The invasion of our Capitol building on January 6th, 2021, and the accompanying disruption of the work of our duly elected members of Congress, was certainly an unprecedented and frightening addition to our American history books.
And yet, when added to the list of coup attempts that have taken place around the world throughout human history, this action seems a bit out of place.
Even if we are fortunate enough to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, that won't mean the end of Trumpism.
Many of the things that Trump came to stand for were around before his candidacy – and, in fact, helped him to get elected – and they won't simply vanish on their own. If we're foolish enough to think they will, then we're engaging in as much magical thinking as The Donald is when he claims that COVID-19 will simply disappear all by itself.
American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics. In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.