During his inaugural address in January 1981, President Reagan marveled that the nation had sustained peaceful government transitions for the previous two centuries. His speech acknowledged families’ economic pain and confidently identified the problem as “big government with too much power that was working for an elite few, not ordinary hardworking people.” To correct this, he said, more taxpayer dollars should be returned to the people. He became an icon for the anti-government movement.
Forty years later, as Congress prepared to certify President Biden’s election, a mob ransacked the Capitol because they disagreed with the election outcome. They professed belief in what’s been dubbed the Big Lie — a conspiracy theory that claims fraud deprived former President Trump of a second term. Notably, the alleged fraud occurred in large cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Phoenix where Black and brown voters helped deliver Biden’s win. That the rioters and their allies continue their rhetorical assault on our nation’s institutions is an outgrowth of the anti-government movement’s narrow, exclusionary vision of the nation’s democracy.