Following an attempt at a far-right insurrection and coup in the capitol today, president-elect Joe Biden, while finding their “assault” on the “citadel of liberty” unprecedented, was quick to downplay the political significance of the actors involved, saying that the attackers “do not reflect a true America” and were “only a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness.” But among those extremists are significant political actors and elected officials in the state of West Virginia.
Derrick Evans, a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, recorded himself in a since-deleted video storming the capitol. Evans now claims he was only there to document the historical event and that he did not damage any businesses or harm any cops. His rhetoric is part of a significant trend trying to differentiate recent pro-Trump actions from right-wing racist condemnations of Black Lives Matter protests, which were primarily peaceful.
Another Republican member of the House of Delegates in West Virginia, accused sexual abuser, verified racist, and homophobic hot dog peddler John Mandt, supported Evans in his efforts, sporting the hashtag “PatriotsRiseUp” and remarked he wished he could have been there.
Of course, openly bigoted politicians is not exclusively a West Virginia problem. A member of the United States Congress, Mary Miller from Illinois, quoted Hitler in her speech in Washington, D.C. And Donald Trump’s role in supporting violent spasms of white supremacy can go without saying – by now it’s clear that this is a given.
However, granted in a recent poll that nearly half of Republicans support the breaking into the capitol and West Virginia has consistently been a Trump stronghold with nearly 70% of the popular vote in 2016 and even more votes in 2020, it would be disingenuous to assume the support for a right-wing coup is exclusive to two elected officials in West Virginia.
Caravans of racists traveled from West Virginia to run amok in the streets with their racist friends from around the country – and all during a pandemic at its height. Local media has been quick to give a platform to the moderate insurrectionaries by providing a platform for the personal testimonies of right-wing rioters who support the president despite his failed campaign but are supposedly hesitant to support property destruction. These people should be censured and censored, not given a platform to spread their toxic beliefs and dangerous lies.
In Biden’s imagination and in the imaginations of certain liberals, the actions yesterday were an exception, a fluke, the acts of a few bad apples. But a “true America” exists that is represented by these scumbag politicians and far-right agitators.
Whether it is Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence or Derrick Evans or a far-right terrorist standing at that podium, it’s still a podium of white supremacy. Whether it’s West Virginia Delegates or United States Senators or Qrackpots walking on the chamber floor, it’s still a chamber of white supremacy. No flowery talk about a “citadel of liberty” will change that. There’s no erasing the scourge of openly racist, openly misogynistic, openly homophobic politicians who occupy West Virginia’s legislature slate. Today was not an exception to the American dream, but the reality of the American nightmare – an open and naked demonstration of the terrors of settler colonialism that occupy every level of society, including state and federal governments.