The Insurrection Was A Confederate Resurgence
Professor Leonard Weinberg is a Senior Fellow at CARR, Professor Emeritus at the University of Nevada, and recipient of both Fulbright and Guggenheim research awards.
On the afternoon of January 6, 2021, thousands of Trump loyalists staged an armed insurrection at the US Capitol in Washington. Their aim was to prevent Congress from confirming the results of the already certified November presidential election. During the mayhem, several insurrectionists were observed waving the Confederate flag in the Capitol rotunda and at other places in the vicinity.
FBI Baltimore: Man carrying Confederate flag in Capitol last week turned himself in today in Wilmington. Name is Kevin Seefried. Son Hunter also arrested. pic.twitter.com/ZTSGzbesDF
— Jayne Miller (@jemillerwbal) January 14, 2021
The insurrection ended some four hours after it began when police were able to force the insurrectionists–whose numbers included violent anti-Semites and white racial revolutionaries– out of the Capitol itself and off the Capitol grounds. Vice President Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other leaders reconvened Congress later that night and resumed its task of certifying the presidential election results. Those results confirmed the fact that Trump had indeed lost the election – by a wide margin.
Despite Trump’s failure to win a second term, many Republican legislators chose to challenge Biden’s victory, lying about massive voting irregularities in several crucial ‘battleground’ state. After the pro-Trump insurrection, some GOP legislators who had joined the challenge before the rioting decided to withdraw from an initiative obviously destined to fail.
Still–as a matter of principle, political calculation or fear of Trump’s ‘base—eight GOP senators, along with 139 members of the House, chose to continue their challenge to certifying the election. Who were these diehards? Where did they come from?
To answer these questions, we need to interrogate American history. The worst fracture in American history was the Civil War (1861-1865) and the bitter struggle over slavery it represented. During the 1840s and 1850s, even before the secession of the eleven southern states, there had been fighting on the floor of Congress. When northern congressmen delivered speeches in support of abolition, southern legislators assaulted them with various weapons.
The Civil War ended 156 years ago with the surrender of the Confederate states, but some of its effects are still with us. The Confederate States of America consisted of South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. When they reentered the Union after their defeat, all eleven agreed to adhere to the US Constitution and its various provisions and amendments.
This brings us to the 139 Republican representatives and 8 senators who refused to accept the certification of the 2020 presidential election even in the wake of the Capitol insurrection.
The congressional districts and states from which protesting Republican legislators were elected were and are not evenly distributed throughout the country. Rather they were heavily concentrated in one region.
Over 60 percent (88 of 147) of post-insurrection GOP legislators who continued to object to the confirmation of Biden’s victory were elected from the eleven states of the old Confederacy. If we were to add to this number legislators from the border states – Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, which remained in the Union but where substantial popular sympathy for the southern cause prevailed– more than two-thirds of current diehard Trump defenders represent one region of the country.
The recent Senate by-election in Georgia of two Democrats, Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff, were widely considered to be a sign of political change in the South. Perhaps. But these results more than anything else suggest historical continuity.
In the Senate, Ted Cruz (Texas) and Josh Hawley (Missouri) lead the struggle to deny Biden’s victory. Of the remaining six deniers all but one were southerners – both senators each from Alabama and Mississippi and one from Louisiana.
The situation in the House of Representatives wasn’t as clear. Nevertheless, leading figures in the struggle to maintain Trump in office were southerners. Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama spoke at the same rally at which Trump urged his followers to launch the insurrection. Brooks argued the time had arrived to “take names and kick ass.” Louie Gohmert, A GOP representative from East Texas, sued Vice President Pence to compel him to overturn the election result. When his suit was dismissed, Gohmert asserted, later retracted, that violence was the only remaining remedy. At the state level, one GOP representative from West Virginia was arrested for participating in the Capitol insurrection.
The criminal investigations continue. There are now allegations that before the insurrection certain pro-Trump members of the House or their staffs showed future insurrectionists around the Capitol complex to make their way through it easier the following day. If this allegation proves to be true, one cannot help but wonder which section of the country these House members represent.
“We saw congress[woman] Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th.” — Rep. Steve Cohen says he and a colleague saw Rep. Boebert giving people a tour of the Capitol in the days leading up to the riot pic.twitter.com/dNPymWqjPY
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 18, 2021
It seems slightly far-fetched to claim the US is on the verge of a second civil war, no matter the aspirations of the country’s white racist revolutionaries. Trump though appears to have tapped deeply held attitudes among southerners, ones left over from the Civil War era.
This article is brought to you by the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). Through their research, CARR intends to lead discussions on the development of radical right extremism around the world.