Local right-wing media host, lobbyist, and failed candidate for Congress, Andy Caldwell, sunk to even lower lows on his radio show on Jan. 6, after far-right domestic terrorists goaded by President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol in an attempt to overthrow American democracy..
After our criminal president whipped up his MAGA mob to march on the Capitol to supposedly engage in a "peaceful protest," hundreds of his supporters—with well-known far-right extremists, including neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, white supremacists, and QAnon conspiracy theorists—pushed through and attacked Capitol Hill Police, disrupting the official count of the Electoral College votes that formally granted the presidency to its rightful winner, Joseph Biden, putting lawmakers into lockdown and evacuation mode.
What was plain to see to many of us who warned about the danger of Trump, his rhetoric, and his most extreme followers since 2016 was now clear as day to all Americans: that they posed a serious authoritarian and fascistic threat to our way of life, both in our constitutional republic's democratic process and the rule of law.
But if you live in the silo of the right-wing MAGAsphere like Caldwell, and believe Trump's big lie of election fraud, the best answer is yet another lie—antifa did it.
"I believe, and we've seen some pictures, antifa claimed they were going to infiltrate these protest rallies to raise a ruckus," Caldwell said. "And the Proud Boys said they were going to do the same, and they both said they were going to dress incognito."
This conspiracy theory, yet another paranoid and baseless claim to deflect from the extremism in America's far-right fostered by the Republican Party, was also floated by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (Florida) once the House resumed the process to formalize the election results. Anti-fascist organizers often called antifa, who are not formally bound only by the desire to resist fascist groups like the Proud Boys, was very much nowhere to be found in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. The Proud Boys, however, were there for the attack on the Capitol, along with neo-Nazi and white supremacist extremists who were brazen enough to livestream their ransacking of the halls of Congress.
I would also like to remind everyone that the Proud Boys, a far-right group dedicated to street violence in the name of Donald Trump, were asked by Trump to "stand back, and stand by" during the presidential debate. Now we know what he was referring to.
And believe it or not, Caldwell was sharing this baseless claim with the most unfortunate (for him) guest possible to book that day—Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff and proto-Trumpist figure known for his cruelty to inmates, especially immigrants from Mexico and South America, was found guilty of contempt of court for ignoring federal orders to stop arresting immigrants based solely on the suspicion of undocumented status. Trump, as we have seen him do with several of his criminal friends and supporters, pardoned Arpaio in 2017, all while mainstreaming the former sheriff's campaign of cruelty against immigrants and refugees.
"To what degree do you think [antifa] infiltrated this to just give Trump a bad name?" Caldwell asked.
Arpaio replied, "Well, that doesn't surprise me," and immediately spun the conversation to looting that happened during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer.
Caldwell and Arpaio continued to collectively blame the media, Democratic Party lawmakers, antifa, California, and "the left" in general for the ills in America, grasping at literally anything rather than face the incredibly unprecedented escalation of right-wing domestic terrorism that struck at the very heart of our nation on Jan. 6. Equivocating an attack on the U.S. Capitol with protest, and even going as far as blaming it on confabulated left-wing agitators, illustrates a deeply disturbing strain of American conservatism that is all too comfortable reaching for the fascists' playbook.
I know many Republicans are mortified by what happened in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 and have accepted the obvious truth of the integrity of the election and agree with the calls for Trump to be removed from office. As someone on the progressive left, I won't treat them as anything but fellow citizens and friends. But for those like Caldwell, who act as apologists for the anti-democracy and extremist strain on the right, I am comforted to see them so resoundingly defeated by the American people in the 2020 elections, after just one term of the man who is unequivocally the worst president in United States history. Δ