It’s been two years since a surge of far-right and Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol in effort to stop the certification of the 2020 election of President Joe Biden. Seven people died—including four responding police officers who died by suicide in the following weeks and months. The Capitol had never been invaded in an attempted coup carried out by its own citizens.
The Jan. 6 Committee has ended its hearings and released its final report on the insurrection two weeks ago, ultimately recommending the DOJ charge former President Donald Trump for his role in the riot. It’s unclear if the DOJ will follow the committee’s recommendations, as they’re not legally required to do so.
Religion professor Dan Miller says the political and social ideologies of the people who stormed the capitol are still at play among American conservatives.
Miller is an author, former minister, a co-host of the Straight White American Jesus podcast and an associate professor of religion and social thought and Chair of the Department of Liberal Studies at Landmark College in Vermont.
Reckon spoke with Miller about what he’s learned since Jan. 6, 2021, and shared his thoughts on what aspects of White Christian Nationalism will still be prevalent issues in the 2024 presidential election.
Reckon: It’s been two years since the insurrection, what are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned in your study of the events of that day and the actors behind it?
Miller: I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is how mainstream Christian nationalism is in the contemporary GOP and conservative political movements. Second, Trumpism as we want to call it isn’t going away if Trump goes away. Third, especially with the release of information that’s been coming out about that is that there doesn’t seem to be much ambiguity about the aims and intent of a lot of the actors on that day. The Secret Service already had information about safety before Jan. 6, and I think it really takes away the credibility of those who want to say that this was simply a spontaneous event that nobody could have foreseen.
Reckon: What have we learned from the Jan. 6 Committee and their actions in response to their investigation of the events?
Miller: The Jan. 6 Committee’s recommendation for charges to the DOJ I think is significant, and I think it goes beyond political posturing. It’s probably not going to affect what the DOJ does. They’re already doing their investigation. It’s worth noting that we have a president who was impeached twice and now has had charges referred to the Department of Justice by the Congress. That’s significant.
Even on the day of, Trump staffers were saying they are unemployable because of this. There was a real-time awareness of how significant this event was, and I think that that has really been bolstered by the committee’s report.
There was lots of credible evidence that they were planning this. If this was a crowd of leftists, Black Lives Matter or antifa marching to the Capitol to protest, I think that the police presence would have been higher. I really do think that there is still a normalization of angry white men in this country that is not taken as a threat.
Reckon: We know many Trump-backed candidates lost in the midterms. What can you say about Trump’s Christian nationalist movement today and in the near future? What can we expect in the 2024 presidential election, especially since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is getting the attention of the GOP?
Miller: DeSantis has doubled down on all the Trump policies and has even gone further. He’s targeting migrants, targeting trans people, and going after school boards. These are all things that really intensify and go even beyond what the Trump administration did. DeSantis is an extension and intensification of Trumpism in many ways. He’s a really savvy politician and wildly popular with the GOP, so I think he stands a good chance of being the GOP nominee.
How is [a potential DeSantis nomination] going to play with moderates, undecided voters, suburban women and other key demographics? I don’t know for sure.
On the Democratic side, I honestly have no idea what will happen. if Biden chooses to run. I don’t think that anybody is going to oppose him. If he doesn’t, I’m curious to see what would happen. Will you get a Gretchen Whitmer or somebody who steps forward? Will you have Kamala Harris?
Reckon: How are the spiritual leaders who supported Trump and the Jan. 6 insurrection gearing up for 2024?
Miller: I think a lot of them have been strategically kind of quiet. I’m not seeing the full-throated religious endorsements that we once were of Trump. Within much of mainstream conservative Christianity, there’s the belief that God can use whatever mechanism God wants to bring about good Christian America as they envision it. That’s an incredibly fluid narrative that anybody can step into.
I think the religious right is going to support whomever they think will give the GOP the reins of power. And the more that that person caters to them, the more they will support him. The rationale for that support will come. I think the rhetorical strategies have been developed, and I think that they worked for them and did tremendous things for them. I think they’ll stay with those strategies. I don’t know that Trump will be the figure that they’re attached to.
Reckon: Jan. 6 was a terrifying day for public officials and staffers working in the Capitol. There have been other violent attacks, including the attack of Paul Pelosi and harassment of supreme court justices. How has the government addressed the security of people working for it?
Miller: don’t know concretely what they’ve done a know of with regard to say, Pelosi, his husband, you know, there have been talks about increasing the security for, you know, family and members of Congress. The same thing has happened with protesters at Supreme Court justices homes and migrants being dropped off at Kamala Harris’ house. I don’t know concretely like what’s changed and we probably don’t, that’s probably not the kind of thing they want to advertise that.
It seems to me that the security failings on Jan. 6 weren’t about muscles so to speak. It was about where and when to deploy it and based on what and who makes that call.
Reckon: What does the public need to know about Jan. 6 two years later?
Miller: I think that the significance of it isn’t going away. It’s two years later and it’s right in front of us still, all the time. That the forces that were unleashed that day are still present.
Reckon: What needs to happen so another insurrection doesn’t happen again?
As tiresome as it may be, we need to keep telling the story to keep it in front of people. We live in the world of the 24-hour news cycle and it’s hard to keep something in the public eye.
I think we also have to break the narrative that everything is symmetrical. I think often among media outlets and some analysts, there’s a desire to not appear to be partisan or to be partial in one’s coverage. This leads to an overcorrection to try to create political symmetries that aren’t there.
Is there a radical left in America? There is. Are there violent leftist groups in America? Yes, there are. Are they anywhere on the scale or with the critical mass of what we see on the American right at present? Absolutely not. I can’t think of anything on the political left that is the equivalent of, for example, the proud boys in terms of political impact. The proud boys tried to overturn an election.
For further reckoning with Jan. 6, 2021: