Trump's Base: The Vulnerably Insecure

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Miles
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Trump's Base: The Vulnerably Insecure

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From The Washington Post


"A majority of the people arrested for Capitol riot had a history of financial trouble


Jenna Ryan seemed like an unlikely participant in the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. She was a real estate agent from Texas. She flew into Washington on a private jet. And she was dressed that day in clothes better suited for a winter tailgate than a war.

Yet Ryan, 50, is accused of rushing into the Capitol past broken glass and blaring security alarms and, according to federal prosecutors, shouting: “Fight for freedom! Fight for freedom!”

But in a different way, she fit right in.

Despite her outward signs of success, Ryan had struggled financially for years. She was still paying off a $37,000 lien for unpaid federal taxes when she was arrested. She’d nearly lost her home to foreclosure before that. She filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and faced another IRS tax lien in 2010.

Nearly 60 percent of the people facing charges related to the Capitol riot showed signs of prior money troubles, including bankruptcies, notices of eviction or foreclosure, bad debts, or unpaid taxes over the past two decades, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records for 125 defendants with sufficient information to detail their financial histories.

The group’s bankruptcy rate — 18 percent — was nearly twice as high as that of the American public, The Post found. A quarter of them had been sued for money owed to a creditor. And 1 in 5 of them faced losing their home at one point, according to court filings.

The financial problems are revealing because they offer potential clues for understanding why so many Trump supporters — many with professional careers and few with violent criminal histories — were willing to participate in an attack egged on by the president’s rhetoric painting him and his supporters as undeserving victims.

While no single factor explains why someone decided to join in, experts say, Donald Trump and his brand of grievance politics tapped into something that resonated with the hundreds of people who descended on the Capitol in a historic burst of violence.

“I think what you’re finding is more than just economic insecurity but a deep-seated feeling of precarity about their personal situation,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a political science professor who helps run the Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab at American University, reacting to The Post’s findings. “And that precarity — combined with a sense of betrayal or anger that someone is taking something away — mobilized a lot of people that day.”


The financial missteps by defendants in the insurrection ranged from small debts of a few thousand dollars more than a decade ago to unpaid tax bills of $400,000 and homes facing foreclosure in recent years. Some of these people seemed to have regained their financial footing. But many of them once stood close to the edge.

The poor and uneducated are not more likely to join extremist movements, according to experts. Two professors a couple of years ago found the opposite in one example: an unexpectedly high number of engineers who became Islamist radicals.

A California man filed for bankruptcy one week before allegedly joining the attack, according to public records. A Texas man was charged with entering the Capitol one month after his company was slapped with a nearly $2,000 state tax lien.

Several young people charged in the attack came from families with histories of financial duress.
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