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  • Stephanie Vigil

It's the After Time Now

Many of us wanted so badly to be wrong about this. We knew he wouldn't leave willingly or peacefully, but we wanted to be wrong. Because every other time a United States President has been succeeded by a political rival, he conceded and left willingly. Yes, even when were on the brink of civil war. Even in the aftermath of that war. Even after an extremely narrow win decided by the electors of a swing state where the votes weren't even properly counted.


We now live in a country where the peaceful transfer of power is no longer a given. And in fact, we have been for over four years, dating back to when then-candidate Trump refused to commit to accepting the results of the 2016 election, unless he won of course. We just didn't accept it then.



Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The despicable sight of Confederate battle flags being waved through our nation's Capitol should haunt us all. Trump didn't learn his lesson after being impeached, but not convicted in the Senate and removed; and white supremacists in the old American South didn't learn their lesson after losing the war but facing no criminal penalties for committing treason. This has always been with us. We never really put it down, and so we continue to carry the burden. And so it will be as long as we keep telling ourselves that yesterday's display of sedition and insurrection is "not who we are," when it so obviously is. (This 12-minute video about a white supremacist coup of a lawfully elected government is well worth your time.)


There's something we need to keep in mind about today's anti-democratic, white supremacist rioters, and how their circumstances compare to their ideological predecessors. Southern slaveholders in the 1860's had something to work with economically - the whole product of enslaved people's labor - and they had geographical cohesion.


They didn't leave because they didn't want to be Americans, but because they felt themselves the true guardians of the American promise. That is, a limited government that protected the property rights of those who belonged at the top. They only broke away when it became clear that they were losing their disproportionate power in the Federal government, and that the ongoing Westward expansion was going to create more free states than slave states.


And what of today's Confederate enthusiasts? Well they still hate "big government" of course. An irrational nostalgia for our founding year is high, an interesting theme for people who want to be taken seriously in the 21st century. Contempt for Black people, immigrants, and ethnic and religious minorities abounds as much as ever. Same as it ever was, really. It's clear that they're never, ever going to accept the results of an election that doesn't put them in power. They're done with all of that,. They pride themselves on how well armed they are, and they're obviously down to do violence. In fact, nearly all major acts of political violence in recent history have been right wing oriented. Ruby Ridge. Waco. Oklahoma City. Charleston. Pulse. The Capital Gazette. I could go on.


So why don't they secede? Other than the logistical issue of red states being interspersed with blue states and lacking geographical continuity -- which would require massive relocation efforts and a level of organized administration that cuts against movement conservatives' grain -- Republican leaders have another serious problem.


Their states are economically dependent on the Federal Government.


With few exceptions, Republican governed states receive more in Federal funding than they contribute in Federal taxes, and vice versa for Democratic governed states. This is why Republican politicians project this "makers and takers" nonsense onto Democrats, and sow hysteria about "socialism" taking hold in America in form of wealth redistribution (which is not socialism). It's a clever diversion, as Republican state governments not only fail to invest wisely in their respective states, resulting in greater poverty rates, but then also send their Congressional delegation to our nation's Capitol to complain about the "wasteful" welfare spending that their own constituents depend on the most.


We can't separate this phenomenon from what happened yesterday, or indeed what's occurred over the last four years, or the last four decades. Even after a well-played long game in controlling the political language, the ability to squeak in Republican presidents without a popular mandate, an incredible advantage in the Senate, a Supreme Court and Federal bench stacked with young, right wing ideologues, the gerrymandering, the voter suppression, their preferred narrative taught in nearly every public school -- it's finally starting to crumble. They can't win without cheating, so of course Trump and his handlers had to preemptively make that accusation toward Democrats, encouraging their base to reject the results in advance. To in fact make the bold statement, well before the election, that Democrats couldn't possibly win unless they rigged it.


All so that they could step up to the mic on the floor of the U.S. House and declare that the election must have been rigged, because after all, so many people think that it was! People who think that because their Republican leaders told them that it definitely would be. The same way that government programs fail after Republican sabotage and this "proves" their hypothesis that government is inherently incompetent.


It's all very predictable anymore.


And we all need to understand this: they did not go to all this trouble to undo democracy and dismantle the postwar liberal consensus, over the course of several decades, just to concede now. They will be back with bigger guns. In the meantime, there will be more insurrectionist violence, and they will fight us on D.C. statehood, voting rights, abolishing the filibuster, ending the Electoral College, and anything else that our Democratic trifecta could move on to form a more perfect union. We have to be stronger and more steadfast. We have to cultivate greater presence, greater resilience, and great commitment.


Stay safe, friends.

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