The Right’s Lust for Violence
Roger Stone, Michael Anton, Kyle Young, and the Oath Keepers.
(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The House January 6th Committee has postponed today’s hearing because of the massive Hurricane Ian bearing down on Florida. But we have an idea what we were going to see.
The committee plans to show a video of Trump whisperer Roger Stone enthusiastically declaring, “Fuck the voting, let’s get right to the violence,” even before the votes were counted in 2020.
“Shoot to kill. See an Antifa? Shoot to kill. Fuck ’em. Done with this bullshit.”
Later that day, as The Post previously reported, Stone seemed to welcome the prospect of clashes with left-wing activists. As an aide spoke of driving trucks into crowds of racial justice protesters, Stone said: “Once there’s no more election, there’s no reason why we can’t mix it up. These people are going to get what they’ve been asking for.”
In one clip, Stone is seen telling MAGA supporters that they should declare victory on election night, no matter what the results showed. “I really do suspect it’ll still be up in the air,” Stone says. “When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory.” Well. . .
And there’s more.
In another clip, filmed a week after January 6, Stone is seen criticizing the White House Counsel’s Office for what he described as their argument that Trump could not provide preemptive pardons to Stone and others for their alleged involvement in efforts to overturn the election.
“I believe the President is for it. The obstacles are these – are these lily livered, weak kneed, bureaucrats in the White House Counsel’s Office and now they must be crushed because they’ve told the President something that’s not true,” Stone says in the clip.
As far back as July 2020, Stone talked about challenging the upcoming presidential election in the courts. “The election will not be normal,” he said.
“Sorry, we’re not accepting them,” he said of the anticipated results. “We’re challenging them in court.”
“If the electors show up at the Electoral College, armed guards will throw them out,” he continued. “I’m challenging all of it. And the judges we’re going to, are judges I appointed.”
Stone is trying to brush all of this off, alternately questioning the authenticity of the tapes and claiming that he was merely engaging in protected free speech. And, as the Wapo notes, Stone immediately followed his recorded call to violence with: “I am of course only kidding. We renounce violence completely. We totally renounce violence. The left is the only ones who engage in violence.”
But, of course, that’s not true. And, as we continue to see, Stone is not the outlier his rationalizers would like to imagine. Consider:
American Greatness — the online home of ultra-MAGA intellectuals like Victor Davis Hanson & Co. — is publishing an essay suggesting violent revolution by former Trump White House aide Michael Anton. You’ll recall that Anton was the author of the perfervid 2016 “Flight 93 Election” polemic that urged conservatives to storm the electoral cockpit even if it meant we were all going to die.
Anton is again reaching for the hysteria, and his penchant for violence is not slacking. And, of course, he casts his call to arms as a call to First Principles: “What does fidelity to our founding principles require today?” he asks. (The article is based on a speech he gave at the September 2022 meeting of
the Philadelphia Society, a group cofounded by Nobel laureate Milton Friedman.)
I won’t bore you with the whole thing, but Anton rehearses a parade of horribles that are afflicting America today, from open borders to crashing birth rates, and a “giant, unaccountable, unelected fourth branch of government that does what it wants without input or supervision from the people, and that usurps executive, legislative, and judicial power.”
Anton worries that “conservatives” are too passive, too civil, too nice, and too reluctant to engage in political violence.
In the speech I referenced earlier, Joe Biden said, “There is no place for political violence in America. Period. None. Ever.” Leave aside the fact that his team commits such violence almost daily and with impunity. As a historical and theoretical matter, this statement is ridiculous.
It’s just a historical fact that violence birthed America. Granted, that violence was justified, organized, careful, and the furthest thing from indiscriminate. But the American Revolution was still a war waged against a government that considered itself legitimate.
So what is he proposing, exactly? Sounds like . . . more revolution.
Is the right of revolution ever justified? Was it justified only that one time, in 1776, but never again? If so, why was it justified then and what makes it unjustifiable ever again? Because of historicism? Because the American Revolution was somehow an irreversible leap forward?
Is it that you think things can’t ever get bad enough to justify recourse to this right, or merely that they won’t? Is there some deep structural reason for America’s privileged position, or is our miraculous continued good fortune merely your expectation? If the latter, then you are implicitly admitting, at least in theory, that the right of revolution might, at some point, be justified—and that it has not been obviated by “history.”
He’s just asking questions right? Anton suggests that he hopes this “remains merely a theoretical discussion.”
But it’s clear he doesn’t think it will because, he maintains, “it [is] axiomatic that you can’t have natural rights without a right of revolution, just as you can’t have the founding without an actual revolution, and since you can’t have the regime of the founders without natural rights, you can’t have the founding principles or the founders’ regime without a right of revolution.”
And, of course, as we saw on January 6th — and on other occasions — the calls for revolutionary violence are not merely theoretical.
Just yesterday, one of the Capitol rioters was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his role in attacking police officer Michael Fanone.
Kyle Young, 38, is the first rioter to be sentenced for the group attack on Fanone, who was dragged into the mob, beaten and electrocuted until he suffered a heart attack and lost consciousness.
“You were a one-man wrecking ball that day,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson said. “You were the violence.”
Inspired by Trump’s lies about the election, Young was among the “patriots” who stormed the Capitol to prevent the regime from counting the votes that elected Joe Biden. So it worth remembering this:
Young pleaded guilty in May to being in the group that attacked Fanone. Documents filed with his plea agreement offer this account:
Young and his 16-year-old son joined the tunnel battle just before 3 p.m., and Young handed a stun gun to another rioter and showed him how to use it. When Fanone was pulled from the police line, Young and his son pushed through the crowd toward him.
Young lost his grip on Fanone as the mob moved. He then pushed and hit a nearby Capitol Police officer, who had just been struck with bear spray, according to documents filed with his plea.
Young also pointed a strobe light at the officers, jabbed at them with a stick and threw an audio speaker toward the police line, hitting another rioter in the back of the head, prosecutors said.
As my colleague Amanda Carpenter has documented, Trump has repeatedly suggested that he would pardon the January 6th insurrectionists. Including Young?
Like many of the other rioters ginned up by MAGA rhetoric, Young may have imagined that he was participating in a new 1776. Where would he have gotten such an idea?
Meanwhile. . . “Sedition Trial of Oath Keepers Gets Underway.” The trial will include a reminder of where are all this began:
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, and four other members of the far-right group prepared to present a novel and risky defense as they went on trial on Tuesday for seditious conspiracy in the attack on the Capitol last year, charged with plotting to use force against the government.
They intend to tell the jury that when armed teams of Oath Keepers made plans to rush into Washington from Virginia on Jan. 6, 2021, they believed they would be following legal orders from the president himself.
Lawyers for the five defendants are set to argue at the trial — which began on Tuesday with jury selection — that the Oath Keepers were waiting on Jan. 6 for President Donald J. Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, a Revolutionary-era law that grants the president wide powers to deploy the military to quell unrest in emergencies.
Exit take: Conservatives used to understand that ideas have consequences.
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1. What Country Is the Wall Street Journal Living In?
Mona Charen, in today’s Bulwark, writes that the paper’s editorial board deludes itself with its endorsement of Kari Lake.
Writing as if nothing had changed in American politics since 2011, the editorial board assailed Katie Hobbs, the Democratic candidate for governor, as a tool of the teachers’ unions for her opposition to school choice. Noting that the race is neck and neck, the Journal advised that parents would be well advised to vote Republican if they hope to save their kids’ educational vouchers.
There you have it: The failure of the intellectual leaders of conservatism in one editorial. The once magisterial voice of the conservative worldview looked at the race for governor in Arizona and airily overlooked reality. School choice? Are they out of their minds?
2. Six Weeks Out, the Statewide Pennsylvania Races Solidify
A new Marist poll of Pennsylvania adults, conducted from September 19 to 22, shows significant shifts in the Pennsylvania governor’s race compared to a June USA Today/Suffolk University poll of likely voters, but almost no change in the state’s U.S. Senate race. Beneath the surface, however, voter attitudes regarding these two races appear to be hardening relative to both the candidates and the issues. If these trends continue, it looks like both races will wind up in the D column
3. The Electoral Count Act Is Actually an Engineering Problem
There are now several proposals for fixing the Electoral Count Act (ECA) and a growing consensus—especially after developments in the Senate yesterday—that a set of bipartisan reforms will be passed sometime in the next few months. That’s good news.
But fixing the ECA is not just a check-the-box exercise. We need to ensure that the reforms we enact are as effective as possible in shoring up the vulnerabilities we’ve identified. And while there’s consensus that the ECA needs to be fixed, there’s a wide variety of opinion on the best way to fix it.
Maybe we should approach the reform not as a political project, but as an engineering task.