Containing the Far Right Means Explaining Why a Democratic, Nonviolent Society is BetterHistorians in the News
tags: far right, political violence, domestic terrorism
Consider the events of this month alone: Members of a militia in Michigan were convicted of a plot to kidnap the state’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer. We’ve seen numerous threats and attempts at violent attacks against the FBI. And the Internal Revenue Service launched a new security review in response to threats of violence toward its workforce.
There is an unsettling historical fact associated with the IRS’s security review: It is the first time the agency has seen the need for this since far-right domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh bombed a government building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.
In eerie ways, a good deal of this echoes the 1990s. And as luck would have it, Nicole Hemmer, a historian of the American right wing, is set to release “Partisans,” a new book on the 1990s that traces many pathologies in our current politics back to that decade.
So I reached out to Hemmer to discuss the parallels between then and now. An edited and condensed version of our exchange follows.
Greg Sargent: The IRS announced their first security review since the Oklahoma City bombing. Militia members were just convicted for a plot to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan. Threats against federal agents are rising.
I’m having bad flashbacks to the 1990s. Are you?
Nicole Hemmer: I am having those same flashbacks. The 1990s are a decade when militia activism in the United States and far-right violence were surging.
Sargent: Can we attempt a taxonomy of today’s right wing? How do you define the different components?
Hemmer: You have a violent far right that believes the government is fully illegitimate, and that violence is the proper response to any kind of government action or presence: The Oregon wildlife refuge occupation, the attempts to kidnap Whitmer.
You have groups like Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, who are violent but also have clear political goals. And then you have a more mainstream right-wing political movement that has become more and more attracted to violence in recent years. Like Marjorie Taylor Greene. But also Donald Trump himself.