American Decline

How January 6 Birthed a New Right

New York Magazine

January 6, 2021, may be the most contentious date in American history. To Democrats and the surviving remnant of anti-Trump Republicans, the event was a spasm of right-wing political violence aimed at terminating the republican experiment. To most Republicans, it was something ranging from a noble uprising to a prank gone somewhat awry to, at worst, a minor lapse in judgment. We do not yet have a common language to describe this event: Its critics call it an “insurrection,” its defenders and minimizers a “protest.”

In defense of the conservative point of view, the mob invasion of the Capitol — for all the deadly-earnest intentions of its participants — never stood any real chance of victory. It was never going to be a storming of the Bastille or the Winter Palace. It was, instead, an act of political theater, yet that hardly diminishes its significance. Theater draws its power from the audience’s interpretation. What really mattered about January 6 was not the events of the day but what the Republican Party made of them.


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