|Ex-presidents react to capitol riot (without acknowledging their historical role)|
What happened at our nation's capitol on January 6th shocked and disgusted the world. There can be no question that it resulted directly from Trump's baseless claims of election fraud as well as months of associated conspiracy peddling on the alt-right in the form of QAnon's rambling about child trafficking, Pizzagate and more. Many Republican congressmen and Senators also went along with the #StoptheSteal rhetoric until it was clearly a threat to their careers and must be held accountable.
However, in our rush to condemn these obvious targets (which are absolutely worthy of condemnation), we risk missing the bigger picture--everything that lead to "President Trump" in the first place. If you're like me, you'll be surprised to learn that some of the most infamous insurrectionists at the capitol were originally Obama supporters with relatively moderate or liberal views. Over time they spiraled into a world of conspiracy, paranoia & misplaced rage that ultimately ended in their premature deaths. But why? As someone interested in psychology, I think it would be a deadly mistake to ignore the social and psychological factors behind these dramatic transformations. Primarily because there are sure to be many more like them out there who followed a similar path and didn't die.
This isn't about drumming up sympathy for the insurrectionists or making excuses for their boorish, dangerous behavior. It's about understanding a movement so it doesn't escalate into something even worse.
First we have Ashli Babbitt who was shot on site by capitol police while climbing through a door to the Speaker's Lobby--the only rioter to be shot that day. Babbitt was a 35-year-old Air Force veteran from San Diego. According to her own Twitter posts she voted for Obama and supported him openly, stating that he "did great things...at a time where we needed him," though she couldn't bring herself to vote for Clinton after 8 years of Obama. So she went down the all-too-familiar dark path of Trumpism, which lead to libertarianism and then full-on QAnon delusion by 2019. Her last tweet was sent on January 5th, 2021 and referred to "the storm" descending upon the capitol, stating that "nothing can stop us". Awkward.
|Excerpt from Ashli Babbitt's Twitter page|
Then there's Kevin Greeson who died of a heart attack preceded by a history of hypertension and triggered by too much "excitement" (though internet rumors claim he tasered himself in the testicles). According to ProPublica, Greeson began his journey as vice president of his North Alabama union and an Obama supporter who eventually switched to team Trump due to Trump's more "business-minded" personality and claims of economic improvement. As factories closed in his area and jobs moved overseas, support for the Democratic party fell away among his peers. Greeson worked at a Goodyear plant in Alabama for over 20 years and was not the only worker frustrated with the state of things--others in his vicinity took part in the insurrection as well. All voiced support for Trump and anger at the state of the local economy after the Obama administration.
Obama's Broken Promises
So why does this matter? The spiral of these two Trump "martyrs" represents the dashed dreams of millions who voted for Obama's "Hope" and "Change" in 2008 and 2012 only to receive a giant helping of elitist neoliberalism in disguise. I could list all of Obama's betrayals but here are a few that really stick out:
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