(Jan. 14) When federal prosecutors on Jan. 13 indicted a right-wing leader for “seditious conspiracy” related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, they rightly focused attention on the key goal of both rioters and Trump-linked plotters: subversion of a presidential election.

One must rush to add the caveats that 1) many or even most rioters weren’t aiming at real insurrection and 2) there is still no evidence the rioters and the Trump team were in cahoots or that the Trumpsters planned the riot itself.

The new indictments are aimed at just 11 hotheaded defendants who, rather than merely being caught up in momentary passions, preplanned a violent assault.

These loons apparently think they are latter-day Sons of Liberty, but they come across in the indictment as just stupid SOBs.

It’s easy to make either too much or too little of the actions of these leaders of a group called the Oath Keepers. On one hand, its members seem to have delusions of grandeur and a collective fetish for paramilitary gear that they (thankfully) lacked the practical savvy to use effectively. To read their internal communications, as cited in the indictment, is to marvel at how harebrained their scheme was.

Oath Keepers leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, perhaps unintentionally, laid out the group’s plan amazingly concisely in one “hangout chat” post written on Christmas Day in 2020: “I think Congress will screw [President Donald Trump] over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the s*** out of them and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks is [sic] they don’t do the right thing. But I don’t think they will listen.”

As amateurish as the messages repeatedly appear, the intended result and plans for violence were deadly serious. The indictment said that beginning two days after the Nov. 3, 2020, election, Rhodes was telling his followers that “we aren’t getting through this without a civil war.”… [The full column is here.]


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