A study of the insurrectionist rioters show that economic hardship did not drive them to be there, it was a fear of losing white privilege.
Why am I not surprised?
The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by a violent mob at the behest of former president Donald Trump was an act of political violence intended to alter the outcome of a legitimate democratic election. That much was always evident.
What we know 90 days later is that the insurrection was the result of a large, diffuse and new kind of protest movement congealing in the United States.
The Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST), working with court records, has analyzed the demographics and home county characteristics of the 377 Americans, from 250 counties in 44 states, arrested or charged in the Capitol attack.
Those involved are, by and large, older and more professional than right-wing protesters we have surveyed in the past. They typically have no ties to existing right-wing groups. But like earlier protesters, they are 95 percent White and 85 percent male, and many live near and among Biden supporters in blue and purple counties.
The charges have, so far, been generally in proportion to state and county populations as a whole. Only Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and Montana appear to have sent more protesters to D.C. suspected of crimes than their populations would suggest.
When compared with almost 2,900 other counties in the United States, our analysis of the 250 counties where those charged or arrested live reveals that the counties that had the greatest decline in White population had an 18 percent chance of sending an insurrectionist to D.C., while the counties that saw the least decline in the White population had only a 3 percent chance. This finding holds even when controlling for population size, distance to D.C., unemployment rate and urban/rural location. It also would occur by chance less than once in 1,000 times.
Put another way, the people alleged by authorities to have taken the law into their hands on Jan. 6 typically hail from places where non-White populations are growing fastest.
CPOST also conducted two independent surveys in February and March, including a National Opinion Research Council survey, to help understand the roots of this rage. One driver overwhelmingly stood out: fear of the “Great Replacement.” Great Replacement theory has achieved iconic status with white nationalists and holds that minorities are progressively replacing White populations due to mass immigration policies and low birthrates. Extensive social media exposure is the second-biggest driver of this view, our surveys found. Replacement theory might help explain why such a high percentage of the rioters hail from counties with fast-rising, non-White populations.
There are legitimate economic causes of unrest in the United States, but a fear of losing privilege seems to be driving the worst of the extremism.