Our Body Politic

America Faces the Legacy of the January 6th Insurrection, featuring Sounds Like Hate's "Red Flags Everywhere"

Episode Summary

Host Farai Chideya introduces ‘Our Body Politic Presents’ - a whole month of audio docs and interviews from our friends and allies in the podcast world. This week, the podcast ‘Sounds Like Hate’ from the Southern Poverty Law Center presents their special episode ‘Red Flags Everywhere’. They look at the ‘red flags’ in 2020 as the hate and extremism movement reached a boiling point in the lead up to Jan. 6, 2021. Our roundtable Sippin' the Political Tea features guests Major General Linda Singh, who helped lead the security review of the Capitol; and Karen Attiah of the Washington Post.

Episode Notes

© 2022 Southern Poverty Law Center, Provided under license

Episode Transcription

Farai Chideya:               Hi, folks. We are so glad that you're listening to Our Body Politic. If you have time, please consider leading us a review on Apple Podcast. It helps other listeners find us and we read them for your feedback. We'd also love you to join in financially supporting the show if you're able. You can find out more at ourbodypolitic.com/donate. We are here for you, with you and because of you. Thank you. This is Our Body Politic I'm Farai Chideya. So we made it to 2022, huh? Well last year was quite a wild ride. We were already months into the pandemic. And then on January 6th 2021, there was the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Looking at how that impacted American politics in life and what lies ahead is the theme of our show today. But first, I wanted to take some time to tell you where we are and where we're going as a show.

                                    Our Body Politic launched in September 2020. I saw women of color holding up the sky as essential workers, parents and elected leaders, and being among those most impacted by the pandemic, labor market instability, caregiving responsibilities and political battles over issues including voting rights. We didn't rest on our laurels, we kept updating the show's format as the pandemic changed shape and so did American politics. And now, we are growing and evolving again. First, this is a midterm election year. It's going to be hot, contentious and critical. Our Body Politic also has a new home. We are thrilled that Futuro Media, an independent media company founded by my hermana in journalism, Maria Hinojosa, will be our new production team. Stay tuned, we begin our work together next month. So for this month, to start off the year with fresh voices and give ourselves time to reflect before we begin our work with Futuro, we're trying something new.

                                    We're doing a series, Our Body Politic Presents, bringing you independent voices from the podcasting world. For our initial Our Body Politic Presents, we're grateful to bring you excerpts from Red Flags Everywhere, an audio documentary launching season four of the podcast Sounds Like Hate. Co-hosts, Jamila Paksima and Yvonne Latty, travel back to the months leading up to January 6th 2021. They track the warning signs of white supremacists as they plan, prepare and execute their violent plot to attack the U.S. Capitol and try to overturn an election. Sounds Like Hate has produced a variety of seasons drilling down on different ways that hate and extremist movements have found new energy in America in recent years and provided a lead up to the assault on the Capitol. Latty begins by refreshing us on exactly what happened from the perspective of a lawmaker trapped inside the chamber during the attack.

Jackie Speier:               No one that has witnessed what happened on that day will ever forget it.

Yvonne Latty:               Congresswoman Jackie Speier was in the house chambers to witness her home state, California, cast its electoral votes for Joe Biden on January 6th 2021, when all hell broke loose.

Jackie Speier:               There's pounding on the doors of the chamber. And at this point, they've put a large piece of furniture in front of the doors and plain clothed officers had their guns drawn. There was glass that was broken on the actual door as well. So we get over to the other side, we're told to lie down, which we do. There was about between 30 and 40 of us.

Yvonne Latty:               Then she heard gunshots and her heart sank.

Jackie Speier:               And I remember placing my cheek on that cold floor and had this sense of resignation that I was going to die.

Yvonne Latty:               Representative Speier and the others trapped in the chambers with her survived. But in total, five people died as a result of the January 6th insurrection. This included a female rioter who was fatally shot by a police officer as she tried to hurl herself into a window near the house chamber. Overall in 2021, 695 people have been arrested in charges related to the destruction that happened at the Capitol riot.

Farai Chideya:               The show is produced as well as hosted by journalists, Latty and Paksima, with additional producing by Geraldine Moriba and funded by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Here at Our Body Politic, we reported from the Capitol on January 6th and interviewed peaceful pro Trump protestors who'd come from around the country for the Stop the Steel rally. Some people brought their children, a few of the attendees were people of color. Of course, only a fraction of the crowd at the rally went on to participate in the violence. And even among those who did join the insurrection, not all of them were part of organized extremist groups. More from Red Flags Everywhere.

Cassie Miller:                With the insurrection, most of the people who were involved were not actually attached to any militia group or any hate group.

Yvonne Latty:               Cassie Miller, A PhD, a Senior Research Analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, says most of the attendees were frustrated Trump voters who accepted the, "Big lie," that the election was stolen.

Cassie Miller:                Groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers did play a large role. But for the most part, these were your average run of the mill Trump supporters who were engaging in violent insurrectionary action. And that is a huge red flag. People who were not necessarily connected to these groups, but felt so motivated by these narratives that they went out to the Capitol that day. And I think that shows us that this is really a widespread political movement.

Yvonne Latty:               Anderson says there was also money and power behind the insurrection.

Dr. Anderson:               We had folks flying in on private planes, CEOs of software companies, professionals who had degrees. And we have to recognize that. You have to go after the money that backed it and you have to go after the bosses. And we're not there yet. We're not there yet. And until we get there, this nasty thing will continue to threaten the viability of the United States.

Eric Ward:                    It needs a mass space, it needs political power in order to usurp a government that is grounded upon centering people, right? Accountability and inclusion.

Jamila Paksima:            Eric Ward is the Executive Director of the Western State Center and a senior fellow with SPLC and Race Forward. He specializes in authoritarian movements and hate violence and says, "These movements are not about spreading bigotry, but using bigotry to organize political power."

Eric Ward:                    So that's what we're seeing right now, not a hate movement, but a political movement that manipulates the everyday prejudices and stereotypes and fears of the American population in order to build political power.

Jamila Paksima:            Ward says the winners of this movement are not all white people, but a subgroup of this population, white Christian men.

Eric Ward:                    A very small portion of the white population who fit the muster of white nationals, white males who identify as Christian, who own property, in that sense, the white nationalist movement isn't new. What's new about it is that it is no longer seeking to maintain the United States of America. It seeks to overthrow it.

Yvonne Latty:               Cassie Miller says, "Social media provides an outlet for anyone feeling unheard."

Cassie Miller:                They could go somewhere like Facebook and find a protest that they could attend because that's where these narratives are created that drive people to join these movements, to believe that the election was stolen, to believe that the left is out to destroy America, to believe that the Black Lives Matter movement really means chaos and the decay of the heart of the country. That's where these things are born and where they're spread to average Americans. And it is infecting all different parts of the country.

Barack Obama:             If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, tonight is your answer.

Yvonne Latty:               In 2008, Barack Obama won the presidency of the United States. For white power advocates, it was their worst case scenario. And on election night, they began mobilizing.

Barack Obama:             Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, we are and always will be the United States of America.

Dr. Anderson:               You get this language about how racist can America be because we put a black man in the White House twice. Well that's not quite accurate.

Yvonne Latty:               Some folks like Dr. Anderson say the mere fact that Trump won the 2016 election upended any foundation of racial unity, which the Obama administration was built on.

Dr. Anderson:               The majority of whites have not voted for a democratic candidate for president since 1964, since Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, since the democratic party said, "We will put the power of the federal government behind enforcing the citizenship rights of black folk." Not since then have the majority of whites voted for a democratic candidate for president. And the same happened with Barack Obama.

Yvonne Latty:               White supremacy has always been the constant ugly underbelly of America. With Trump's presidential campaign, membership in hate groups rose as he fanned the flames. Dr. Anderson says the insurrection was an attempt to suppress the votes of Americans who put Biden in office.

Dr. Anderson:               And so when we see that insurrection, it is about delegitimizing the votes of black American citizens, of Asian American citizens, of Hispanic American citizens, of Native American citizens, saying, "They aren't American, they don't count. If we don't count their votes, then Trump won." And so you see the visual image of the Confederate flag being carried in the U.S. Capitol. You hear the black cops being called the N word. All of this is white supremacy attacking the U.S. Capitol. There must be consequences because the next time that they attack, it may be successful.

Farai Chideya:               That was the first excerpt of Red Flags Everywhere, a special episode of the podcast Sounds Like Hate. We'll bring you more shortly. Welcome back to Our Body Politic. In the start of our month long series, Our Body Politic Presents, we continue with more of the podcast Sounds Like Hate, special episode Red Flags Everywhere. A year before the January 6th insurrection, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia learned that potential domestic terrorism was being planned for a second amendment rally in his state.

Governor Ralph ...:       For years, Virginia citizens who want to speak up in defense of gun rights have peacefully assembled here at our Capitol. But we have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies that there are groups with malicious plans for the rally that is planned for Monday. No one wants another incident like the one we saw in Charlottesville in 2017. Intelligence shows a threat of armed militia groups storming our Capitol. To enforce this, I am declaring a state of emergency in Richmond from Friday evening until Tuesday night.

Jamila Paksima:            Governor Northam said law enforcement avoided an attack even while 20,000 protestors, many armed, marched in Richmond in defense of their gun rights. It was almost a precursor to what happened on January 6th at the U.S. Capitol.

Governor Ralph ...:       Yes.

Jamila Paksima:            A lot of the same people were there. The Three Percenters, the Boogaloo Boys, the Oath Keepers, they were here. And then they showed up at the Capitol to support Trump.

Governor Ralph ...:       Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamila Paksima:            Who believed that his votes were stolen from him.

Governor Ralph ...:       Yes. Those types of movements are successful only if they're not resistant. And so we knew that they were coming and we made plans. That's the way I approach bullies and cowards.

Yvonne Latty:               On May 25th 2020, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer and social justice protests followed in every state in the country. These protests further angered white power groups, more and more people dressed in paramilitary gear showed up at these local demonstrations. Tim Foley is the leader of Arizona Border Recon, the armed vigilante group tracking migrants in the Arizona desert to turn them over to U.S. border patrol.

Tim Foley:                    What about after George Floyd?

Yvonne Latty:               He says the Black Lives Matter protests were far worse than the insurrection which he attended.

Tim Foley:                    But not a peeve. Nobody gives a shit. It's all the racist whities. See, that's why I hate politicians.

Yvonne Latty:               The fact is the overwhelming majority of the about 9,000 BLM protests were peaceful.

Cassie Miller:                That was historically the biggest mobilization in the name of racial justice that we've seen in the United States. And for the far right, they framed it as a sign that the country was coming apart at the seams, that there was this disorder in the streets and that's someone needed to step in and maintain law and order. And members of the far right anointed themselves as the keepers of law and order.

Yvonne Latty:               The number of reported dead in BLM protests ranges from nine to 19, not all were killed while protesting and some of the dead were killed by counter protestors. Two were killed in August 2020 by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse who took a semiautomatic weapon to a BLM protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was acquitted.

Jamila Paksima:            A Back the Blue rally in Portland drew a crowd of more than 100 far right activists who descended on the city. They were armed with paintball guns, bats and other weapons without police interference. Tensions escalated when Trump supporters in caravans confronted Black Lives Matter protestors. As the two sides clashed, Trump praised the counter protestors as great patriots and he said, "The only way you'll stop the violence in high crime democratic cities is through strength."

Donald Trump:             I want to thank Homeland security, they've done a fantastic job. We had our people go in, they stopped any intrusion into the courthouse.

Jamila Paksima:            And so he deployed a group of federal law enforcement agencies to the streets of Portland. Eric Ward says this was another red flag.

Eric Ward:                    The Trump administration used that as a pretense for their trial run. What they did is they assembled a grouping of law enforcement officials from a number of different agencies, including department of Homeland security, federal protective services, U.S. marshals, folks who weren't trained in crowd control and weren't trained as a unit and placed them on the streets of Portland, Oregon.

Donald Trump:             We would like to be asked by the mayor and the governor, we will go in and stop the problems in Portland in 24 hours just like we did in Minneapolis after they really hurt that city.

Jamila Paksima:            Soon after, Ward began receiving reports of violence.

Eric Ward:                    One was that this federal paramilitary unit was engaging in physical violence. We received a report of a racial justice activist who was merely standing with a boom box with a radio over his head. And this federal paramilitary unit fired a tear gas canister directly into the head of this person, crushing his skull. We began to also receive reports of local activists that protest being yanked off the streets, hoods being put over their heads, being tied like cattle and thrown into unmarked vans and taken to undisclosed locations and being interrogated.

Jamila Paksima:            September 2020, Trump called Portland an anarchist zone and the Department of Justice named it a jurisdiction permitting violence and destruction of property.

Eric Ward:                    They used this as an excuse for these federal troops. Now, what's important to realize is that at the point in Portland, people were turning their attention, right, to political advocacy rather than mobilizations. The marches on the streets were actually shrinking.

Yvonne Latty:               There was still one more major factor at play that drove these white supremacists into a frenzy, COVID-19 restrictions. By the end of March, cities and counties plagued by the virus began to shut down and that triggered protests against the quarantine, schools being pushed online and wearing masks across the country.

Speaker 12:                  How did they come up with this number of six feet? I think they just pull it out of their rear ends.

Yvonne Latty:               In Michigan, protestors were a familiar site at the state Capitol building, some armed with guns, others carrying Trump signs and American flags paraded around the building. They were resisting the public health measures put in place by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. In the crowd were members of the Michigan Proud Boys. At the time, hospitalizations and deaths were skyrocketing in her state. So she implemented stringent guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19. As a result, she became a frequent target of Trump's wrath and the Michigan militia group, Wolverine Watchmen, decided to take action.

Governor Gretch...:      Earlier today, Attorney General Dana Nessel was joined by officials from the Department of Justice and the FBI to announce state and federal charges against 13 members of two militia groups who were preparing to kidnap and possibly kill me.

Yvonne Latty:               Militia members were arrested for planning to kidnap her as part of the Boogaloo movement, aiming to start a new American civil war. Then on October 8th 2020, Governor Whitmer spoke to the public after the foiled kidnapping.

Governor Gretch...:      Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups. "Stand back and stand by," he told them. "Stand back and stand by."

Yvonne Latty:               Those words-

Donald Trump:             Stand back and stand by.

Yvonne Latty:               Were uttered during the first presidential debate on September 29th 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. During a press conference, Governor Whitmer said Trump's words encouraged white supremacists to act on their hate.

Governor Gretch...:      Hate groups heard the president's words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage, or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit.

Farai Chideya:               You're listening to Our Body Politic. This week, we're featuring Sounds Like Hate and their special Red Flags Everywhere. We continue with Eric Ward, Executive Director of the Western State Center, talking about events shortly before January 6th that foreshadowed the insurrection at the Capitol.

Eric Ward:                    It gets reinforced again in Oregon, about two weeks before January 6th, where there is an attempted coup here at the state Capitol in Oregon, where a state legislator facilitated the entry of alt-right activists into the state building.

Jamila Paksima:            The Oregon state Capitol was closed for visitors because of COVID-19. But that didn't stop Republican state representative, Mike Nearman, from opening a locked door to allow an alt-right mob entry into the building during a special legislative session. Wielding weapons, the mob pushed its way past security and attacked police officers, putting the lives of his colleagues and staff at risk. In the months since the event, Nearman was charged and pled guilty to first degree official misconduct. He was sentenced to 18 months probation and banned from the Oregon Capitol building and grounds.

Eric Ward:                    Wasn't a surprise that January 6th happened. The real surprise is the reluctance of elected officials and the American public to acknowledge that that insurrection on January 6th never ended that day. It is still occurring in communities around the country. Health workers, school board members, local elected officials and government employees find themselves under attack from physical intimidation and violence of those who sought to overthrow the United States of America.

Yvonne Latty:               One in 10 of the January 6th insurrection defendants had ties to the military. These veterans had no issues with beating down law enforcement to gain access to the Capitol. A quarter of them have ties to the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. And despite intelligence reports that warn the rally could be dangerous, law enforcement were caught off guard.

Megan Squire:              I mean all the signs were there. The folks like me and others that follow these groups day in and day out for the long haul, we were all aware of it and disappointed, but not exactly surprised.

Yvonne Latty:               That's Megan Squire, a Computer Science Professor at Elon University who studies extremism online. Squire says the radical right extremists are organizing online in dark corners and planting red flags and fast moving complex social technical communities cloaked beneath pseudonyms.

Megan Squire:              There was one night where I was watching and collecting data on a Proud Boy stream. It was affiliated with a spinoff they have called Murder the Media, some affiliates, and those guys had one of their biggest nights ever promoting the January 6th rally. It was the day that Trump tweeted that thing about, "It's going to be wild," or whatever it was. That night, they had one of their biggest streams ever. So the data was flowing in. I was like, "What's going on on that channel? Let's go check it out." It was surprising.

Yvonne Latty:               Murder the Media?

Megan Squire:              Yeah, I know. That was the name of the channel.

Yvonne Latty:               Representative Speier says there was a lack of intelligence gathering and an unwillingness to recognize the danger that was in plain sight. And she blames Donald Trump.

Jackie Speier:               Those who were in power within the administration were still taking their orders from the president who was the commander in chief. So there was a reluctance there. I think they were particularly slow to do it because then acting secretary of defense was timid because of power that Donald Trump was able to exert.

Yvonne Latty:               The FBI declined our request for an interview due to the ongoing investigation into the Capitol insurrection.

Jamila Paksima:            Why was law enforcement seemingly caught off guard?

Eric Ward:                    It's because racism remains a national security threat in the United States. What we found is that law enforcement didn't believe because of unconscious racism that a white mob would be a threat to them. And it was that unconscious bias, that unconscious racism that allowed more than 150 law enforcement officers to be injured on that day. It allowed the conditions where five people, if not more, lost their lives as a result of that January 6th insurrection. It was a complete failure and breakdown.

Yvonne Latty:               One year later, America continues to struggle with its racist past and the stronghold it still has on our present and future. Here's Cassie Miller again.

Cassie Miller:                Everyone hoped after January 6th and after Biden became president that it would really take the wind out of the sails of the far right. And it unfortunately hasn't. What we've seen is that this is much more structural than that and it's not just one powerful leader who is guiding this movement, it's a whole media apparatus. It's think tanks, it's organized groups, it's people with real political power who are pushing to bring this movement forward.

Yvonne Latty:               She says rather than condemn the January 6th insurrection, some Republican lawmakers have turned them into martyrs.

Cassie Miller:                And that's really, really dangerous that people who engage in insurrectionary, its faction are now being held up as martyrs by people in real political power.

Jamila Paksima:            The question so many Americans need an answer to is how does such a deeply divided country move forward? Dr. Anderson says, "The insurrection does not define what Americans want for their lives or country."

Dr. Anderson:               They want greater humanity. They want greater support for the way that they can live their lives. They want COVID-19 handled. They want to be able to send their children to good quality schools where their children will be safe. They want access to quality healthcare. They want a government that works. White supremacy does not want any of those things.

Farai Chideya:               That was a portion of the new special episode Red Flags Everywhere of the podcast Sounds Like Hate, and it's also the launch of their fourth season. This is a perfect opportunity to go back and listen to their first three seasons as well as the new one. Now, they have reported on the role of women who helped organize the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, the 138 hours of secret audio recordings of the white power acceleration group, The Base, which had plotted a violent attack near the Richmond Capitol in 2020 on discrimination faced by LGBTQ parents and foster kids and on the militias who prey on migrants on the U.S. Mexico border. You can subscribe to Sounds Like Hate to hear about these stories and more wherever you get your podcast. Throughout January, we'll feature content from a different podcast each week. Please join us.

                                    You are listening to Our Body Politic. I'm Farai Chideya. Each week on the show, we bring you a round table called Sippin' the Political Tea. Joining me this week is Karen Attiah, Opinion Columnist at the Washington Post and a contributor here at Our Body Politic. Hey, Karen.

Karen Attiah:                Hey, Farai. Happy New Year.

Farai Chideya:               Thank you. Happy New Year to you. And we've also got Major General Linda Singh, retired Former Head of the Maryland National Guard. She was part of a task force led by retired Lieutenant General Russel Honoré that briefed Congress on what happened on January 6th 2021, particularly the security at the Capitol and how that could be improved. Welcome back to Our Body Politic, general.

Linda Singh:                  Thank you, Farai. It's good to be back.

Farai Chideya:               So we've got a lot to cover today. Let's hop to it.

Joe Biden:                    I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation and I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.

Farai Chideya:               That was President Joe Biden speaking on the first anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol. Now, Karen, starting with you, how did the president meet this moment?

Karen Attiah:                I think what a lot of people have been noting today has been how he really took a direct line at Trump, right? That he's not just the former president, he's the former defeated president. This was a backlash to a lot of what happened in 2020 and a lot of what happened even on January 5th in 2021, which is we saw, this country saw the political power of people of color. We saw the Black Lives Matter protest. We saw how American society was being made all the better for the fact that there was more speech and protests and people exercising their rights to demand a better life for themselves. It was white backlash is what we saw on January 6th. So I think that Trump was part of a response and a backlash to I think arguably you could say the Obama years and the fact that we are becoming a more full-fledged democracy.

Farai Chideya:               Yeah. I did a piece that's out on CNN opinion on their website and I talked about among other things my year plus long correspondence on Twitter DMs with a white nationalist. He actually liked my reporting during the 2016 election. He thought I got America. And I always like to say that organized white nationalist and supremacists and I have one very important thing in common, which is that we agree that white nationalism and white supremacy exist, which is perhaps not everything in a conversation, but it's a starting point. And we got pretty deep in the weeds on the clear fact that he talked about wanting to preserve American democracy as majority white and was willing to do whatever it takes. He went to Charlottesville. This was a super complicated conversation.

                                    But General Singh, as we think about the ways that this moment in time is framed, the fact that former President Trump in responding to President Biden said the democrats want to own this day of January 6th so they can stoke fears and divide America, what do you think is the federal leadership, not just presidential, but federal, including the U.S. military, that's needed at this time to help us deal with the threats to democracy and also the threats of domestic terrorism?

Linda Singh:                  Well that's really tough in the sense that I think just across the board, the leadership that we have right now, and when I say across the board, I'm talking at the Senate, at the congressional level, at the department heads, I don't think anyone's ready to have that deep conversation. I'm not real sure that they're poised to be able to lead this country where we need to go and make the hard choices. It's very easy for us to walk into another country and dictate how things should occur, how things should be and push on democracy. But we now have slipped down this path, and we can't seem to get our footing. And this has been a long time coming. So I would say that this has been coming ever since 2008 when President Obama was elected. They were looking at it and saying they didn't like to have a black man for a president, which is crazy.

                                    And then turn around and they surely didn't want a woman for president. And now, they have a woman VP. So there's a lot of folks that are really pissed at the core. And I'd like to think that we could move beyond this. And I'm going to say this, I just had an event at my house last week, as a matter of fact, where we were celebrating our young people. One of our very close friends who happens to be on this path of conspiracy theory, and I love him to death, but while I was making a speech to our family in our home. Now, I didn't hear this and so my husband didn't want to tell me right then and there, because he knew I'd put him out of my house. And he says, "What racist BS."

Farai Chideya:               Wow.

Linda Singh:                  So the challenge is that this is tearing up and it is destroying the core of our families. And so when I think about where things are right now, we're trying to deal with things at a much higher, a much strategic level. We've got to deal with home. We've got to deal with our communities because we've got division within our families. And until we can start bringing that back on par, then I hate to say it, Trump will win every single time on the battle of the word only because he can keep us disheveled.

Farai Chideya:               Karen, I have relatives who I would describe as Colin Powell Republicans, except that they can't be Colin Powell Republican in this current party. And some of them vote third party. And I mean it's a time where obviously you not only deeply cover politics as part of your beat, but also you've been living in Texas for quite a bit of the pandemic. What do you see around you in terms of how people are trying to make sense at this moment?

Karen Attiah:                Yeah, and I'm a native Texan. And I'm hailing from the state that has the notorious distinction of I would say being part of the birthplace of the tea party. So again, in terms of the insurrection of our party politics and even of the Republican party itself, a lot of the roots of what we're seeing today began with tea party insurrectionism-

Farai Chideya:               Yeah.

Karen Attiah:                Of our body politic. I'm in the home state of some of the largest vaccine conspiracy theories that have been longstanding since before COVID. I think what General is saying is really profound and I think this is where I struggle is that we're trying to solve with politics something that is very deeply cultural and social, spiritual. I think there's so much to say about how I think Trump and the alignment with the American evangelical right gave people not just this being a question of politics and voting, but a question of he's giving them a spiritual purpose to take back this country, to remake it in the form of God, of how Christ would like for it to happen.

                                    So I think from here, I see the long tail of January 6th as what we saw was violence, what we saw was property destruction and bodies, police officers, people being hurt and crushed. But the long tail of January 6th through last year was I think what we're seeing which is vigilantism. And I think that is what is really dangerous. And I'm not sure that finger waving and saying truth versus lies, how you combat that spiritual mission people now have on their right to take matters into their own hands and use violence and intimidation and fear to get what they want. And I see that a lot here.

Farai Chideya:               Yeah. Very much to your points, there was a new Washington Post University of Maryland poll that found that 58% of Republicans believe President Biden's election wasn't legitimate and 40% of Republicans say that violence against the government is sometimes justified. Now, smaller proportions of independence and Democrats also believe that violence against the government is sometimes justified. So General Singh, what do does the future of our country look like if a significant portion of our highly armed society is not swayed by facts and supports violence and insurrection?

Linda Singh:                  We're going to look like a third world country. I mean, we're going to put ourselves in the place of all the places that we send our troops to fight.

Farai Chideya:               Yeah.

Linda Singh:                  I mean the behavior that you're seeing, how is it unlike some of the behavior that you see in countries like the Ukraine? How is it different from some of the behavior that you even see in Afghanistan? While Afghanistan is a lot more extreme, but we potentially could get there, right? If we start fighting and blowing things up and really going after people and threatening people, then how are we different? And yet, we want to tell ourselves that we're better. I think that we have to take a serious look in the mirror, we as a people, and that's at all levels. We've got to take a serious look in the mirror and say truly what matters here. And I think part of that is we have to overhaul government, right? I mean I don't think that we're going to be able to get back onto this plane until we start dealing with some very fundamental issues.

Farai Chideya:               What role do you think that journalism should be playing, Karen?

Karen Attiah:                I think a lot of women and a lot of people of color, black people have been sounding the alarms on this for a long time.

Farai Chideya:               Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karen Attiah:                We said from the beginning, from 2015-

Farai Chideya:               100%.

Karen Attiah:                That Trumpism was not just dangerous and not just an embarrassing side show, right? Not just the embarrassing uncle who says all the things he's not supposed to say out loud, but that this was a matter of life and death. And I remember saying these things and people thought we were being... By people, I mean mostly white men thought we were being hysterical, right? Women of color saying these things. Again, part of it is that I hope that our industry listens a lot more to the marginalized when we speak, when we say, those of us who face usually the brunt of these assaults when we say, "Hey, all is not well."

Farai Chideya:               Yeah. Yeah. Well you are listening to Sippin' the Political Tea on Our Body Politic. I'm host, Farai Chideya, with our contributor and Washington Post Columnist, Karen Attiah, and Major General Linda Singh, retired of the National Guard and the Security Review of the U.S. Capitol. If you're tuning in, you can catch the whole conversation on our podcast. Just find Our Body Politic wherever you listen to podcasts. So General Singh, I want to turn to you because of your role in the Security Review of the Capitol. You and General Russel Honoré were part of that very important work. And from what I'm able to read, the Capitol police right now are understaffed. A lot of officers understandably served bravely and heroically and then retired or left the force. What's your assessment of where we stand today with the whole process of looking at Capitol security? I know you wrapped that investigation.

Linda Singh:                  Yeah, we did. And so we have moved forward and I think the challenge is that while things have moved forward and they've done a lot of things to re-look at processes, to revamp structure, to look at infrastructure, right, so that they really have been focusing in on a lot of things. The challenge from the Capitol police perspective is that they're trying to not only fight against losing talent and trying to recruit for talent, but every police department is faced with that. And so it's not just because of them being the Capitol police. I mean we're seeing this at the local level here in Maryland and then you throw on top of that COVID where you've got tons of officers that are getting sick and they're out. And so we have not just this health crisis, but we've got a war for talent going on even much deeper than we do with the Capitol police. And I think until we can start moving things back to say being a police officer is a career and a profession that really it's like the military, right?

Farai Chideya:               Yeah.

Linda Singh:                  I mean you may not make the top dollar, but it's like being in the military in the sense that you have to do it because you are called for a purpose. And it really is getting back to this heart thing and getting people passionate about wanting so serve their communities. Right now, just because I do have a daughter who's also a police officer and she's a Lieutenant on the force here in Maryland, and I have several other young ladies. And the only thing I can do is to continue to mentor, coach and support them as we try to work through this.

Farai Chideya:               We're getting close to wrapping up, but Karen, I want to turn to you with the House Select Committee which is planning to conduct a number of public hearings and release the report ahead of the November midterm elections. We've seen people like Steve Bannon bargain to get more time before they have to speak. We've seen other people refuse to speak. What's going on with this whole process of still trying to unravel January 6th?

Karen Attiah:                Trump and Bannon and these figures may be out of elected office, but Trumpism is a strong playbook.

Farai Chideya:               It's a brand with high appeal to some people. And I'll end here with you, General Singh. There was an article written by Steven Marche, it may be pronounced Marche, M-A-R-C-H-E. The next U.S. civil war is already here, we just refuse to see it. And I'm someone who happens to know quite a lot about my family's history, including that my grandmother's grandfather served in the civil war as part of a long history of military service in my family. And the way that I've thought about this era is that we are in what I think of as a cold civil war that's being fought with legal books and battles, but it could, in my mind, turn more into a hot civil war with more gunfire in our heavily armed nation. Do you think that's possible? And if so, what could help prevent it?

Linda Singh:                  Right. And I think that article, everyone should read it if they haven't read it. But more importantly, go back and listen to the 1968 speech from Dr. Martin Luther King on unfulfilled dreams. He talks about the civil war. He talks about how each of us during that time has a civil war going on within us. The challenge that we have is now are we going to take it and face it head on and try to bring things back together like we did back during those times, right? Bringing the north and the south together? Or are we going to let it continue to put these divisible lines?

                                    And I would have to say that for the politicians, especially the Republicans that aren't saying anything, but really the politicians that aren't saying anything that's a sign of weakness. That to me is not leadership. And so if they want to continue to have this sign of weakness, then we need to be strong, we need to stand in solidarity and we need to bring forth the strength that can really take, and I hate to say eradicate, but eradicate those individuals that can't seem to get their shit together.

Farai Chideya:               That is a perfect place to leave at General Singh. Thank you for joining us.

Linda Singh:                  You're welcome.

Farai Chideya:               And Karen, thank you for joining us.

Karen Attiah:                Thanks so much for having me.

Farai Chideya:               This is Sippin' the Political Tea on Our Body Politic. We have been speaking Major General Linda Singh and also Karen Attiah, Opinions Columnist at the Washington Post and a contributor here at Our Body Politic. Thanks for listening to Our Body Politic. We're on the air each week -- and everywhere you listen to podcasts. 

Farai Chideya:               Our Body Politic is produced by Diaspora Farms. I'm the executive producer and host, Farai Chideya.  Emily J. Daly is our producer. Bridget McAllister is our booker and producer. Our associate producer is Natyna Bean. Production and editing services are by Clean Cuts at Three Seas. Today's episode was produced by Lauren Schild, and associate produced by Beth Ebisch. Adam Rooner and Roc Lee are sound engineers.  We’d also like to once again thank the podcast Sounds Like Hate, with executive producers Jamila Paksima and Geraldine Moriba; and producer Yvonne Latty. 

Farai Chideya:               This program is produced with support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Democracy Fund, the Harnisch Foundation, Compton Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the BMe Community, Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams Family Foundation, and from generous contributions from listeners like you.