Wasow Writes in Washington Post: ‘This is not who we are’: Actually, the Capitol riot was quintessentially American

Jan. 8, 2021

Omar Wasow, Assistant Professor of Politics and a CSDP faculty associate, writes in The Washington Post that the remarkable assault on the U.S. capitol was, unlike the common commentary that it "is not who we are," a quintessentially American insurrection by a group of mostly White men opposing the legitimacy of a free and fair multiethnic election.

A better way to make sense of the news of the past few days — not only the violent occupation in Washington but also the historic Senate victories by Democrats in Georgia — is as a long-run contest between two competing American traditions: one committed to preserving the status quo racial hierarchy and one fighting to advance equality....At the same time, the success of a candidate like Sen.-elect Raphael Warnock (Ga.), a Black Democrat, can be seen as a continuation of the other American commitment to equality. This is a far more useful framework for interpreting recent events than embracing the fiction that anti-democratic violence only happens in other countries.

...As this week shows, the two American traditions do not move in clear cycles, with one triumphant and the other dormant — only for the pattern to reverse itself. They clash and compete for support contemporaneously. Trump’s election in 2016 was a triumph for the ethno-nationalist tradition, and the storming of the Capitol was the predictable conclusion of his ascendancy. But the other tradition is very much alive, too. To make sense of the struggle, we have to see it clearly.

Two traditions. Two governing coalitions. This is America.