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Cass R. Sunstein

Trump and the Capitol Mob: The Science of Unleashing

Behavioral research helps show how this president brought simmering private resentments to a public boil.



Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Jan. 6, 2021 is a day that should live in infamy — a day on which the fundamental institutions of the U.S. were suddenly and deliberately attacked.

It will take a long time to understand fully why political passion crossed the line into an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, but social science research illuminates part of the picture. Long-standing feelings of rage, humiliation, racism and hatred did not explode spontaneously. They were fueled and unleashed, above all by President Donald Trump. That’s what turned those feelings into action.