Capitol Riots & QAnon: The rise of Alt-Trumpism

Avery is a third year undergraduate studying Ancient History BA. She is heavily involved in and keen on researching contemporary world events: particularly, she is interested in nationalism and manifestations of democracy and their effects on state’s domestic and international policies, US foreign policy, and Transatlantic relations.

Introduction

The recent attempts, essentially a coup, on the Capitol building prove that there is a real risk in violent white nationalists’ ability to organize, or to be organized, and inflict damage. This damage is not only physical to the Capitol building, but also ideological to the institutions of democracy in the United States. This and other historical events of violent white nationalism stretching back to the 1990s have roots in primordialist forms of nationalism. The root of this ideology lies in focusing on the nation as a having primordial “rights” that harken back to a “golden age” which is usually xenophobia in nature or race based in imagery. This vision of nation is important to the risk involved with organized white nationalism as it has a very narrow, singular view of the nation, the white nation in the United States, above all else, including the government. The danger from the fusion of these viewpoints comes from the combination of them, but also supported by the rhetoric and gaslighting by GOP senators. This creates a political minefield, literally and metaphorically.

Trump & The Capitol Insurgency

A number of significant players within the GOP have expressed support, tacit or otherwise, for the actions of those involved in the attack on the Capitol in January. The attendees of the attempt on the Capitol spanned a range of white nationalist views, from militia members, “normal” Trump supporters, QAnon followers (even a “shaman”), literal Neo-Nazis, and white radicalist groups such as the Proud Boys. These groups were calling for Biden’s presidential win to be nullified and for Trump to be declared the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election. Undermining the election and Biden’s legal victory has been Trump’s main selling point ever since the election results were announced in November 2020. Trump has been calling nationwide the election a “fraud” and that he would “not accept the election results”. There are 11 GOP senators who are directly opposing the win of President Joe Biden, which was the most cited reason for the rioters attack on the Capitol. This marks a decidedly dangerous line crossing, a melding of political reality and political conspiracy which is lived by the Capitol insurgents and others. Disinformation and conspiracy is spread by party members and it’s auxiliary sources, such as Fox News and Facebook, making the melding of reality and conspiracy harder to track. The United States’ democracy has begun to enter a realm of post-truth politics that is backed by a margin of the voting population.

This Trumped up political situation that is created between these two competing realities, one real and the other not, runs a real risk given its spillage into the mainstream. The adverse consequences of such disinformation are deeply significant to domestic security. These once-called “radical” and “fringe” white nationalist and supremacist views are now being co-opted into the political conversation by the nation’s GOP senators. Trump also perpetuates and supports this blurring of realities with his support of QAnon, the consistent claiming of “fake news”, and the spreading of so much misinformation that his social media accounts were banned. Trump’s attempts to keep the political spotlight, like opening the “Office of the Former President”, presents to his ardent supporters of his continued authority. This could pose real risks given that many believe that the attempt to storm the Capitol occurred implicitly at Trump’s behest and was fueled by his explicit support, telling insurgents at the Capitol “We love you.” This blatant approval of violent white nationalism combined with the mainstream support of GOP senators touting the “fraudulent election” line and attempting to have Biden’s win overturned essentially spells danger. Some of these supporters may cross the blended line, which could wreak further havoc on United States democratic institutions.

QAnon & Violent Political Fantasy

The blend between the mainstream and fringe white nationalist ideologies are dangerous, what poses a greater political risk is the fusing of conspiracies like QAnon with the Sovereign Citizen Movement. The Sovereign Citizen Movement peddles the claim that the United States was turned into a corporation in 1871, thus implicitly exhorting the population to reject the rule of law. Members of this ideology do not recognize any federal level authority and thus believe that Donald Trump will become the “19th President of the United States”. Subscribers to this ideology who are associated with Trump are therefore becoming more detached from the reality of the US government and aligning themselves more squarely with belief in Trump as the ruler of the nation, whether that actually be the political structure of the US or not. QAnon already focuses on out-of-the-box conspiracies, such as that Democrats are Satanic-worshipping baby-sellers and Trump was elected to be the savior of the realm. The wrapping up of all these admittingly dangerous political-based conspiracies into one supra-structure of QAnon makes the dissemination of this particular kind of alt-right political disinformation via social media increasingly effective. This means that white radical nationalism’s most popular and pervasive alt-ideology is accessible to anyone, anywhere, impressionable or not, and it poses a great risk to the democratic order.

The political risk of GOP senators accepting, and even being members of some of these political conspiracies is an obvious danger to the political structure and order of the United States and beyond. The example of just one endorsement of such ideology, implicit or explicitly, begs a wider question of how that will affect other white-majority nations, as well as the direct ramifications on the United States. The fact that these are internet-based and the misinformation of QAnon is vast and starting to become embedded and blurred with GOP ideology creates a political nightmare in terms of trying to explain the actual reality vs the created imagery of QAnon and associated alt-right conspiracy. The debunking of such deep conspiracies could spell trouble for the newly elected Democratic administration, ostensibly aiming to heal party divisions and counter the post-effects of the widespread political radicalization witnessed under Trump. It is just as much a privately dicey situation as it is a political one for thousands, if not millions of Americans.

The Political Risk and Ramifications

A geopolitical example of the spread of dangerous white nationalist ideology can be found in Canada. The US’s neighbor has declared that the Proud Boys are a domestic terrorist group. The main political issue, as listed above, comes with the ramifications of taking such action against a large subset of the population. The concern comes from experts who fear that such designations could further isolate these violent subsections which could cause them to further radicalize. Also, with quick designations such as in Canada, experts worry this could pose a dangerous precedent on what is required to designate terrorists and could backfire on BIPOC and Indigenous movements. The risk of separating such primordially fixated white nationalist politics is that the members could feel even more “attacked” by the federal government than they already do, which would essentially cement their beliefs that the government is “against” them or trying to round them up into camps, or sell them, or send black helicopters after them. Canada has even had a white primordialist nationalist group come to the forefront, Canada First, which has ties to the Proud Boys. It is the vast connections and the danger of further isolating them that poses the greatest geopolitical threat to both the United States and Canada. The history of violence associated with white nationalist groups and militias specifically in the United States could mean that the most recent attempt on the Capitol is not the only act of violence to come out of the ramifications of the GOP and Trump’s recent rhetoric and actions.

Risk-o-Meter

What is the probability that the risk will materialize? – 3/3

What is the predicted size of impact? 3/3

What is the predicted speed of onset? 3/3

Will regional or non-regional actors be involved? 2/3

What is the probability of spill-over? 3/3

Total- 14/15 (Considerable to Very Considerable Risk)

Featured Image: https://www.unilad.co.uk/news/qanon-conspiracy-emerges-about-trump-becoming-19th-us-president-on-march-4/?fbclid=IwAR1IZr8RfQl9ENm1oiJceAAxI4myRjNYUJ-woOnFAqkq-lA7ks3M94k0jZU

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