Following the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, in the ordinary course of legislative business, one must ask the place of this event in history. To what does it give rise, where does it lead America, and what does it indicate for its citizenry?
One could argue that there is too much hostility within the American majority, too much dissension, for America to continue with a republican form of government, for the United States Constitution to remain. A democratic military relies upon patriotism and a caring respect for government. Its military is derived from the majority population. If the majority no longer believes in justice and freedom under the U.S. Constitution, the military will not possess the moral force to protect the government from threats both at home and abroad.
The storming of the American Capitol was a rebellion, a failed revolution. The cause cannot be deemed that of madness or irrationality. Rather, it must be acknowledged to be an expression of a competing ideology. For, regardless of the methodology of the acts of violence against a government, such acts embody and express an ideology.
Consequently, diplomacy is required to reach agreement and compromise, to heal a country and the world. Denial of the existence of the beliefs and positions of the rebelling entity begets further uprisings and intermittent rebellion. An inclusive truce is necessary. Moreover, in the world’s history, uprisings, rebellions and revolutions, including the American Revolution, have long been subjected to the ad hominem of madness and irrationality, without their being evidence of proof other than reference to acts embodying a competing ideology.
Why Did the Attempted Revolution Occur?
Throughout the world’s existence, history’s development and progress has exhibited great hardship and horror. The storming of the American Capitol could be an example of the development of the world by means of such hardship and horror. Many deem this to be development through the reason and spirit in history, the Hegelian dialectic. According to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, in the world there is the existence of the status quo; the critique or destruction of the status quo; and then the collective synthesis of a new, positive result in history. One would attribute to this phenomenon, the slow but developing and evolving state of human progress.
In some sense, Hegel deemed this the actualization of the known and preexisting universe and cosmos by the spirit of history. Yet, those living in each intermittent era of unknowing naivete ask why the negative, destructive critique of the status quo is necessary to evolve and develop, regardless of the result produced. Does it have to do with human nature and the mind of man? Does reasoned critique possess limits necessitating a reliance upon negative destruction? If a destructive negation is not necessary, perhaps society should strive to divert destructive animosity toward reasoned discussion.
In the thought of Hegel, we ask what is the positive result of the negative undoing and destruction of the U.S. Capitol. Does the storming indicate that, in addition to criminal penalties, some form of political reform will or should result? Could the rebellion give rise to either the creation of third and or fourth political parties, or a parliamentary form of government?
If third parties are cultivated, ideology through rebellion could express itself lawfully in the form of party platforms and representatives in elected office. If transition into a parliamentarian form of government, the United States would no longer rely upon a separately elected executive with a greater concentration of power in the form of a right of veto over the legislative body. Parliamentary government would require a significant reform of American government. Yet, rebellion and attempted revolution are significant acts.
There must be a humane and positive response by government and society to the rebellion, regardless of what one believes to be its cause. Rebels seek an answer to their demands. They seek their definition of justice. We cannot loft above them an ideal, utopian definition of justice which has been long deemed beyond reach by the world’s greatest elected officials, academics and philosophers. We must seek and strive toward a viable definition of justice: the right of all people to political participation through peaceful expression.
If America abided the principles and text of the Constitution, specifically, and rule of law, generally, differences and disagreements would be settled in the context of traditional political debate and law making. The United States must maintain the quality of its existence as a representative democracy governed by a natural aristocracy. It must act according to law and include the concerns and needs of all within the course of day-to-day debate. Ignoring any segment of the public results in an emotional response such as rebellion. Providing justice to all will avoid such in the future.
America should not attempt to avoid Hegelian peaceful critiques of the status quo, for debate and critique are the basis of the American political system. But, Americans must channel critique within structural modes of expression. From the ordinary member of the public to those occupying the highest office in the land, political participation and the ability to self-govern combine to avoid the recent cathartic event witnessed in the storming of the American Capitol. For, no rebellion or revolt takes form in short order. No one person could be responsible for persuading so many to act against their country. Revolt and rebellion result from a long felt disheartening of many people with their country. The only remedy is to provide a sense of enfranchisement and receptive, meritocratic government.
As J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur stated: from soil values grow. American democracy is premised upon the dignity of the individual and respect for all. A storming of the bastion of the people’s government indicates that an overwhelming number of citizens require that government be restructured to meet their needs. The United States needs to bring democracy closer to the soil of America.
Third Parties May Be an Answer to America’s Current Debate
Third parties are often factions that leave major parties over certain issues. America must discern the grievances possessed by America’s rebels. They ostensibly are supporters of former President Donald Trump. However, such violence coalesces and surrounds more than one person. It evolves over time and involves a plentitude of issues. The Capitol revolt was not the temperance party, the women’s suffrage movement or Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose party. These ideological expressions were serious and longstanding. Yet, they did not reach the level of violence as the recent storming of the American Capitol. Consequently, the deep seated, violence inducing concerns and grievances of the Capitol rebels rely on more than what might be offered by one person. For, in expressing their grievances, they sought to destroy the very government former President Trump represents.
Permanent realignment of the two major political parties in America into third parties may require some phenomenon such as a rebellion or near revolution. Broad based, grassroot rebellion expressed in the form of movements such as the Capitol rebels could coalesce to form a third party. Some of the rebels could be akin and ideologically similar to the Libertarian party which acknowledges an expression of faction and inter-party strife within the two major parties in America, with the Libertarian party combining fundamental American ideals with conservative economics.
Despite the dramatic events of January 6th, would the Capitol rebels fail as a third party as have most others in American history? The two major parties in America could adopt the ideological grievances and positions of the Capitol rebels and thus lessen any incentive to form new parties. Yet, the Capitol rebels may be so long underrepresented in politics and government that they cannot avail themselves of traditional forms of political participation that a political party offers. Perhaps, for the sake of democracy and diplomacy, citizens who agree and are sympathetic with the positions of the Capitol rebels should lead a new party to which the rebels could belong. This would transcend typical obstacles to formation of a third party such as inadequate financial resources and local and state support. And, a greater increase in popular participation in politics would benefit the emergence of a new party.
The Capitol Rebels Are Due the Benefits of Political Association
Regardless of punitive sanction, the civil self-government of the Capitol rebels should be cultivated. Political parties provide an opportunity for self-expression and civil debate in pursuit of principles and public policy goals. Parties provide a didactic function in educating their members in the art of civics and government. Most importantly, parties foster trust among members by encouraging members to self-govern in a trustworthy manner. Political parties permit representation in a republican form of government. Political parties diffuse the tyrannous majority. This is the guidance the Capitol rebels need.
Political parties embrace general philosophies and thus permit inclusion of as many people as possible. As a result, over time America has evolved into a two-party system. The party of traditional moral values and business interests is the Republican, and the party supporting working class labor and minorities is the Democratic. To transcend this duopoly, third parties must draft a broad-based philosophy that is not a single-issue attraction. In what way do the two major parties not offer ideals, principles and ideology appealing to the Capitol rebels so that a third party would not be a viable alternative?
Is the American experiment in democracy more democratic, more fair and more just with two, adverse political parties willing to expand and be more inclusive? To return to sound and civil government, America must enumerate the possible philosophical bases for third parties, including the Capitol rebels.
In what way do the Capitol rebels represent diversity within the United States? Are they urban and rural, of higher education and not? What are their unifying principles and concerns? In what way did the ideology of Donald Trump find expression in the rebellion of January 6th? Could the Capitol rebels support the theories of meritocracy and natural aristocracy upon which the United States is founded? Promoting a third-party expression of fascist rebellion could be avoided in a free democracy. Listening to and incorporating itinerant concerns into the political structure would be preferable to forcing violent forms of expression. Third parties possess grievances often expressed through violence when the subject of structural exclusion.
Supporters of former President Donald Trump indicate that they are considering forming a third “Patriot Party.” This demonstrates the perceived need for structuring the public support he possesses into a viable form of expression. Whether one considers Donald Trump to be a “cult of personality” leader or not, he cannot utilize his support unless it assumes effective form. Also, he must create a generational legacy amassed around his positions, opinions and ideology that transcends his being deemed a mere one election figurehead.
Perhaps, the Capitol rebels will create a fourth party. Another grassroots movement may become as entrenched and as well-known as the Patriot Party. Would such a fourth party readily follow on the coattails of the Patriot Party if it quickly announced its existence?
Former President Donald Trump holds grassroot Republican support and must maintain its trust. He must do so by cultivating civil participation. A rebellion or attempted coup is an indication that the cultural voluntary servitudes of entertainment and athletics are no longer an effective panacea. They are enjoyed but do not support or supplant reasoned self-government. Rebellion indicates the cry for a remedy, and the rebels themselves have no answer. Exchanging attributions and projections of blame by governing officials will only result in continued public negativity. People must be encouraged from a grassroots level to engage in traditional political participation.
Representative Democracy Is the Answer
As a republican form of government in the modern era, America is a great, expansive experiment. In merely three hundred years, it has demonstrated a slow but effective development toward justice, fairness, equality and inclusion. A small yet painfully effective rebellion cannot undermine three hundred years of history. Rather, violent uprisings indicate a need for even further progressive democracy.
A democracy must be premised upon trust held by the people in each other, among themselves as they engage in self-government, as well as trust evoked by the government between it and its citizenry. A political party must similarly remain true to its principles and party platform. Promises unkept are hypocrisy. In the recent era of duopoly, no competition exists between the parties. They each have turf dominated by party leadership and no incentive to honor promises made each election. As a result, elections flip flop with exchanges in elected figureheads with no real change in power possessed.
As a result, the U.S. Capitol was stormed by the partyless and unrepresented. They are ostensibly amassed by and the adherents of Donald Trump. But, do they know anything more than that he sought their support. What specifically do they stand for given that they sought to destroy the government they sought for him to lead? The only answer for the rebels is their participation in the American government in some structured form. And, this means participation in the form of a political party, one currently existing or a new, third party. Or, do they remain American citizens who feel that they will always be outside the bounds of government, always unrepresented.
Lori Gayle Nuckolls