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How Americans can coexist after the deadly insurrection

In the aftermath of the attack at the Capitol many Americans continue to be distrustful of the election results despite it being free and fair, raising the question of where the U.S. goes from here as a country. Anne Applebaum, a staff writer at The Atlantic, joins Yamiche Alcindor to discuss.

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  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Now we take a deeper look at where we, as a country, go in the aftermath of the Capitol attack, And we look at where Americans go who are still distrustful of the 2020 election, despite it being free and fair.

    For that, I'm joined by Anne Applebaum. She's a staff writer at "The Atlantic."

    Thanks so much for being here, Anne.

    What more do we know about the people who stormed the Capitol? And how does that group fit into the larger group of people who supported President Trump?

  • Anne Applebaum:

    So, to be clear, all of the people who supported President Trump didn't support the storming of the Capitol, and certainly not all Republicans did, and not all conservatives did.

    But I think what we are talking about is a more defined group, the people who were there and the people who still say they support him, which, according to one poll that was done soon afterwards, is about 20 percent of the country.

    Even if it is 10 percent, even if that is an exaggeration, it's a very large number of people. And what is important about this group is, these are people who no longer accept the rules of American democracy. When they were attacking Congress, they weren't Republicans attacking Democrats. They were attacking the institution of Congress itself.

    They were trying to prevent it from — Congress from certifying the winner of the presidential election. So that means they are now a group of people who are de facto outside of politics. They're an anti-systemic group.

    You can call them seditionists. You can call them insurgents. But they are no longer part of the American political system.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    You call them seditionists, and you say they are no longer part of the American system.

    I wonder what role you think social media and the many ways that we communicate plays in this, as well as, how do we combat and how do we as a country combat disinformation using all of those different mediums?

  • Anne Applebaum:

    Social media accelerates and exaggerates trends that already exist.

    And, of course, one of the functions that it now has is that it now enables you or me or anyone or this group of people to live in a completely separate world from everyone else. So, you can live in a world where all the news you get and all the information that you see and all the things that your friends are sharing with you all confirm and repeat things that are according to your point of view.

    And that means you can now live, in effect, in an alternate reality. And we now have a percentage of the country who do live in an alternate reality, in which Trump won the election, and the election was stolen by Joe Biden. And we now have, as a country, a problem. What are we going to do about that group of people?

    Thinking about this, I actually came to a conclusion that is a little bit counterintuitive or surprising for a lot of Americans. One of the best tactics is to change the subject. Having all of us shout at one another about our existential differences all the time isn't going to solve the problem.

    But if we can find ways of working constructively together on something else, whether it is, locally, I don't know, building a road or bridge, or whether it's, nationally, setting up a real volunteer corps that will help distribute the vaccine, if you are talking about that kind of issue, then are you not talking about the existential issues that provoke violence.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    There are some, of course, that are going to hear you talking about changing the subject and are going to find that a bit hard to think about.

    You say that these seditionists, that January 6 was their 1776. So how do we as Americans coexist, especially when you think of 74 million people supporting President Trump?

  • Anne Applebaum:

    So, the instinct of the many millions who voted for Joe Biden is to say, why don't they try and adjust to us? Why don't — why don't their news stations send reporters to interview yoga instructors in Brooklyn and ask them why they voted for Joe Biden? Why don't they send people to interview Black women in Atlanta and ask them, why did they vote for Joe Biden?

    So, why don't they try to understand us? But if they don't try to understand us, they nevertheless, as I say, remain our problem. And so, therefore, we will have to find a way to reach out to them, a way to include them in some kind of conversation, even if only with the aim of avoiding further violence.

    You know, the feeling that they are excluded, that the state has been taken over by people who are alien to them, whose values are alien, that there is nothing they can do, that there is no path left to them except violence is the instinct that caused the insurrection at the Capitol on January the 6th.

    So, finding some path for people like that to feel part of a national conversation of any kind about anything is really important.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    A conversation that will surely keep going.

    Thank you so much, Anne Applebaum of "The Atlantic."

  • Anne Applebaum:

    Thank you very much.

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