We're just over one month out from former President Donald Trump inciting a violent insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol, and we're still only beginning to understand the full extent of the damage wrought by the MAGA movement's effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
There's the immediate effect, of course: the death and destruction and political consequences to be faced (or not) by those responsible for the events of Jan. 6. And then there are the longer, more subtle ways the insurrection — and the broader environment that allowed the bigotry, proto-fascism, and ultra-nationalism therein to take root — has warped the American political landscape.
Take, for instance, the most overt eruption of political violence in the United States in decades — one that enjoys an astonishing amount of support from Republicans, who see the use of force as a legitimate means "to arrest the decline of the traditional American way of life." While a new study from the conservative American Enterprise Institute's Survey Center on American Life found that only 36% of the general public agrees with the statement "the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it" that number leapt to 55% among Republicans — a sign of just how prevalent the undercurrent of violence is in certain segments of the country.
Affirming that trend is a separate question asked in the poll, which shows nearly 40% of Republicans — a minority, but a sizable one — also agreed that "if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves even if it requires taking violent actions." Only 17% of Democrats joined them.
"I think any time you have a significant number of the public saying use of force can be justified in our political system, that's pretty scary," Survey Center on American Life Director Daniel Cox told NPR. But, Cox cautioned, his organization's findings — conducted in the final days of January among more than 2,000 adults living in all 50 states — should be read less as a predictive forecast and more as a broad sampling of attitudes and opinions.
"If I believe something, I may act on it, and I may not. We shouldn't run out and say, 'Oh, my goodness, 40% of Republicans are going to attack the Capitol.'" he explained. "But under the right circumstances, if you have this worldview, then you are more inclined to act in a certain way if you are presented with that option."
Which isn't to say that the survey showed absolute divergence between America's left and right flanks. In a moment of rare — albeit fairly unsurprising — political unity, the study found that 69% of the public (66% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats) believe that American democracy is stacked in favor of the wealthy against the interests of the broader public.
Finally, something almost everyone can agree on!