrary to my racial position, and we have to come to terms with the fact that, again race and class are coupled together and that the economic anxiety of this base is not simply, solely a class phenomenon. That it is a class phenomenon that is married with race and I would also add, gender – there is a reason why there were so many white men there, not only because of the white supremacist and militia movements which also have women in them, but also because of the narrative of what constitutes masculinity, what constitutes white masculinity, what constituted working class masculinity and to the extent in which all of these things are operating together that this group of men are finding themselves with not the same kind of upward economic mobility that their grandfathers have had, that they thought was theirs by law. And that reality has fundamentally shifted – and so as a result, the political realities in the country must shift to respond to their needs. But the way in which to do that is through coalition building, the way in which you do that is through organising with communities of colour who have been dealing with this for centuries. The way in which you do that is by bringing feminists and queer activists in, not through an attempted coup. But that is the logic of white supremacy and the masculinity that shapes it that really makes them feel like – look, we can just go in and sack the capitol and change the votes so that it reflects our desires and political persuasions and really give up in the democratic project.
Thom: Professor Shabazz thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and insights with us, I know you have to go and teach a class, so thank you for joining. We’ll let you go.
For any of the media on the call we’ll share with you the contact information for communications team at Arizona State University who can help you get in touch with professor Shabazz, thank you again.
I want to go for some historical perspective again to Professor Arthurs, on a similar train as professor Shabazz’s last question, right wing extremists in recent years but maybe in other points in history have had the privilege lets say of putting on an air of legitimacy and patriotism to reclaiming their country or righting some wrong or injustice – what are your thoughts about that in the context of history and where we’ve seen other assertions of that as part of the means to autocratic power?
Prof. Arthur: Well in many ways I would echo Dr. Shabazz’s point- certainly if we look at national symbols, myths, what we consider essential national qualities in America, these are fundamentally ones that are grounded in a conception of whiteness and that are constructed by what for more of this countries history has been the dominant majority. So, whether we’re talking about the pilgrims and founding fathers or cowboys or suburban homes with white picket fences, these all have race encoded in them and as such its when these symbols and myths are recognised are familiar to a national audience, to people who identify with them, they are very easily appropriated by forces that actually seek to undermine the very fabric of the nation in the way that I've described.
We see this most recently for example with the 1776 report which was just issued by the Trump administrations, that’s a doubles down on the kind of mythologised white washed narrative of American history that sort of positions all opposition to whiteness and kind of conservatism as anti-national threats to the nation. And, at its core whether we’re talking about historical movements like fascism or Naziism or more recently kind of this right wing popularism that we’ve seen not only in America but elsewhere, the equipment is all right there. Its not in exceptional reference points, its in the familiar. And the appeal resides precisely because it’s the language people already speak, it’s the flags that they already fly outside their homes. That’s what makes it so powerful.
Thom: Professor Long, on the topic of the impeachment and Trumps behaviour during this insurrection are extensive reports that he refused to act for many hours – apparently isolated with very few aides around him, these aides reportedly pleading with him to do something about it, phone calls being made from congress persons in the midst of this riot, trying to reach the President, trying to reach his aides – what are your thoughts about his refusal to act and what that says about his state of mind and what’s the potential for testimony of witnesses during the impeachment trial or other court cases that as we said earlier, leave him legally exposed in terms of the incitement charge.
Prof. Long: That’s a great question – so it goes to intent, for him to be convicted of incitement, insurrection in the senate, or if he faces criminal liability for something related to January 6th after he leaves office – intent is going to matter a great deal to the prosecution of that case and we could look to his statements before the riot occurred as evidence of intent, but after the riot occurred we could look at additional evidence of intent. So lets assume that he had not intended the riot to happen, that his words were misconstrued, that he intended the complete opposite thing to happen or something else to happen or at least while it was unfolding, not to happen – then presumably what he would have done in the hours after it began is he would have behaved in a certain way that would have shown that his intent was otherwise right – he would have called on his supporters to stop, he would have called the news media, he would have gone out there and said something – we don’t have evidence that that occurred. What we do have evidence that occurred is instead – and this is reporting I believe in the Washington Post last week, is that people who are inside the white house were reporting that people were not able to get through to him, he was ignoring calls and pleas and he was happy with what was going on and the degree to which he didn’t like what he saw, it was from an aesthetic standpoint – he thought the rioters were low class, in his words – quoted them in the Washington Post – so that was his knock to the incitement and to the insurrection itself. And so, while I think most senators currently believe that they’ve seen enough evidence for a senate trial to proceed, one of the things that they haven’t seen, because nobody has seen his actual testimony from people who were with the President on that day who could testify to what his reaction was in real time and whether or not that goes to intent.
Now whether or not those potential witnesses will be called, whether or not they will testify – that will remain to be seen, but his reaction afterwards – I think it would matter a great deal to both his trial in the senate and his legal liability if other prosecutors pursue this.
Thom: Thanks Professor Long, for any of the media on the call, please do chat your questions and we’d love to take them. I want to go again to Dr. Zapf – what are your thoughts about this same state of mind question Trump – glued to the TV, refusing to act, making statements later, very carefully crafted statements. Some reports or analysis suggesting written more by lawyers than by speech writers, about peaceful protests. What are your thoughts about all of that in contrast to the actual lack of action in the many hours following the capitol riot?
Prof. Zapf: Yeah I think much like professor Long was just saying – if Donald Trump was – things had gotten out of control from his perspective that this was a problem, he could have easily called on sources to – he could have put out on his twitter feed, he could have called Fox news, he could have easily got media coverage and put out information to tell people to stop what was going on, but he didn’t do that and you're right – later on the video that was released was incredibly scripted and I mean none of this was genuine for him. This was not something that he was doing – he was silent on this issue and if you think a little bit just about his personality style, he’s incredibly narcissistic – so the fact that all of these people are here in Washington supporting him and marching on the capitol for doing what he asked them to, that’s incredibly reenforcing for him, so there's not going to be any internal drive from him to stop things, this is reenforcing, this is the narrative he wants to tell – they came, they fought for me, they stormed the capitol for me – you can always see these words becoming part of his speeches as he moves forward, so I think that it is awfully telling his actions, but perhaps more so his inaction during that time and as we get more information about what was really going on and who had access to him and who said what and how things – even the fact that he was tweeting and trying to call on Republican representatives to deny the certification – while this is all happening, that’s his singular focus. There's none of this other stuff, the country, the people, that’s not a focus for him, that’s not important to him at that time. He's really focused solely on himself, incredibly narcissistic and very selfishly motivated, not selfless, not thinking about his leadership role.
Thom: Its worth noting in my opinion that Trump on more than one occasion has not hesitated to call Black Lives Matter protestors anarchists and thugs – his first video response on the capitol riot concluded with you're very special and we love you. So the incongruity there is apparent I think.
Dr. Zapf what else would you say about the contrasting with Black Lives Matter protests? We had some of our other panellists address this a little bit earlier, I'm tying your last response to that, what are your thoughts about those contradictions?
Dr. Zapf: Its hard not to see the stark contrast between these events. Black Lives Matter protests were labelled as riots, there was forceful policing involved in those events. This was not at all – I mean its striking to see some of the video where capitol police officers are making way for insurgents, so they are so juxtaposed in terms of the response that that is really telling and concerning when you think about some of the extremist beliefs that are starting to proliferate certain professional groups like correctional officers, police officers, military – that’s very concerning when we think about that and really causes us to step back a bit and think about the structures that we’ve put in place and how those might be promoting structural racism and this inequalities at a very minimum, so one interesting thing to me was – I was in a listening session, listening to peoples reactions and one of the comments was that – how striking it was that there is all these politicians and these congress people in the capitol building, which is supposed to be this sacred safe place and the capitol police are there and in that moment the capitol police are not able to provide protection for these individuals in their home, in their safe space and how that parallels what many people in many black communities feel, that they're not protected by the police in their own homes, I think its really striking, it certainly opens up a lot of conversation.
Thom: Thank you Dr. Zapf – to Dr. Long a question from Paul Dinsdale in the chat, does the Republican party try to move on from Trumpism and broaden its appeal to be able to win another election or is it too late now to save the party from right wing extremism?
Dr. Long: Well I think to answer that question you have to be thinking about exactly who you're trying to explain or focus on here, and here I think I would actually disagree a little bit with some of what the other speakers have been focusing on. So, if we’re looking at – I don’t think it’s fair to look at the people who have participated in the insurrection as the average Trump voter or even the median Trump voter. I don’t even think these are the most extreme racists in the Republican party or supporters of Trump, I'm not the clinical psychologist so I would defer to Professor Zapf on this, but these are people that are clearly – I think a lot of them suffer from mental illness, a lot of them were probably unaware of their actions. I think impeding racial motives on the part of some of them is going a little bit further than perhaps what their own emotional or cognitive capacity is, so I think it’s a little bit like trying to predict school shooters or who joins movements that are really about nihilism or criminal gangs like ISIS, that sort of extreme, extreme version is not the average of the Republican party. So if they are subject to prosecution, if they have done things that are illegal, I think law enforcement can deal with them.
If you're looking at the average of the Republican party or the median of the Republican voter, I think we don’t know the answer. I think the Republican party has had numerous opportunities to lance the Trump boil over the past 5 years, they’ve never taken it. January 6th perhaps provides a new opportunity, particularly if some of the leadership in the senate decide to vote in favour of conviction, but are there going to be this type of Trump supporters out there that are waiting for the next Trump? Yes, and I think the more interesting question – 90% of Republicans are always going to vote for a Republican. It can be mickey mouse it can be Jesus Christ – whoever the Republican candidate is, Republicans are going to vote for the Republican and that’s why they supported Trump; however the question is – what type of candidate could be like a Trump candidate? And there I see – I don’t see a Marco Rubio or a Ted Cruz- even a Don Junior fill in the role and the appeal that Trump had and his ability at one time to be great with media, great in front of the camera, at the same time kind of rejecting institutions that people are engaging him with, like traditional media and other things, so I don’t see a personality rising to that level and I don’t see attempts to capture that personality aspect of his appeal to be successful on the part of other candidates, but I don’t think we really know.
Thom: Something I’d like for all the panellists to perhaps comment on as we work towards the final couple of minutes, starting with Professor Menaldo – reports just coming out in the last couple of hours that even GOP leader Mitch McConnel who is senate majority leader until tomorrow, he even apparently has now acknowledged that Trump provoked the riot – “the most was fed lies, they were provoked by the President and other powerful people” McConnel is reported to have said. Professor Menaldo, what do you think about that?
Prof. Menaldo: I think it actually goes to what Professor Long was describing and I would say that not only the Republican party but the electored in the United States, might have that type of short memory that would allow the Republican party to have a renaissance, like they have in the past after Richard Nixon for example, where they might – again this is unknown but with the right series of events, broaden the tent, maybe become a multi-ethnic coalition dedicated to providing let’s say market oriented solutions to big problems while still processing popularism, and I think this is a sign that even if they don’t do that, they might return to an opposition to the Biden administration centred on fiscal responsibility if not austerity, now this would seem very hypocritical in light of the fact that President Trump blew up the budget deficit with the silent if not explicit consent of congressional leaders and other leaders in the party, but the same thing happened under President George W Bush and then we see McConnell leading a charge of tightening up the purse strings during President Obama’s time in office. So, who knows the future but the pieces are there, if you think of the Latino vote, especially in Florida Cuban Americans, and if you think about in Texas, many Mexican Americans voted for Trump and for other conservatives in record numbers in fact, and you might say well – if somehow the Republicans can throw Trump under the bus, they get the 17 votes to convict in the senate, they repudiate him in a way that’s coordinated, in a way that’s coherent, it could be that by 2024 we’ve got a new Republican party that has somehow processed the populism and tamed it and you can look at examples in the past, where that is exactly what happened – Barry Goldwater’s movement in the 1960’s made more presentable by Reagan in the 70’s, the taming of Gingrich – one would say maybe by compassion and conservatism under George W. Bush, even though that didn’t last very long and now, maybe the tea party and the Trump populism, that’s a harder beast to tame, but the reality of a two party system like what we have in this country is that there are very strong political, if not business incentives to get closer to the centre to become more competitive, we’re seeing that as I mentioned before, with the withdrawal of donations and funding by very important players in the business community. So the jury is still out but it could be that there's a reinvention sooner than we might think, kind of like Madonna or Lady Gaga- that type of idea that you could just put on a new wig and new outfit and somehow folks will forget what happened and in four years you might be competitive again.
Thom: Professor Menaldo sounds a little bit sceptical and cynical; I want to ask Dr. Zapf does this attempt to pivot pass the smell test? Will McConnel himself refused to acknowledge Biden won the election until very, very late in this process, refused to even utter the words President Elect Biden?
Dr. Zapf: Yeah its really hard to see whether it passes the smell – at this point its sort of too little too late, but there's an opportunity, we’ll see what happens in the senate, so this is the chance for everyone to really consider the facts of the case and then – not that anyone ever will – forget about party lines, but really looking at the evidence and holding leaders accountable for their actions.
Thom: Professor Arthur, is there any thoughts about McConnel’s recent statements, does this potentially open up the kind of enough is enough moment for the Republican party?
Dr. Arthur: Sure, well the fate of the far-right movements have always been dependant on their relationship with more mainstream conservative political positions. Certainly historically what enabled Mussolini to gain power in Italy and Hitler to gain power in Germany was the alliance that they made with establishment forces, with the military, with industrial elites, with monarchists and other conservatives and in those cases, those conservative elites were dependant on this insurgency on the far right to maintain their power. In the case of Italy, ultimately those conservatives pulled the plug on Mussolini and his downfall in 1943 was in large part because the military had had enough of his fascism disastrous performance in World War II – Hitler was much more successful in side-lining conservatives and dominating conservatives and as a result even a few conservative attempts to overthrow Hitler – you might have seen the Tom Cruise movie operation Valkyrie, that’s essentially an attempt of assassination by traditional conservatives when the writing was on the wall in the War, that failed.
In the case of places like Britain which also had a nascent fascist movement, it was the strength of conservatism, of Churchillian conservatism that blocked the rise of the British far right in the 20s and 30s – that the conservatives didn’t need the far right, and I’d say if we take those kind of paradigms and apply them to the American context, we’re seeing that in some ways did that bargain outlive its usefulness for mitch McConnel and the republicans? Was he ultimately the winner of the Trump presidency? Most of the legislative achievements that are credited to the Trump presidency, the tax cut, or the appointment of judges, those are largely traditional Republican priorities, ones that I think were brought to the table by McConnel and Republicans, not by Trump. And so, if we do see this pulling of the plug, I think that that will indicate to us that a lot of this was driven by Republican pragmatism – in my view an incredibly damaging pragmatism that it has had an awful impact on discourse in this country and our sense of social solidarity, but nonetheless it was a cynical calculus.
Thom: Professor Long anything to say of this development, with McConnel signalling to his fellow senators that they might go ahead and be part of that 17 that vote to convict, does that help rehabilitate the GOP brand?
Dr. Long: I don’t think it matters at all to be honest, I think if you care about long term Republican politics, you're happy about two things – two things happen that you're really glad about. One that Trump lost the election and two that he’s been de-platformed. You care that he's been de-platformed because now he doesn’t have a voice to tweet from the side-lines, so you can start to rebuild – whatever that means. Now if his trials continue or he continues to be in media, perhaps that changes, but he doesn’t have a platform that he had before and second you're glad that he lost the election because Thom, one of the things in your questions I think that you're forgetting or overlooking is that in 24 hours, not the spotlight is going to be on the democrats. Now the democrats have to win certain arguments and battles that they didn’t have to win before, which is not running against Donald Trump anymore, or not even running against a candidate who might be trying to pick up the run and the populous movement at the same time as being a more traditional conservative and in that respect I think Nikki Haley is who we should be watching in the next 2-4 years, but they're going to be able to run on however the Biden administration deals with an economic bailout if they want to – however they deal with the Covid vaccine roll out, however they deal with racial justice. And so, now being in the opposition the spotlight turns on the democrats, the democrats have a lot of turf that they're going to have to defend, so I think the degree to which Trump is a part of that conversation in 2-4 -8 years, I think its going to probably decline faster than we may think, I could be wrong about that but that would be my perspective on that.
Thom: Thank you professor Long, I've gotten so used to everything being seen through the prism of what Trump has to say about it for the last 5 years, its still hard to get out of that habit.
Prof. Long: I know, I'm with you.
Thom: Last question for Dr. Zapf because I think that this is an important area, as professor Menaldo said and some of our panellists have said, the institutions have managed to hold, even though the stress test may have had its own sense of collateral damage in some respects, the institutions have held. The bureaucrats election officials in Georgia didn’t fudge the numbers when Trump called them and asked them to do that or whatever that might be – people in positions of authority following the law rather than their own personal, political beliefs is needed for that, so when it comes to law enforcement the capitol police, the secret service, the national guard, there have been reports of members of all of these organisations being suspended due to their involvement in the capitol riot, potential investigations of people aiding and supporting or even organising, what needs to be done to educate and screen police officers and other law enforcement, especially for these very, very high security jobs in the nations congress, what is needed there to remove racism, prejudism from their ranks?
Dr. Zapf: Yeah that’s a good question – really we start with education and training and unpacking our own beliefs and ideologies and identities. I think really some of the structures that we may have set up to put in place – so first of all its important to know that not every police department in the country uses screening procedures and so those that don’t – that’s perhaps problematic right there, but even for those that do, especially high-level departments, we’re looking at certain characteristics that we try to screen out for individuals and we’re not really selecting, so we’re trying to look at things that we think are problematic in terms of characteristics, but if we’re finding people with extreme beliefs and more and more in these ranks, then something we’re doing is not working well and so there's a lot of problems that we’ve talked about in the past with respect to standardised testing and testing in general and the need to have well represented groups in our tests and to this point that’s not the case, we’re still very white dominated even with the norms that we’re using, so it really is more voices, more voices at the table, more people being understood and more data, more representation of the individuals before we can start making really good screening and selection tools, but then also education and really just dismantling some of the structures that we’ve put in place that are causing inequities across the board.
Thom: Thank you Dr. Zapf, I sincerely hope that we address a lot of the issues that have come up and to that end I want to thank all of our panellists for providing such great commentary, I hope that the media that are on todays call found it useful, we are going to provide a recording and a transcript of todays panel so that media can use any quotes from the discussion as well as contact information for communication offices at each of our panellists home university so that you can reach out to them for further questions if you're interested, so we’ll share that with you. If you registered for today’s event you'll get that stuff automatically, if you didn’t register and you just popped in from an invite link, feel free to email us at [email protected] and let us know that you want to get that recording and transcript. We are planning another event on the Covid pandemic and the vaccination distribution process probably some time mid to late next week and we’re also looking at some time next month for a panel on disinformation and combating disinformation – so if you're interested in any of those upcoming panels you can email us on [email protected] and we’ll make sure to put you on the invite list for those upcoming events. With that I will say thanks again to Dr. Zapf, Dr. Arthur, Dr. Long and Dr. Menaldo – thank you all very much – stay safe, stay healthy and good luck.