In the lead-up to the sixth-month anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, former President Donald Trump has resumed his campaign rallies, where he has peddled his "Big Lie" and defended the people who stormed the Capitol.
Before Jan. 6, we could’ve rolled our eyes at this spectacle. But after Jan. 6, we do so at the peril of our republic.
In Sarasota, Florida, on Saturday, Trump told the crowd that if Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot during the storming of the Capitol, had been "on the other side," the officer who shot her would "be strung up and hung."
A person in the crowd yelled out: "Hang him!"
Then Trump demanded to know why "so many people are still in jail" over the event.
Before Jan. 6, we could've rolled our eyes at this spectacle. But after Jan. 6, we do so at the peril of our republic.
He doesn't appear to be alone in the view among some Trump supporters that violence to help Trump gain power is acceptable. A poll by Yahoo and YouGov in late May found that only 57 percent of Republicans now think the Jan. 6 attack was "unjustified" — down by 14 points since January.
It's terrifying that as we get further from Jan. 6, a growing number of Republicans don't see the attack as unjustified. Equally terrifying is that Trump's rhetoric hasn't changed since before Jan. 6, when his own words helped incite the onslaught of "domestic terrorism," as the FBI has defined it.
I desperately wish we could ignore the disgraced former president. But we can't, because, as we saw specifically from his recent Ohio rally, he's repeating the identical lies about "election fraud" that radicalized his supporters in the first place.
Only 57 percent of Republicans now think the Jan. 6 attack was “unjustified.”
The Ohio rally was like a master class in radicalization, with some self-identified members of a Trump-supporting militia group in the crowd. One of the opening acts, Cincinnati-area math teacher Douglas Frank, gave a PowerPoint presentation, complete with graphs, charts and algorithms, designed to share data allegedly proving that Trump was, indeed, the legitimate winner of the 2020 election.
This same presentation had earned Frank a "Pants on Fire" rating from the fact-checking website PolitiFact in April, and the recent report released by the GOP-controlled Michigan Senate cited Frank by name for this analysis, concluding that it was "not sound for several reasons."
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., helped further the "Big Lie" next, and then it was time for Trump, the inciter-in-chief, to serve up a buffet of lies about the election, which were, in essence, identical to those that led to the Jan. 6 attack. To give us a sense of just a few of them: Trump told his fans that the election was "the crime of the century." He said: "We won the election in a landslide. You know it." He later lied again, saying, "They used Covid in order to rig the election and in order to steal the election."
He said the election results showing that Joe Biden won were "the real Big Lie." He told the cheering crowd that the election was "rigged and stolen." He ominously declared that if the election were not in his view "real and free," then "you don't have a country." And conjuring up his "stop the steal" campaign, he bellowed, "We'll never stop fighting for the true results of this election."
Trump's tour is especially alarming given the recent warning by the Department of Homeland Security about the growing threat of domestic violence this summer.
Trump's tour is especially alarming given the recent warning by the Department of Homeland Security about the growing threat of domestic violence this summer by "racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist-white supremacists" and those "inspired by disinformation, conspiracy theories, and false narratives."
There's simply no way to know how many Trump supporters at his rallies would engage in another Jan. 6-type attack.
We need to learn from the Jan. 6 attack to prevent it from happening again. Law enforcement agencies must view Trump as they would any other person who has incited people to commit an act of domestic terrorism. Authorities must monitor him carefully. And they must investigate any Trump supporter who speaks of violence in support of Trump. Otherwise, Jan. 6 will simply be a preview of what we can expect to see more of.