On Monday, congressional Democrats began an attempt to force President Donald Trump from office by introducing an article of impeachment that accuses him of “incitement of insurrection” in connection with the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“As our next step, we will move forward with bringing impeachment legislation to the floor. The president’s threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the seat of Congress last week in a harrowing assault on the Capitol that left five dead, including one police officer. The attack forced lawmakers who were certifying Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory into hiding.
The violence came after Trump urged supporters to march on the Capitol at a rally where he repeated false claims that his resounding defeat in the Nov. 3 election was illegitimate: “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it,” Trump said.
“The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America. Do not represent who we are. What we’re seeing are a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness,” Biden said in the aftermath of the attacks.
Biden’s comments—and the many other comments saying that this kind of thing doesn’t happen in America—ignore numerous past instances of instances of white supremacist violence that often went unpunished, said historian Gerald Horne, the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African-American Studies at the University of Houston, in an interview with The Real News.
“People who are surprised by the events of Jan. 6 sadly, and tragically, do not have a fundamental understanding of U.S. history. And, I’m afraid to say, many of us will pay a steep price as a result,” said Horne, author of dozens of books, including “The Dawning of the Apocalypse: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, and Capitalism in the Long Sixteenth Century.”
Horne noted historical precedents for Bush’s plan: “Dixiecrat congresspersons [were] expelled from Congress in the run up to the U.S. Civil War and in the immediate aftermath of the firing on Fort Sumter,” Horne said, referencing the 1861 attack on the U.S. military base by South Carolina militia that is considered the first shot of the Civil War. “This is a comparable moment.”
Violent white supremacy again flourished after the U.S. government abandoned efforts at preserving the civil rights of African Americans after the Civil War. Several multiracial state and local governments were overthrown after the Compromise of 1877 ended Reconstruction in the post-Civil War South. For instance, In 1898, a white mob violently overthrew Wilmington, North Carolina’s local government that included Black elected officials.
“In the aftermath, the mob’s actions went entirely unpunished by state or federal leaders, entrenching a Democratic Party that brought about decades of Jim Crow policies aimed at keeping white people in power,” reported the Raleigh News and Observer.
Dozens of people who attacked police officers, stole computers, and smashed windows during the rampage at the Capitol have been arrested for their role in the violence, and officials have opened at least 25 domestic terrorism investigations.
“That will be a deterrence to them acting similarly in the coming days. It also will make the streets safer for persons like myself,” said Horne, who is African American.
An internal FBI memo warns of an organized effort to hold armed demonstrations and threaten government buildings in D.C. and all 50 state capitols leading up to Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, and if Trump is removed from office.
Democrats, who will control the Senate, House, and White House, face the challenge of responding to the Jan. 6 attacks, as well as a worsening economy, record COVID-19 deaths, and a botched vaccine rollout. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has backed calls for the removal of Trump and all officials who incited the attack on the Capitol, recently told CNN that Democrats must make deep investments in COVID-19 relief, healthcare, and other social programs if they are to avoid losing power in the midterm elections.
“[Democrats] need to strike while the iron is hot,” said Horne. “The Democrats should push forward aggressively with regards to raising the minimum wage, with regard to strengthening the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a Green New Deal and Medicare For All. The moment is ripe right now for progressive advance, while the Republicans are on the defensive.”