Congress is currently holding hearings to investigate the January 6th insurrection. Their stated aim is to seek the causes, determine what went wrong, and ultimately assign blame for this largest threat to Democracy since the Civil War.
In their investigations, there have been various groups that are being examined. Not surprisingly, the hearings are taking on a partisan approach as one side seeks to find out the facts as the other side attempts to use distraction and misinformation to muddy the proceedings.
It should come as no surprise that education plays a large role in the identities of those who took part in the insurrection. And it’s not just a lack of education that plays a role. It’s often the type of education that shaped the mindsets of the participants in the uprising.
“I love the poorly educated” was a comment made by then candidate Donald Trump following his primary victory in Nevada during the 2016 Presidential campaign. It was a nod to his base who scoffed at those he classified as “the elite”. It is just one of the attributes that connected those who took part in the January 6th insurrection. Yet many of those who participated were not poorly educated. Instead, it was their area of concentration or even their religious beliefs that led many to try to overthrow the government.
So, if you were to compartmentalize those who were involved in the insurrection you would have the poorly educated, authoritarians, technocrats and evangelicals. Each of these groups supported Trump for vastly different reasons, but they had a shared belief: They bought the Big Lie that there was a stolen election and had a goal of, for the very first time in our country’s history, preventing the peaceful transition of power.
The Poorly Educated
Those followers in this category are more than likely to do things “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Instead of researching a political claim, they will accept whatever is fed to them. No matter what facts are provided, they will stick to the party line and believe every distortion spread by the multiple conspiracy theory outlets.
When Trump made the comment about loving the poorly educated, he was attempting to portray himself as a common man. The poorly educated ignore that Trump purports to be a billionaire and that his wealth was made on the very backs of those he claims to be “one of”. Instead, the poorly educated, who are usually at the lower rungs of the economic ladder, swallow the assertion that it’s not the wealthy that are to blame, but the “hordes of illegal immigrants” who want nothing more than to steal the jobs of these primarily lower class workers.
Trump used this to create an “us versus them” rivalry that depicted the Democrats as evil, even satanic and who would do anything to win, even lie and cheat to achieve their means. History will show that this “win at any cost” mentality was the hallmark of the Trump campaign and the seed that led to the insurrection.
By convincing the poorly educated that their vote was somehow “stolen”, either by the shifty means of stuffing the ballot boxes or by having the aforementioned hordes of illegal immigrants vote, Trump channeled this into anger as he used his charged rhetoric to incite them to attack the Capitol in the mistaken belief that they could somehow overturn the election results by brute force, the same way so many third world countries have done.
Authoritarians are drawn to those they see as strong and charismatic. Once they have latched on to a person or ideal, their close-mindedness will refuse to permit them to deviate from their chosen path. They have an “you're either with us or against us” mentality similar to the “us versus them” thought process of the poorly educated. Many see the military as an alternative to college and are therefore less educated, but they often use their military experience as a way to enter law enforcement.
Members of law enforcement and the military are prone to authoritarian thinking. Having taken orders and dealt with a hierarchy throughout their careers, they are accustomed to following whatever a presumed strong leader desires, which is why so many coups are successful because of the military. So, having members of the military on his side was essential to Trump’s base.
Calls to defund the police arose after the murders of George Floyd and other African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement. The backlash from the Trump campaign used images of burning cities to depict what they predicted municipalities would look like under a Biden administration. What Trump's campaign failed to mention was that this destruction was taking place under his administration.
When Colin Kapernick and other pro sports players began taking to one knee during the National Anthem, it was to protest police brutality of minorities. Instead of supporting the players, Trump seized on the opportunity to twist the narrative and make it about showing disrespect for the flag. This had the dual purpose of attracting members of law enforcement as well as the military who viewed the act as being unpatriotic.
So, when it was uncovered that present and past members of the military and law enforcement took part in the insurrection, it came as no surprise. What did come as a shock was that some members of the Capitol police, who were supposed to be protecting members of Congress, actually took an active role in aiding the rioters.
The educational push towards science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as STEM is an initiative aimed at increasing American economic competition on the world stage. A 2010 study confirmed that Americans were falling behind in education. The goal of STEM is to increase participation in these areas to have a better chance of succeeding in the global marketplace.
The unforeseen side-effect of this approach was that it limited the role of critical thinking. Without a focus on the humanities, students were forced to become linear thinkers and not question what was presented to them. Without this critical thinking aspect, students were unable to formulate opinions, and were therefore susceptible to the whims of others.
Technocrats took to weaponizing social media, which was crucial to the spread of misinformation and the organization of the insurrection. Alt-right media outlets and ultra-conservative websites fully promoted “Stop the Steal” and “Unite the Right” through their websites and broadcasts, and were the primary groups that took part in the insurrection. They promoted the rally and incited their followers to use any means necessary to overturn the election results.
The most surprising, and arguably the most loyal, of the Trump supporters are the Evangelicals. Their educational experiences are ones of only accepting those who agree with their strict religious beliefs. They supported Trump going back to the birther lie that claimed President Obama wasn’t born in America and that he is secretly a Muslim who wanted to enact Sharia Law in direct contradiction to their so-called Christian beliefs. They held the beliefs that immigrants were ruining the country and that Trump would somehow create a national Christian religion.
Evangelicals were stunned by Trump’s election loss and truly believed there would be divine intervention to overturn the results. Because of this, they embraced the “Stop the Steal” lie and took part in the riots. Whether they took part in the actual violence that followed is unknown, but the fact they attended the rally and supported overturning the election is definitely not in line with their professed religious beliefs.
No doubt there is overlap in these groups. Technocrats could also be Authoritarians and Evangelicals could be among the poorly educated. Each of these groups, either together or as individual groups, took part in an illegal attempt to overthrow the government and destroyed one of the most cherished aspects of our democracy; the peaceful transition of power.
Meanwhile, as Congressional hearings took place to investigate the insurrection, Republicans took one last shot at deflecting blame by pushing the false claims that members of Black Lives Matter and Antifa were secretly instigating the violence on January 6th, an insurrection that will go down as one of the lowest points in our history.
The groups that attended the riots and took part in the attempt to violently overthrow the government will see their place on par with Benedict Arnold as traitors to democracy. The role their educational backgrounds played in their wanting to take part of this infamous event speaks volumes to the need for a better system of education, especially in the field of Civics and the role of government in the electoral process.