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“We Are at a Precipice as a Nation”: Cornel West & Christina Greer on Jan. 6 Insurrection & More

StoryDecember 22, 2022
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We speak with Fordham University political science professor Christina Greer and theologian Cornel West about the January 6 committee’s recommendation that former President Donald Trump and his allies be criminally charged for their role in the insurrection and attempts to overturn the 2020 election. “Just because it’s unprecedented doesn’t mean that we can’t have prosecutions,” says Greer. She also responds to recent news reports that New York Congressmember-elect George Santos fabricated much of his political biography.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is expected to release its final report today, Three days after the committee unanimously voted to refer President Trump to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution for attempting to overturn the 2020 election, the first time anything like this has ever happened in U.S. history. On Wednesday, the committee released transcripts from more than 30 interviews conducted with people who aided Trump’s efforts, including conservative attorney John Eastman and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Many of Trump’s allies repeatedly invoked their Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.

To talk more about the House Judiciary January 6th committee, we are joined by two guests: still with us, Cornel West, philosopher, author, professor at Union Theological Seminary, and Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, host of the podcast FAQ NYC, host of the Blackest Questions podcast on TheGrio and author of Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.

Can you respond, Professor Greer, to what we know so far?

CHRISTINA GREER: Oh, Amy, you know, what we do know is that for the first time in U.S. history we’ve had a president that was so corrupt, that surrounded himself with people who aided and abetted his corruption, who also were corrupt, and we now have to try and pick up the pieces of what is this democratic republic and what democracy looks like going forward.

Just because it’s unprecedented doesn’t mean that we can’t have prosecutions. And I think because we’ve never seen something on this scale — you know, many Americans think that Richard Nixon was impeached. He actually resigned before his impeachment. And so, this is not a comparable scenario. This is someone who, while he was a sitting president, not only tried to overturn the results of free and fair elections — something we have never seen before — but also tried to enlist some of his allies at the highest levels of American government to assist him in those efforts. And what we still need to uncover is the number of Republican members of Congress who were willing to go along with it and assist him in those efforts of overturning a free and fair election.

And so we’re at a precipice, honestly, as to whether or not we can continue as a nation, since so many people don’t believe that Donald Trump did anything wrong, so many people wanted him to actually violently overturn the government, and we’ve got sitting members of Congress still in office today who refuse to recognize the severity of January 6th and how dangerous it has been, and continues to be, to the future of our democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Cornel West, we asked you to stay on for a number of reasons, but, among them, you were at the Unite the Right rally years before, in Charlottesville, Virginia. You were there when the white supremacists marched, ultimately the rally and riot that led to the death of an antiracist protester, Heather Heyer. Can you talk about what started then, under President Trump, and ended here, with the January 6th insurrection, and what we know so far, and what you feel should happen?

CORNEL WEST: Yeah, I think what we have, though, presently is the head spokesman of a vicious neofascist movement that has been caught. He’s been a gangster for a long time and should have been prosecuted a long time ago. But it has now a life of its own, very different than Nixon in the past, because he’s actually got millions of people behind him who live in his world of lies and illusions. And that’s why you’re getting a lot of talk about, “Well, if he goes to jail, you’re going have civil war. If he goes to jail, there’s going to be violent strife across the nation.” And there might be some truth to that, precisely because the neofascist movement is in place. It has a dynamic of its own. And at this point, it doesn’t even need Trump anymore, to tell you the truth. So that we’re in a very different situation.

This is why, when we talk about the threat to, you know, liberal bourgeois democracy, that’s very, very real. And I want to defend whatever democratic practices we have, even though they are so corrupted by big money and big military and imperial policy around the world. But we’re really in one of the most grim moments in the history of the American experiment, in the history of the American empire. So, I do think this is not just unprecedented because of the fact that a president has now been, in some sense, called — what would be the right word? — could possibly be on the way to jail. It depends on how courageous the Department of Justice actually is, and depends on how courageous the bureaucrats there in that department are willing to courageously pursue this. But it is a very, very unique moment.

And what I saw in Charlottesville was just a particular galvanizing of those neofascists. And there are slices of the movement. All the folk who follow Trump are not neofascists, but they’re conservative, and their base — and it’s motivated by one fundamental fact: They have a profound hatred of the professional managerial class that they see as the winners of corporate globalization. And they associate that with Black people, with Jews, with gay brothers, lesbian sisters, trans — and used to be Catholics, but I ran into David Duke down there, and he is now head of one of the Klan groups, so that’s American — upward mobility American style. They have a Catholic now running the Klan, when the Klan began by hating Catholics, Jews and Black folk. And we’re going to see more of that, as well. You’re going to see more Jewish folks supporting the neofascists. You’re going to see more Black folks supporting the neofascists. That’s where we are now.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask about a really odd twist that’s come up, and I wanted to ask Professor Greer, about the New York Republican newly elected to Congress who appears to have fabricated key parts of his education and employment history. That’s according to an investigation by The New York Times. Congressmember-elect George Santos lied when he told voters he worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. IRS says the animal rescue group that he claims to have led, called Friends of Pets United, did not file any records indicating its tax-exempt status or that it existed. The Times also found Santos faced criminal charges for check fraud in Brazil at a time when he claimed to be attending classes at Baruch College, which has no records for Santos — among many other issues. And it’s particularly significant given the very close breakdown of Republicans and Democrats in the House. The significance of all of this coming out right now, that people don’t have really any idea who this man is, but McCarthy not wanting to call him out because he’s running for House speaker and he’s afraid he will lose some on the right if he goes after a new congressmember?

CHRISTINA GREER: Absolutely, Amy. I mean, the lack of courage from the Republican Party, you know, never ceases to amaze me. But what’s really dangerous about this congressman-elect is that there seems to be nothing factual about his biography — I mean, all the way down to lying about his Jewish and Catholic heritage and his alleged grandparents being survivors of the Holocaust. Even the address that he’s listed on his filings, when they called that number, the woman who picked up had no knowledge of who this person was, and said he had never even lived there. So there’s nothing that’s truthful. I think the Democrats in New York, though, do need to have a —

AMY GOODMAN: And he was there, by the way, Professor Greer, on January 6th, one of the insurrectionists.

CHRISTINA GREER: Absolutely. Absolutely. But I think the Democratic Party obviously needs to do a serious introspective reshuffling, as well. You know, we can’t keep paying Washington, D.C., consultants to run campaigns, when we need some grassroots investigative reporting, obviously, as to this is a candidate who — this isn’t his first time running. So, these things are pretty obvious. I mean, we have technology. And I think the Democratic Party really needs to think about how they connect to voters, but also how they communicate a message when they’re running against someone who’s obviously such a corrupt candidate and was able to ring the alarm for Republican voters. And as Professor West has stated, you know, so many members of the Republican Party — not all, but so many members — are either part of the fascist agenda or they’re willing to go along with it. And that’s just as dangerous.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us. Of course, we’re going to really take a look at the report that is supposed to come out today — it was supposed to come out yesterday, not clear why it didn’t. Professor Christina Greer, professor at Fordham University, and Cornel West, professor at Union Theological Seminary, thanks so much for joining us.

That does it for today’s show. Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Mary Conlon. Our executive director, Julie Crosby. Special thanks to our director, Becca Staley, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, Denis Moynihan, David Prude and Dennis McCormick. To see transcripts and the podcast, video and audio, of all our shows, you can go to democracynow.org, and sign up for our newsletter right there. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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