“White riot, I wanna riot. White riot, of my own” so sang The Clash back in 1977. That could have served as the anthem of the motley Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol, seat of American democracy, on Wednesday. The lyric expresses the demented rage of the angry white men, spurred on by Donald Trump into their own copycat race riot.

Commentators insisted it was a “coup”, but if so it was a very post-modern one – more Monty Python than Mussolini. Where were the tanks? Coup d’etat, as the term implies, typically involves an organised seizure of the organs of state power by a military junta. But there was no attempt here to close down CNN and replace it with martial music, still less to suspend the constitution and rule by military decree.

Instead, we had lots of white guys with names like Baked Alaska dressed in daft costumes. QAnon’s “Shaman”, Jake Angeli, paraded his viking horns. Others wore Davy Crockett suits and Boston Tea Party tat. It was like a fancy dress party with guns. The astonishing thing is that so few people died. The first casualty was one of the protesters, Ashli Babbitt, a US Air Force veteran, who was shot by police. A member of the much-maligned Capitol police also died from wounds.

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Fortunately, Donald Trump is too stupid to mount a real coup. He lacks any coherent ideology like the fascist movements of the last century, nor does he have any disciplined paramilitary force at his disposal – despite all the talk on CNN of Trump “militias” taking over Capitol Hill. What the president actually did was call in the National Guard to crack down on his own supporters, much as happened in cities like Minneapolis during Black Lives Matter.

People rightly point out that this white riot included a number of non-white faces, especially Latinos. It is true that Trump increased his support among ethnic groups in the November election. But the violent vanguard were the white romantics who like to call themselves “nationalists” on social media, like the Proud Boys. Also followers of the daft QAnon cult who think Trump is defending the planet against satanic paedophiles, and another meme-led extremist group called Groypers whose calling card online is the cartoon character, Pepe the Frog.

One protester carried a banner listing their manifesto as “No Masks. No Marxism. No Lockdown. No Vaxx.”. That rather neatly summed up the bizarre collision of conspiracy theories and libertarian tropes that motivate street Trumpists. Another ideological mash-up depicted Trump as “Braveheart” William Wallace crying “Freedom” as he chopped off the head of Karl Marx. Work that one out. Yes, it’s all very weird, and to most of us as inexplicable as it is repulsive. But this is not Nazi Germany in the 1930s and attempts to equate Trump with Hitler really don’t make sense.

The Herald:

He may have the vanity and megalomania of Der Fuhrer, but he leads a very different kind of movement. The Capitol riot was more anarchist than National Socialist – an inchoate insurrection against the established order.

Trump is not an anarchist but a billionaire property developer. He soon realised his error in fomenting white riot and has desperately been rolling back from it ever since. In contrite videos, he has now condemned the “heinous” attack on democracy, threatened the rioters with prosecution, and called, laughably, for “healing and reconciliation”. This doesn’t make him any less culpable of course, but it demonstrates his lack of any coherent military objective. Trump is interested in ratings, not riots.

People often ask where the limits on freedom of speech lie. Well, we had an object lesson in precisely that on Wednesday afternoon. When Trump urged his supporters to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell, or you’re not going to have a country anymore”, he showed a reckless disregard for public safety. He could well be prosecuted for it, though one expects he will not be.

He has now promised an orderly transfer of power to Joe Biden. The US constitution has held, as it always would, against this kind of lumpen street rebellion, which is far from unique in American history. In the 1850s, the “Know Nothings” – a nativist, anti-Catholic wing of the Republican party – took up arms to stop Irish and other immigrants voting in elections. When challenged they invariably said they “knew nothing” about electoral violence.

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Know Nothings were the Trumpists of their day and also had weird and wonderful spin-offs called, variously, the Blood Tubs, the Wampanoags and the Rip Raps. They were eventually seen off by Abraham Lincoln, who went on to face the ultimate white rebellion when the southern states went to war to defend slavery.

So, we’ve been here before and the cartoon character of the Capitol Hill rioters doesn’t mean they are harmless. Far from it. America is awash with guns, and the white nationalists and others are itching for a fight. To defend, as they see it, an America that is rapidly being turned black and brown. Within a couple of decades, white people will cease to be the majority in America, as blacks, Indians, and Latinos assume demographic supremacy. Trumpists saw the rolling Black Lives Matter revolts as a kind of pre-emptive seizure of power by blacks, a demonstration that the future belongs to them.

Nationalists also believe the media demonises white people by promoting doctrines like white privilege, while at the same time assaulting American values of patriotism, family and individualism. They see themselves as Captain America ready to fight for freedom against a nebulous Deep State. They communicate this stew of memes and conspiracies across internet chat rooms.

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This is highly combustible material, and it is not impossible that a well-organised party of the far right could emerge from the forthcoming disintegration of the Republican Party. Forty-five per cent of Republican voters told one opinion poll that they actually supported the Capitol rioters. Many angry white men – their standard of living trashed, their families riven with opioid addiction – are pretty desperate and willing to fight. They have the weapons. They just need leadership. But we haven’t seen it yet, and I don’t believe America will turn fascist. Indeed, this week has been a massive reversal for the political right, a historic turning point from which it may not recover. The Republican Party is hopelessly divided and will now forever bear the stain of having inflicted Donald Trump on America. He will continue to hold his rallies and promote himself on TV, even as the old-style bourgeois conservatives try to disown him.

Democrats, who now control Congress as well as the presidency, have been handed unprecedented power and moral authority. The left may now dominate America possibly for decades – long enough to transform the Red States out of all recognition. Democrat presidents will banish so-called white privilege along with those gas-guzzling trucks beloved of nationalists. They may even take away their guns.

Trump could have used his remarkable 75 million votes as a base from which to regroup and return. But he was always his own worst enemy. The Donald is a victim of his own narcissistic ignorance, and his end came not with a whimper, but a bang.