To the strains of the J6 prison choir, former President Donald Trump stood ramrod straight on the stage as he lifted his right arm in salute. It was his first campaign rally of the 2024 election cycle, held near the location of a special event in right-wing lore, although the former president and his campaign deny it was chosen for this reason.
Mr. Trump delivered a rambling monologue to a gathering of his devoted followers in Waco, Texas, amid the 30th anniversary of the siege by federal authorities of the Branch Davidian compound, a 51-day standoff that ended on April 19, 1993. By glorifying the Jan. 6, 2021, rioters near a place remembered for a violent confrontation with federal law enforcement, Mr. Trump may have sent a signal to far-right groups whose visibility dramatically grew during his presidency.
In this episode of History As It Happens, Vanderbilt University historian Nicole Hemmer discusses the significance of right-wing militias, white supremacist groups, sovereign citizens and other anti-government factions whose origins date to the 1970s, mostly from the Mountain West and Pacific Northwest. In her view, Mr. Trump is drawing a direct line from Waco to Jan. 6 as a campaign motif. Mr. Trump ended his presidency by embracing political violence to attempt to overthrow the 2020 election.
“Waco serves among these groups as a touchstone, as an excuse for using armed resistance to the federal government, along with Ruby Ridge which happened the year before,” Ms. Hemmer said. “For the far right, those moments were evidence that the federal government was coming to get you. Timothy McVeigh went to Waco during the siege to serve as witness to the events and two years later he timed the bombing at Oklahoma City to coincide with the second anniversary of Waco.”
Ms. Hemmer contends that Mr. Trump has not paid a heavy political price for his flirtation with far-right mythology and incitement of political violence because, according to the latest polling, he leads the potential Republican field for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination. Listen to the full conversation by downloading this episode of History As It Happens.
SEE ALSO: War on government: ‘Sovereign citizens’ bring surge of violence
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