British Burn Washington, August 1814. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Fort McHenry or Fort Sumter?


Donald Trump incited a riot on January 6th. In doing so, he destroyed much of what he accomplished, validated the complaints about his narcissism, divisiveness and character flaws, and invalidated the legitimate grievances of his 75 million supporters about stolen elections, Black Lives Matter and Antifa “mostly peaceful” violence, arson and riots, media bias and leftist hypocrisy. He managed to legitimize the Biden crime family and provide aid and comfort to the very socialists and leftist tyranny he opposed. 

Al Sharpton recovered after inciting the 1991 Brooklyn Crown Heights riot against Jews, but there are different rules for anti-Semitic Black pastors on the left, as both Jesse Jackson (Hymietown) and Senator- Elect Warnock (D-Georgia) demonstrated. Intersectional Critical Race Theory holds that Blacks cannot be racist even as Whites are irredeemably and implicitly so. I am sure the systemic racism of the Capitol Hill Police allowed the white protestors to storm the capitol. The left will never be held accountable for the riots and arson Black Lives Matter and Antifa perpetrated in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, New York, Washington DC and elsewhere. Vice-President Elect Harris actually contributed and raised money to bail out and defend them. I cannot name one Democrat who condemned them. Republicans and conservatives like myself just have to recognize that anti-racism requires that equal protection does not mean color blindness- it means one set of rules for Whites and another for BIPOC. As Animal Farm’s swinish Napoleon put it- “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Leftists supporting violent insurrection by oppressed minorities is fine, but openly inciting violence on the right is most definitely not. Those are the rules, and Donald Trump crossed the line. He and his supporters will pay a heavy price for it- and tragically, so will freedom of speech and assembly, at least for Whites and conservatives.

What I do not know is whether the mob violence at the Capitol was an analog of Fort McHenry in 1814 or Fort Sumter in 1861. The British burned Washington in August of 1814. Having your Capitol burned and lawmakers fleeing is usually not a sign that a war is going well. In September, the British moved up Chesapeake Bay and attacked the strategic port of Baltimore. Fort McHenry withstood the bombardment and successfully defended Baltimore Harbor, leading to Francis Scott Key penning the Star Spangled Banner and the young nation’s survival. Four months later in January 2015, Andrew Jackson defeated the British in New Orleans, although the Treaty of Ghent ending the war had actually been signed two weeks prior on Christmas Eve 1814.  Andrew Jackson was an aggressive fighting populist America First/Manifest Destiny transactional arguably racist President detested by the political elites who engineered his first electoral defeat to John Quincy Adams in the “corrupt bargain” of the 1824 election. Sound like anyone familiar?

In April of 1861, Confederate guns opened up on Union forces at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. It was the official beginning of the Civil War, which had been brewing since Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860, or the Mexican American war of 1846-1848, or the annexation of the Republic of Texas into the Union in 1845, or the Maine-Missouri Compromise of 1820, or the Constitution in 1787, or the Declaration of Independence in 1776 or, if you believe the New York Times and the Pulitzer Prize, since slaves first arrived in Virginia in 1619.

The mob violence at the Capitol on January 6 may prove to be Fort McHenry, uniting the nation, or Fort Sumter, dividing it and signaling the onset of a second American Civil War. The conflict has been brewing a long time and each side believes their grievances legitimate. I grieve for the Republic. Whether Sumter, McHenry or both, America has been irrevocably transformed. We are a nuclear-armed banana republic.

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own. Mr. Reisman welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at

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