Editor’s Note: Middle East Memo will be off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day next week. It will return Jan. 25. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Middle East Memo by email every week.
When President Donald Trump’s radical supporters stormed the Capitol building last week, attacking police and rampaging through the halls of Congress, hunting for lawmakers, many American news networks were quick to make breathless comparisons to somewhere else. This wasn’t Washington, they intimated; it was more like a scene out of Baghdad, or Beirut. Van Jones, the former Obama administration official who is now a CNN talking head, even declared that “where we’re headed looks more like Syria than the United States of America.”
These comparisons to the Middle East all sounded like attempts to deny the political realities here in the U.S. after four years of Trump. The Capitol riot wasn’t a vision of another country; this was America, and a vision of it that has been coming through for a while now. As Candace Rondeaux wrote in her WPR column in June, following the teargassing of thousands of peaceful protesters outside the White House—all so Trump could walk through Lafayette Park for his infamous photo-op in front of a church—“he will always be a tweet or a Facebook post away from calling his most militant supporters out into the streets.” And if he lost in November, she warned ominously, “Trump’s extremist base is likely to come out in even bigger numbers,” since it was clear he wouldn’t ever concede or accept the outcome. Trump said so himself.