The enduring strength of political factors behind the Jan. 6 attack

Understanding the Connection Between American Identity, Martial Republicanism, and White Male Supremacy


When we think about the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, it’s easy to focus on the individuals who have been charged and convicted for their involvement. Over 1,100 people, predominantly white, employed men between the ages of 18 and 50, have faced legal consequences. What’s surprising is that many of these individuals saw themselves as patriots who were acting to protect democracy. This sentiment is not limited to those who participated in the insurrection. In fact, nearly half of Republicans viewed it as an act of patriotism according to a recent poll. But this feeling is deeply rooted in American identity and can be traced back to two core ideologies: martial republicanism and white male supremacy.

Martial Republicanism and White Male Supremacy

Martial republicanism is based on the belief that men, and only men, can become good citizens by serving their country in war and politics. This ideology is at the foundation of modern democracy, as many democratic countries recognize political participation and military service as the rights and obligations of citizenship. However, martial republicanism historically upheld white male supremacy, reserving the role of defending the nation and participating in political life exclusively for white men.

This belief in white male supremacy was ingrained in the United States’ institutions. For example, the Uniform Militia Act of 1792 mandated that white men serve in the state militia, and in some states, militia membership was a requirement for voting. Additionally, because state governments lacked the financial resources to fund defense, the law required men to own their own firearms and military supplies.

The Legacy of Martial Republicanism and White Male Supremacy

While the composition of the military has evolved over time, the ideology that valorizes guns and views government institutions with hostility has persisted. This ideology gained broader attention when the gun world merged with the Republican Party in the 1990s. Today, a significant portion of white Americans still believe that gun ownership is a sign of good citizenship, and many feel that they need guns to protect themselves from the government.

Political elites, including former President Donald Trump and Senator Joe Manchin, have reinforced the link between civilian gun ownership and political violence. Armed citizenship and violence are frequently alluded to in political ads, with candidates even appearing armed in campaign material. While proponents argue that these ads are metaphorical, research shows that violent language can incite actual violence, especially when it comes from trusted political leaders.

The Escalation of Threats and Violence

The wave of threats and violence in politics should come as no surprise. The institutional and cultural conditions that led to the January 6 insurrection have not diminished, but rather have become more permissive. Data shows that threats against Congress have nearly doubled in the past six years, affecting both Democrats and Republicans equally. If political elites and leaders fail to take these warnings seriously, there is a real danger of more violence in the upcoming 2024 election cycle.


The events of January 6, 2021, serve as a stark reminder of the deep-rooted ideologies that shape American identity. Understanding the connection between martial republicanism, white male supremacy, and the glorification of guns is crucial in addressing the ongoing threats of political violence. It is imperative that political leaders recognize their influence and responsibility in creating a safe and inclusive democratic society.

This article was written by Alexandra Filindra, an associate professor of political science and psychology at the University of Illinois Chicago, and it was produced for Progressive Perspectives.

Read More of this Story at – 2023-10-21 04:30:00

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