Let’s just call what happened in Washington, D.C. today what it was: An anti-democracy protest by an assortment of white supremacists, violent fascists, and conspiracy nuts. They came to town to collectively demand the disenfranchisement of more than 78 million Americans, Joe Biden voters, and to reaffirm that “legal votes” can only be cast by white folks outside of miscegenated cities.
Had they been marching against anti-Black racism or police abuse, cops would probably have violently rioted against them. Instead, the crowd of overwhelmingly white anti-democratic whiners and agitators made their way from Freedom Plaza to the Supreme Court with nary a tear gas canister lobbed or billy club deployed.
The disparate groups of demonstrators called the protest by various names, including “Stop the Steal,” “March for Trump” and the “Million MAGA March”—the latter of which was cribbed from the 1995 “Million Man March,” because these people can’t go a day without stealing from Black folks. There were far less than a million people there, though the White House way overinflated the numbers on hand for Trump, just as they did four years ago at this administration’s inauguration.
There’s a pretty rich irony in people who can’t properly count crowd numbers taking to the streets to demand that the nation accept their feelings about the vote count in various states. And yet the attention paid to a march of however many dozens of thousands of disgruntled and deluded supporters of a candidate who lost by more than 5 million votes is a perfect metaphor for the Trumpism movement. From the moment its leader descended an escalator to the cheers of actors paid $50 each to cheer him, they’ve managed to be the center of the national political conversation.
The attendee list was a who’s who of prominent white nationalist groups and QAnon supporters, including the Proud Boys, Groypers, and Pizzagate pushers. The media repeatedly refers to these groups as “far right” or “fringe,” but this was actually a pretty perfect representation of mainstream Republicanism. In fact, GOP politicians Louie Gohmert, Mike Kelly, and Marjorie Taylor Greene were there to co-sign this display of white entitlement, and egg the whole show on.
The white reactionary politics were on full, proud display. There were plenty of “All Lives Matter” chants, OK hand signs, and posters with slogans including, “Ban Homo Marriage” and “Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing wrong.” Fox News caught sight of a sign that read, “'Coming for Blacks and Indians, Welcome to the New World Order,” which was clearly meant to be read as a threat. These aren’t people who are actually angry about election fraud. They’re people who believe that having Black and brown votes counted is unfair. White people have rights, damn it. That’s their only real message.
The GOP legislators smiling at all this and hyping these people up know that Trump lost. They know that the unfairness of this election can be found in their gerrymandered districts, our undemocratic electoral college, and Trump’s tampering with the USPS. They know that they are potentially stoking violence, delegitimizing the incoming Biden administration, fomenting white racist hate and undermining democracy. They’re just too invested in maintaining their own power to care.
Speaking of not caring, Trump, who teased an appearance at the rally on Friday, passed through the crowd in his motorcade. Here was a moment when the president, who has been gassing up his followers on conspiracies and racism since before he made it to the White House, could stop his car, step outside, and address his fawning adorers—who unlike the press he’s assiduously avoiding, won’t have any follow-up questions about the timeline for conceding his historic loss. Instead, he rolled right through them, in his mobile version of a castle, and headed to where he really wanted to be—the golf course. His supporters carried on their protest for Trump, unable to see themselves as the pawns that they are.
The takeaway from the day was pretty simple: There is no way to make these people believe that they’ve lost, because they don’t believe in democracy. There is no recount that will satisfy them. There is no version of America they want unless their voices, their lives, and their votes take priority.
This was an exhibition protest of sorts. There will be more to come. And we should expect that it’s going to be, at the least, an annoying four years.