Today’s anniversary has dominated the liberal consciousness for the past year. It reflects a continuing crisis confronting our democracy that is frankly worse than most voices have been willing to accept.

The dominant narrative is that armed vigilantes stormed the Capitol last year, and that they represent the populist wing of a fascist insurgency that includes the institutional Republican Party molded by the last president. That much is true.

That conventional wisdom, however, overlooks many dimensions of bipartisan complicity in the rise of fascism. Democrats will claim that the threats to our democracy are partisan issues, and that they stand against the GOP as the defenders of our Republic. But believing that perspective requires ignoring the facts.

Can you help expand our efforts to correct myopic news coverage and inform the policy debate?

Police and security agencies took full advantage of the January 6 insurrection. The Capitol Police won a budget increase in the following weeks—with the support of Democrats—with only meager provisions for absent accountability. The agency retained its immunity from the Freedom of Information Act and failed to explain its dramatic failure to use its available resources when they were most needed.

My only personal experience with the Capitol Police came when officers arrested me at the behest of the late Senator John McCain after a 2015 Senate hearing. The witness at the hearing was then Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who had lied to Congress (as later proven by the Snowden revelations) in a previous hearing in 2013.

All I did was ask Clapper how he justified never facing a charge for perjury despite having admitted to lying under oath about a matter of grave constitutional importance, when Eric Garner had (at the time) recently been killed without charge or trial by NYPD officers on the suspicion of selling loose cigarettes.

I asked a powerful official to justify our systems of unequal justice, and his privilege within it. In retaliation for that act of journalism, I was put in handcuffs.

To be fair, my arrest was ordered by a Senate committee chair. That notwithstanding, there is no “security” agency for which I would approve a budget increase without provisions emphasizing accountability first.

Do you want a voice in Washington supporting the security industrial complex, or instead one with a 20 year history of exposing its corruption and securing enforceable limits on it around the country?

My 20-year career challenging the crimes of intelligence agencies long predated my congressional campaign, and holds vital relevance to the objects of continuing congressional ignorance.

It was through that work that I repeatedly witnessed how Democrats are part of the problem.

I’ve spent most of my career fighting the bipartisan surveillance state. It gained tremendous momentum under the Bush administration, before it was consolidated under Obama.

It doesn’t merely observe people, your communications, and your thoughts, but rather includes includes a pernicious secrecy reflected in the illegitimate prosecution of publishers responsible for exposing U.S. military crimes and coverups.

If Members of Congress wanted to do something helpful in response to the insurrection, they could have turned their sights on executive power, and the threat that it presents to our constitutional separation of powers. Focusing all their attention on vigilantes or militias mistakes the nature of the threat, waters it down, and presents a convenient—but ultimately, inaccurate—picture.

Would you rather have a voice in Congress who has seen the whole picture (and worked to reveal it to others) advocating for accountability, rather than the security theater of the past?

Today, you’ll hear plenty of voices whipping their audiences into a frenzy over lurid fears and alarms about crisis. But most of those voices will be downplaying the problem, pretending that the only agents of fascism are goon squads loyal to the GOP.

Many of us remember how Democrats have spent 20 years funding the goon squads from DHS that spent last summer suppressing dissent and assaulting non-violent dissidents in the streets of Portland, OR and Kenosha, WI.

Voices in Washington will wring their hands today over an anniversary that brought the crisis confronting our democracy to their doorsteps. But as an immigrant, I have a hard time taking their crocodile tears seriously, knowing that children remain in cages across the southern border in concentration camps that they funded without insisting on provisions to guard human rights.

If you share my concerns about fascism, keep your eye on the ball. And take with a grain of salt the fearmongering of voices who were surprised in 2020 by right wing threats exposed by FBI whistleblowers as early as 2005.

Between the unapologetic fascism of today’s GOP and the complicity of corporate Democrats who enable them, we have our work cut out for us! Our headwinds make me all the more grateful for your help.

 

Thanks for standing with us, and all the best to you & your loved ones in the new year!
Yours,

Shahid