Social Psychology

Republican use of Violence to Usher in Authoritarianism

Please take a timeout from dancing in the streets after learning of Stewart Rhodes’ conviction for sedition for his role in the 6 January insurrection to

  1. SANS CHENEY: He lost his left eye shooting himself in the face with his own gun! He’s so good, he didn’t even have to block Dick Cheney’s shot OR apologize to him afterward for mucking it up. That’s how good he is. FFS.
  2. APPRECIATE how difficult it is to get a sedition conviction. It is difficult to prove the motivation of overturning the government, especially if the attempt fails and practically impossible if it succeeds.
  3. REALIZE how much violence has increased in America since Trump blundered down his escalator blathering racism and misogyny to a group of paid actors.
  4. COMMENT on all these goings on in the… well… um… comment section. Express your Schadenfreude and savor the satisfaction of a victory for the good guys and share it with the rest of us.

We all realize that we are a far more violent nation than we were pre-Trump. In a previous post, we looked at the individual causes of violence. In this post we’ll look at the political causes. Before we do, though, it is worth taking a look at a few measurements of violence in America:

This increase in violence in the US buggers the question, Why are some societies so violent? Lucky for us, we don’t have to go out and do original research on it because Rachel Kleinfeld already has. In fact, she’s done so much research on it, she’s published a book! Apparently, the world’s most violent countries are struggling democracies. She cites this finding, more people died in Mexico between 2007 and 2014 than in Iraq and Afghanistan. I didn’t know that and wouldn’ta bet on it, either. She compared democracies that had successfully quelled violence with those that hadn’t. Her findings are illuminating in general, but when applied to our specific situation here in the US are quite alarming:

In general, if the great grows stronger, as it did in, for example, the Wild West and in Columbia, the state can limit violence. However, if the state promotes violence as it did in the South after the Civil War or in Mexico, then violence escalates dramatically.

She describes how democracies become violent. Stop and comment when you think you can place the US in this process:

  • VIOLENT GROUPS are that promote a political cause or side are protected by those politicians.
  • PRIVATE BUSINESSES employ violence for protection and suppression of unions and workers rights. They contribute to politicians that support their efforts.
  • POLITICIZATION OF POLICE: The police and courts turn a blind-eye towards violence committed for political purposes. Police are increasingly brutal to be “tough on crime.”
  • THE INSTITUTIONS & ORGANS of justice and security become corrupt. They increasingly target the poor.
  • ORGANIZED VIOLENCE increases as gangs offer protection to marginalized communities.
  • VIOLENCE IS NORMALIZED so much so that it becomes the first choice for many. In some countries 90% of murders are unsolved.
  • SECURITY is privatized as people turn to gated communities and private security companies to protect them.
  • ELECTION VIOLENCE keeps many people from voting and the system becomes one of minority rule enforced by violence.

You can see how the GOP is actively working to creating the conditions for violence by using increasingly violent rhetoric that becomes stochastic terrorism. They have chosen immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community for their scapegoats. We’re seeing an increase in the number of businesses protected by armed employees, congregations arming themselves, and a public increasingly turning to private arsenals for protection, which works only if you’re white and then not even then.

We are normalizing violence. We celebrate the veteran who subdued the Club Q shooter instead of changing our gun laws. How soon before we have armed people “protecting” LGBTQ+ clubs and events to counter the militias who show up to harass them? Kyle Rittenhouse was not convicted of murder because of a skateboard. We already are moving down that road to having a violent society and ineffective government monopoly on violence.

This pathway is well known. Those who would have us follow it, know it well, and have it clearly and plainly mapped out. The 2022 election was a step in the right direction. The convictions of the seditious Oath Keepers has kept the tide back for the moment. The struggle isn’t over. We must continue to vote out those who reject democracy and put personal power and party over the well being of our communities and country.

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Image Attribution

Oath Keepers-Billboard, Pine River, MN, July 2015” by Myotus is licensed under  Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

14 replies »

  1. I don’t think we’re anymore nor any less violent than before. Drumpf uck merely emboldened those with a propensity. Made the least common denominator acceptable.

    I need not remind you that history only repeats to those paying attention.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Howdy Ten Bears!

      Steven Pinker in his seminal work, “The Angels of Our Better Nature,” pretty conclusively demonstrated that for the past thousand odd years, we’ve — as a species — have had a decreasing chance of dying a violent death. Essentially, the change is the rule of law and the ability of the state to have a monopoly on the use of violence. It makes the US and our penchant for gun violence even more of an outlier and even a stupider choice than we could’ve ever thought possible. Without the lethality of guns and with the effectiveness of state organs to redress slights and other insults, people are much less violent.

      People’s behavior is governed by their situation. Social psychologist estimate as much as 75% of what we do is situationally dependent. If that situation promotes violence, then we are likely to commit it. If it doesn’t, then we aren’t. What the right is doing is creating situations where violence is more likely to occur.

      You’re right. We are not any more or less violent, but the circumstances have changed. And, we’re heading down that road… AGAIN.



  2. I am not an American, and given the level of gun violence in your country, along with the growing threat of Far Right and Neo-Nazi groups, I have to say I am grateful to be English.
    Many thanks for following my blog, which is appreciated.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Beetley!

      Those were some GREAT pictures of Germans I was looking at. Finding them on my social media was a pleasant surprise. I look forward to more visits.

      With the coup plot in Germany coming to light and being disrupted, I’m afraid the whole world is in for an extended effort for the monied interests to try and take power away from democracy. Unfortunately, that’s going to get worse before it gets better.


      Liked by 2 people

  3. The US crossed the line into sanctioned political violence on January 6th 2021.
    It started with Trump’s Big Lie. Then, “You’re very special. We love you.”
    When the president isn’t convicted by impeachment for inciting and praising his insurrectionist mob after they terrorized Congress, threatened his own VP with hanging, and beat over 100 cops bloody, you have party-sanctioned political violence. It’s not up for debate. A political party that would not at the very least convict that person so he couldn’t hold office again essentially condoned it.
    When the same thug-praising fascist is also excused for stealing secret documents after losing the election, they have proven they are accomplices.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Howdy Dave!

      You make a very good case for the ways that the GOP is using Trump and violence to further their political ambitions and destroy our democracy. There is no doubt that the GOP is actively deliberately creating the conditions that promote violence in our country and that they hope to use it to scapegoat PoC and the LGBTQ+ community.

      We know this playbook.


      Liked by 1 person

  4. The most minimal definition of a government is that it is a group or set of institutions that has and maintains an effective monopoly on lethal violence within a defined territory or field of activity. That applies to functional democracies, warlords, feudal hierarchies, and dictatorships, even organized criminal enterprises (The Godfather decides who you may or must kill and whom you may not touch).

    A political party or movement that seeks to establish itself in authoritarian rule by (among other things) appealing to the urgent need for “Law and Order”, must first prove the need for more and more enforcement of its preferred rules by escalating the actual and perceived level of violence and disorder in the society. The normalization of personal and inter-group violence serves that purpose, while also allowing them to scapegoat marginalized groups and individuals as the perpetrators, thus justifying the violent response (Nobody other than perhaps a full blown sociopath sees their own violence as aggression, but as acts of desperation and self-defense.).

    If such a party or movement does gain the power it seeks, then it faces the problem of reigning in those private actors (even disarming them) or keeping them directed toward officially identified “enemies of the state and way of life”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      I had thought of that observation as I read through Kleinfeld’s interview. The state gives up its power when it gives up its monopoly on violence. That state falls into anarchy and disorganization. Interestingly enough, though, the rich continue to get richer and the poor, poorer in those places.

      I was struck today by the news article proclaiming that high profile trans performers have hired body guards and other forms of personal protection.

      It would seem that the right is going to do everything in its power to drag us into authoritarianism.


      Liked by 2 people

      • Loss of the monopoly on violence is one marker of a failed state. Another other major one is failure to deliver basic services, and the third is corruption. There is a fundamental bifurcation in the Republican Party coalition. On one side are the billionaire libertarians who, as long as they can afford private security, would largely do away with the state, especially its taxes and regulations. The other side is the theocrats who want control of the state to enforce their pursuit of purity. The major thing they have in common is opposition to liberal democracy. The oligarchs thrive (and can indulge in all manner of excess and corruption) in an authoritarian state as long as, individually, they don’t cross the great leader, even if the leader happens to be a preacher.

        Liked by 2 people

        • My goodness, by that metric then there are places in the US that are failed states. Louisiana might be the state that comes closest to qualifying, but the Texas Rio Grande Valley, Flint, Michigan, and several others could be added to the list.


          Liked by 1 person

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