The Republican Beast Is Loose, Fed on False Promises since Richard Nixon

With the storming of the Capitol by angry Trump supporters, the heart of American democracy briefly came to a halt. These are the comments of the Volkskrant’s America panel on this tragic uprising and its consequences.

Lars Duursma, Communications Expert. Campaigned for Obama in 2008 and 2012

“What a bizarre and historic day: the surprising and yet extremely predictable final chapter of four years of Donald Trump. The toxic cocktail of lies, madness and incitement, culminating in a foolish assault on the Capitol, was exactly what many have been warning against for years. And again and again, there were the appeasers who, driven by political naivete or personal opportunism (Hello, talk show gig!) insisted that things weren’t all that bad. Well, here are the results.

“In terms of symbolism, it was important that the certification deliberations continued the same day, in the same room where an armed mob had walked around just moments before. The unmistakable message was that nothing shall disrupt the democratic process.

“It was also a day of contrasts in messaging. A contrast against some fanatical Republicans who, shocked by the effect of their own words, moderated their tone somewhat. But above all, a contrast between Joe Biden’s exceedingly calm, powerful and unifying speech and the false and inflammatory video from an unstable Trump.

“A contrast between the incumbent president, who remarkably had only positive words for these terrorists after the storming (‘We love you, you’re very special’), and his successor, who was at his best when the moment called for it.”

Manon Portos Minetti, Americanist and Historian. Specializing in US Colonial Violence

“What happened at the Capitol in Washington is a violent coup, it is terrorism. If this were to happen in other countries, ‘third world countries’ as they refer to them on CNN, the United States would step in to protect citizens or bring democracy. For example, the Latin American coups in the 1970s and 1980s, the Vietnam War, Korea and Iraq. All were started by the U.S. to supposedly guarantee democracy.

“Another important detail is that if the rioters at the Capitol had not been white, the police and military would have intervened much earlier. Where were the rubber bullets, the National Guard and the tear gas that were immediately used in the Black Lives Matter protests? Where was the aggression that would have been displayed if the rioters were Muslims?

“That Americanists, university lecturers and professors and ‘experts’ in this newspaper, the talk shows and the entire Dutch media still call America a democracy was already a farce. And that’s what it is now. The U.S. was founded on white terrorism, far-right terrorism, capitalism, racism, misogyny and slavery. When the Dutch media once again responds with ‘surprise’ to these events, it fails to represent the true America. When it comes to the U.S., the media has failed to talk about slavery, segregation and the industrial prison complex. About police brutality and Black Lives Matter.

“At Dutch universities and in the media, people say things about the U.S. such as ‘Not everything is about race,’ ‘America is a meritocracy’ and ‘There are many sides.’ This sweeps the true nature of the U.S. under the rug. Now the true nature of America has finally been revealed, and I say, with no pleasure, ‘I told you so.’”

Maarten Zwiers, Professor of History and American Studies at the Groningen University

“The storming of the Capitol is the culmination of a process that has actually been going on for more than a decade. After the election of Barack Obama as president, we saw not only the rise of the reactionary tea party movement within the Republican Party, but also a surge of right-wing paramilitary groups that have emerged from their depths under Donald Trump, and who now, in the twilight of his administration, serve as presidential shock troops.

“You might have expected that from a despot like Trump, who offered them an alternate reality in which conspiracy and violence are normalized. When authoritarian figures like Trump are in danger of losing power, a coup attempt usually follows. Because of this, Trump has become a big problem for the Republicans. We have seen how far his loyalists are willing to go. They are not an insignificant part of the conservative electorate and cannot simply be written off, at least not without political consequences.

“The Republican beast is on the loose, a beast that has been fed since Richard Nixon with false promises of an impossible return to the good old days. Now try to get it back into its cage.”

Bianca Pander, Americanist and Partner at Campaign Agency BKB

“Trump, his family and his personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani lit the fuse right up to the start of the congressional session to certify Biden’s election by continually insisting that the election had been stolen. These were shocking images, especially the way the press was attacked. And yet I was not surprised that these radicals tried.

“Words simply have consequences. Trump undermined democracy from the moment he ran for election, and even before that, by dismissing the press as fake and by disregarding the rules of democracy. Trump got away with it because many Republicans justified his behavior. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell only put a stop to Trump’s insane claims yesterday after realizing that he had lost the majority in the Senate and had nowhere to go. It’s too late; he and all the other sycophants within the Republican Party are partly to blame.

“And what does this do for the image of the United States? That Venezuela (where, according to the U.S. government, Nicolás Maduro’s regime is ‘awash in corruption and criminality’) published a statement expressing their concern is significant.”

Koen Petersen, Political Scientist and Americanist

“This American beacon of democracy has not been stormed by a mob since the British tried to set the Capitol on fire in 1814. A rainstorm at the time prevented the blaze from destroying the building. Until the late 1960s, the Capitol was guarded by high school students. It was not until the massive Vietnam and civil rights protests in the late 1960s that the special Capitol police force was established.*

“Other than relatively minor incidents, the Capitol has never been the scene of a storming like the one we saw Wednesday evening. The fact that members of Congress had to be secured and evacuated is a sad conclusion to a unique and historic presidency, for a variety of reasons.

“I think this was mainly a bonfire of the insanities; the protesters did not appear to have stormed the Capitol with a grand plan. But for the leading democracy of the Western world, this is, of course, an unprecedented embarrassment.

“As is well known, Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular cannot count on much sympathy from the public in many other countries. This low point will confirm the negative opinion for many, and it has damaged the reputation of the United States.

“Since Trump’s rise, a conflict has raged within the Republican Party between ‘classic’ Republicans (small government, low tax, economic freedom, social conservatism, internationalism) and Trumpians (mobilizing the vulnerable working class with an activist government). The Republicans were threatened with extinction, but Trump has given them a new lease on life with his direction. As long as it produced votes, it was tolerated by the classic Republicans, but now they have to decide whether they want to share responsibility for Trumpism.

“Republicans have already damaged themselves significantly with Wednesday’s events. If the internal strife starts to dominate the Republicans’ image in the coming years, that damaged reputation will not be mended anytime soon.”

*Translator’s note: You can read a history of the Capitol police at:

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