One of the unfortunate realities of the Republican assumption of control of the House in 2023 is that congressional committees’ power to investigate far-right terrorism and insurrection will functionally evaporate, because the GOP has zero interest in pursuing the matter. Rather the opposite: Republicans have demonstrated over the past two years at congressional hearings that they’re intent on turning them into clown shows, diverting attention away from the subject as a means to cover their own culpability, trotting out bogus witnesses like Candace Owens to waste everyone’s time with claims that Democrats are the real terrorists.
Congressman Jamie Raskin’s House Committee on Oversight and Reform gave it one last shot this week, though, with a final hearing on “Confronting White Supremacy.” True to form, Republicans offered as their only witness an activist from the Independent Women’s Network (IWN) who claimed that the truly grave threat to American democracy wasn’t white supremacy, it was “the Woke Army.” Republican congressmen, meanwhile, tried to claim that the white supremacist who shot up a Black neighborhood grocery store in Buffalo was actually a “leftist.”
The GOP’s witness, IWN’s Asra Nomani, titled her testimony, “Woke Army unleashes a new racism on kids” on Twitter. She opened by pooh-poohing the idea that white supremacy poses any kind of serious threat, claiming: “Every single person is opposed to the idea of white supremacy.”
No doubt this will come as a surprise to people like Donald Trump’s recent dinner guests, Nick Fuentes and Kanye West, not to mention all the white nationalists who rubbed shoulders with Donald Trump Jr. and Steve Bannon at that recent black-tie gala in New York—as well as the army of explicit neofascists who promote white supremacy under the banners of outfits like Patriot Front.
Nomani, who specializes recently in so-called “parental rights” (think “Don’t Say Gay”) activism continued: “But we cannot replace an old hierarchy of human value with a new hierarchy of human value that demonizes children,” holding up a children’s book she claimed made white children feel badly about being white.
“Why is this a threat to our democracy?” she asked rhetorically, holding up a pair of posters that had briefly appeared in a classroom display of student-created posters—and seemingly oblivious to those students’ own free-speech rights. “Because we then have posters like this one in the Los Angeles school district. What does it say? F America, with KKK replacing the C. Because the idea is that our nation has become a white supremacist nation, and that is not true. That is not the reality. And we can see exhibited here today this poster also, F the police.” She went on:
This is an ideology that I call the Woke Army. It is an ideology of activists who are going through America’s school districts and our communities. And what they are doing is a threat to democracy. What is the greatest threat that our children face today? It is the learning loss that has happened in our school districts.
Republican Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona—who remains deeply implicated in the Jan. 6 insurrection, particularly regarding his role in Donald Trump’s efforts to have “alternate” electors from key battleground send in bogus votes to the Electoral College—later tossed in his own dissent regarding the purpose of the hearing:
I wasn’t planning to do this, but since it’s been brought up, the Buffalo shooter—a heinous, evil being, absolutely there can be no excuse for it—but you know, we hear a lot about right-wing extremists, but this guy was an admitted socialist, who was thankful that the conservative movement was dead, he attacked Rupert Murdoch as a Christian Zionist, and he mentioned Ben Shapiro multiple times with rather pejorative terms because of his Jewish heritage. That’s evil. That guy is evil.
I raise that because I’m thinking, this was intoned today as well—the Pelosi attacking. Uh, David DePape. David DePape was a leftist himself, a radical leftist.
And the point is, there’s no exclusivity here. There’s evil in the world and we have to deal with that evil in the world. And it seems to me, statements like we heard in your written statement, Ms. McCord, actually provide inflammatory rhetoric that is dangerous as well.
Yes, in the MAGA alternative universe, it’s the people who call out the eliminationist rhetoric that targets vulnerable minorities—not the people who are wielding that rhetoric—who pose a real threat to the public.
Unfortunately for Biggs, DePape’s latest court hearing also occurred on Thursday, and it told a very different story: At one time, DePape was a generically left-leaning drifter, but in recent years had become a hardcore, red-pilled right-wing extremist. By the time he invaded the Pelosis’ San Francisco home and attacked the House speaker’s husband with a hammer, that had grown into a determination to act out on those beliefs violently: “They go from one crime to another crime to another crime to another crime,” DePape said in an interview played during the preliminary hearing, “and it’s just like the whole fucking four years until they were finally able to steal the election.”
DePape also told officials he planned to target California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Hunter Biden, and actor Tom Hanks: You know, your typical targets for a “left-wing radical.”
Republican Florida Congressman Byron Donalds chimed in to support Biggs’ similar up-is-down characterization of the Buffalo shooter:
Yeah, look, if you go back to the Buffalo shooter, which was awful, for all reasons considered. Did he cite replacement theory? Yes. Did he also cite socialist theories? He most definitely did. Did he target black people? A hundred percent he did. So if you combine all the issues with the Buffalo shooter, you have somebody who wanted to kill Black people—obviously that’s a white supremacist. But he also espoused ideas from the left wing of politics! Both things can occur at the same time! And they did in the Buffalo shooting.
And I think the thing that is the most frustrating in hearings like this is because the supposition from my colleagues is that if you are a white supremacist and at the same time you are on the right side of politics, the Buffalo shooter actually demonstrates that’s not true.
One of the other witnesses, Eric Ward of the Western States Center, explained carefully:
We should be clear that those targeted at the supermarket were targeted because they were Black. It was Black shoppers. Not all victims were Black, but the majority were. We should understand that the killer himself identified himself as an ethnonationalist, as an eco-fascist, and a national socialist, which is a reference to the Nazi party in Germany. When asked if folks could call him that, he said, in his own words, ‘I would not disagree with you.’ I think it’s important not to mislead in terms of the driving force of these killers, which was antisemitism. They were attacking a Black population because they saw African Americans as puppets of a Jewish cabal, of a Jewish conspiracy. And that’s why the killer acted in violence.
Raskin asked Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League, if he thought there were any indications that the Buffalo shooter was any kind of “leftist”: “The Buffalo shooter invoked the Great Replacement theory, engaged in other racist and antisemitic speech, he said he was inspired by the New Zealand mass murderer who killed more than 50 people and proclaimed his loyalty to antisemitism and racism and so on—if that person calls himself a national socialist, would you categorize him in your research on the left?” he asked.
Segal answered: “I think any sober look at the Buffalo shooter’s manifesto statements—and by the way, the symbols and names on his weapons: symbols of white supremacy, the names of white supremacist shooters before him—would recognize that as clearly a white-supremacist attack.”
Indeed, this was clear at the time of the attack, when the shooter’s manifesto made his right-wing orientation explicit: He was obsessed with nonwhite immigration, he despised liberals, and indeed explicitly stated that "fascism is one of the only political ideologies that will unite Whites against the replacers. Since that is what I seek, calling me a fascist would be accurate."
Raskin also inquired about Nomani’s “Woke Army” claims, asking Segal: “I just want to be clear about this, because we’ve been focused on violence today: Is there such a thing formally, literally, as a ‘Woke Army’ that has ever killed anyone in a synagogue like the Tree of Life synagogue, or a church like the Emmanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina, or a supermarket like the Tops supermarket, or a Wal-Mart? Does a ‘Woke Army’ exist as a violent threat to the American people?”
Segal readily answered: “I’m not aware of any Woke Army other than in a semantic argument type of way.”
Indeed, statistical studies of domestic terrorism and political violence have been unanimous on this point: Left-wing violence and terrorism, both in the United States and abroad, has been for decades relegated to a relative handful of incidents, while right-wing violence, in contrast, has been on a straight line rocketing upward in the past decade.
“I think the data suggests that we should be taking right wing domestic terrorism way more seriously than many have done,” University of Maryland criminal-justice professor Gary LaFree remarked about a recent study he conducted. “The ‘Fox News angle’ that antifa is just as dangerous as the Proud Boys just doesn't hold up right now.”
Well, that was an awesome way to finish out the 2022 election cycle! Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard revel in Raphael Warnock's runoff victory on this week's episode of The Downballot and take a deep dive into how it all came together. The Davids dig into the turnout shift between the first and second rounds of voting, what the demographic trends in the metro Atlanta area mean for Republicans, and why Democrats can trace their recent success in Georgia back to a race they lost: the famous Jon Ossoff special election in 2017.
We're also joined by one of our very favorite people, Daily Kos Elections alum Matt Booker, who shares his thoughts on the midterms and tells us about his work these days as a pollster. Matt explains some of the key ways in which private polling differs from public data; how the client surveys he was privy to did not foretell a red wave; and the mechanics of how researchers put together focus groups. Matt also reminisces about his time at "DKE University" and how his experience with us prepared him for the broader world of politics.