More US violence ’inevitable’

Ashli Babbitt was a prolific retweeter, and the last thing this Trump true believer retweeted before she was shot dead during the storming of the US Capitol Building on Wednesday was a call for Vice President Mike Pence to be charged with treason.

Pence, the ultimate survivor of the Trump administration, and previously The Donald's most ardent loyalist, lost the support of Babbitt, and thousands of others like her, when he refused to overturn the Electoral College votes certifying Joe Biden's election victory.

In a flash, the mob turned. Pence became part of the problem.

The incident reveals something of the volatility in American politics right now, as the dynamics of power shift chaotically, almost by the hour. Who holds the power right now, and to whom is it flowing? Is it still with Trump, forced at last to concede defeat, possibly toxic now because he went too far, but still capable of unleashing hell with a simple message to his foot soldiers? Or is it flowing towards Biden, the incoming president, perceived by some to be a weak candidate but bolstered by historic victories in both the White House and Senate? What of the Republican Party players, jockeying for position with an eye on 2024? And what of Trump's base, who proved they would not be silenced by taking the house of America's democracy in such a dramatic fashion?

It is a tangled knot of power, more typical of Westeros than Washington DC.

And while Trump's concession and promise of an orderly transition yesterday suggests a period of calm - at least up until Inauguration Day on January 20 - US political observers agree that more violence is not only likely, but destined.

"It's all but inevitable that there will be more violence, it's just a question of how much," Jared Mondschein, senior fellow with the United States Studes Centre, told News Corp.

"When you have more than 80 per cent of Trump voters saying Joe Biden did not legitimately win the election, and 100 per cent of Biden voters saying he did win the election legitimately, that's just a recipe for disaster. When you combine that with the shocking number of Americans who think that violence is an acceptable method for enforcing your political view, we're really in dangerous territory."

Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the fictions and conspiracy theories that drove America's right wing groups were "too convenient and too comforting … like sitting in a nice warm bath," and their believers would not give them up.

There was the potential for the armed militia groups "to think about doing this on a future occasion and make it more violent and more threatening," he said.

But he doubted Inauguration day would descend into chaos.

"There will be massive security, and for the time being this violent impulse has exhausted itself," he said.

But still the fictions proliferate. The storming of the Capitol Building was still banner headline news when a new theory emerged, quickly shared among Trump loyalists, that the incident was staged by left wing groups such as Antifa to discredit the right.

What to do about such palpable craziness?

Dr Mondschein says there are differing views.

"There are some discussions in the intelligence community that you basically need a deradicalisation effort for these folks, because it's now a vivid physical threat," he said. "There's another side of the debate that says these people are not being heard, and we need to welcome them and allow their voice to be heard."

Dr Mondschein said with Trump denied the "ultimate bully pulpit" of the White House, there was some hope of a decrease in the passion and aggression that has come to define American politics.

Bob Carr is not so sure.

"America is not interested in unity," he argued. "If you've got 70 per cent of 70 million voters believing the election was stolen from them, what hope is there of unity behind an incoming president? If you deeply believe with every fibre of your being that racial minorities are taking over your beloved country and traditional America is being dismantled, you're in no mood to hear soothing messages of unity."

 

Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr. Picture: Jonathan Ng

 

Nowhere may divisions be more apparent in Joe Biden's America than within the Republican Party itself, with power in a state of flux. Mr Carr said Trump would likely "continue to own the party", while Dr Mondschein noted that the likes of Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham were starting to criticise Trump again, in a way they had not done since before he won the party's nomination. Others would remain cowed by Trump, Dr Mondschein said, frightened by the power of his base. Nobody, it seems, wants to be the next Mike Pence.

Meanwhile the Lincoln Project, the coalition of traditional Republicans who turned against Trump, have vowed to continue to their work, with John McCain's former adviser Steve Schmidt promising to wage bitter campaigns against the Members of Congress who sat by and did nothing over the past four years while Trump trashed American democratic norms. In the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol Building, Schmidt has only upped his rhetoric, declaring that corporations that financed the campaigns of the "Trump enablers" would also be targeted.

 

Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who died in the Capitol Building.
Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who died in the Capitol Building.

 

Dr Mondschein said the Lincoln Project certainly succeeded in tormenting Trump, but questions whether they played a greater role in his defeat last November.

"If you look at the Lincoln Project and what they did or did not accomplish in the 2020 election, some have argued that they did not help shift votes away from Republicans, and may have even helped Republicans, the opposite of what they were going for.

"I don't think the 2020 election was the resounding rejection of Trump that the Lincoln Project was hoping it would be," Dr Mondschein said.

"It really showed that that Trump base is very strong and has not deserted him."

American political expert Dr Joshua Roose, from Deakin University, said Trump would continue to be a political force over the next four years, although it was possible his ambition may shift towards either daughter Ivanka or son Donald Jr.

 

 

 

Dr Roose said while researching Trump's supporters in one of the traditional blue collar areas of Pennsylvania that flipped Republican in 2016, he was struck by the number of times voters seemed receptive to the idea of Trump as a political dynasty.

But who would get Trump's nomination: Donald Jr, or Ivanka?

"Ivanka has always been the golden child. She is more polished and has displayed more interest in public life," Dr Roose said.

"Donald Jr has only relatively recently moved into embracing that role. But the people I spoke to were talking more about Donald Jr than Ivanka, and there is a strong element of supporting men. He's seen as having a bit more credibility in the regions; he was a hunter, an outdoorsman, more likely to relate than the New York elite that Ivanka represented."

But Trump will always want to back a winner, Dr Roose said.

"While Trump personally favours Ivanka, he'll choose whoever is more likely to be a success," he said.

Originally published as More US violence 'inevitable'

Jared Mondschein, Senior Adviser at the United States Studies Centre.
Jared Mondschein, Senior Adviser at the United States Studies Centre.
Dr Josh Roose is a Senior Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute Melbourne.
Dr Josh Roose is a Senior Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute Melbourne.

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