We see this asymmetry in effect as the GOP does not get punished in the same way at the polls for insurgent activity or for governing on hard right policies (lack of economic and public health support being but one example) electorally in the manner that the left does. Right wing politicians and blocs have the luxury of attending to a narrower base, that can turnout less but still produce more in terms capturing state power at election time. This dynamic also allows the GOP to run on its more radical parts of its platform without having to later move to the “center” in the same way that the Democrats seem compelled to do. We can see that millions more voters turned out for the Dems this election than the GOP, but the Democrats lost or didn’t gain majorities in state and local races, and barely won the house and Senate.
Due to the asymmetry between the parties and larger political projects of right wing authoritarianism and conservative neoliberalism, the right has an advantage when it comes to winning elections due to voter suppression, the electoral college, the Senate, and gerrymandering. The willingness of its donor base to do explicit right wing ideological fundamentalist funding to political projects only intensifies such asymmetries. As we saw on the siege of the capital that asymmetry is there when police let protestors in and the lack of force shown to the protestors. The carceral state crackdown on the insurgent right has been far less severe than repression unleashed on the left.
Neoliberals in the Democratic Party, too, drive this asymmetric response, which is never as severe toward the right as to the left when it comes to law-breaking or even merely incivility. Relative impunity for elites occurs in general but especially the Republican political elite since the Dems rarely hold them accountable, choosing instead to “go high when they go low” and inevitably to “reach across the aisle” whenever conflicts arise. These are all factors that give the right its asymmetrical advantage, due to the anti-democratic governing institutions through which they are expressed, incentivizing rather than punishing the mainstream GOP’s embrace of the hard and insurgent right.
The Inside-Outside Strategy of Trump’s Far Right
Understanding this asymmetry helps to clarify another contested question, namely whether Trump and other Republican electeds are responsible for “incitement” of the far right in general and of the Capitol siege in particular. As figures like Vice President Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell publicly repudiate the insurgent right, just days before the presumptive end of Trump’s term, this shift has been celebrated on the left as a key bulwark against any credible fascist threat and highlighted as evidence of potential for a permanent split in the Republican Party, including by radical socialists like Mike Davis.
Instead, the move to distinguish respectable Republican rightists from militants acting outside the law should be understood as the cynical ploy it is, and one which cannot be understood separately from the 147 GOP members voting to overturn the election: a dog whistle in support of the attack, Trump, and right-wing insurrectionary politics.
To understand these two data points together, it’s important to grasp that the insurgent right and its brand of insurrection are still primarily “working within liberal institutions to achieve his reactionary, anti-democratic ends,” even as illiberalism is deployed to reinforce, consolidate and popularize the content of their politics and strategy. This is what makes them so dangerous.
The danger, in part, becomes apparent in a new social composition of public, insurgent far-right activity. Unlike the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, the siege of the Capitol was not made up primarily of official or open memes of far-right or white supremacist organizations, though undoubtedly some such affiliations are already beginning to emerge.
This action was rather populated by individuals more similar to the base of the Tea Party, largely a petit bourgeois and some upper-crust individuals, off-duty police, and military officers or elites. This grouping has over time moved from standard conservatism or apolitical apathy to a new willingness to take the law into their own hands out of rage at a political process which they view as corrupt or fraudulent precisely to the degree which it fails to reflect their positions and interests versus the larger consensus of capital. But even more importantly, for them, versus social groups they see as enemies: people of color, immigrants, leftists and protesters, cultural elites, queers and the like.
Policing the Party
The participation of and collusion with the siege by police is a crucial element indicating the underlying and still tight connection between insurgent right wing militants and the Republican mainstream. It’s important to remember that police and incarceration are in fact industries that create and sustain their own interests and with it its own electoral and political bases. Those bases and the unions that represent them have fervently supported Trump and police nationalism. The CPD police union president supported the capitol attack, and off duty police officers participated in the insurrection and there was lack of any meaningful condemnation by police unions, outside of requesting Trump to deescalate. The insurgent right isn’t a fringe of the GOP, it is of and for the mainstream of the GOP. A consequence of the insurgent right being of the GOP mainstream is the increase of right-wing violence under Trump and if the attack on the capital seems to be any indication it doesn’t appear to be dissipating.