First-term congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has already rocketed to prominence in the post-Trump GOP, but the other freshman member of the Georgia House delegation, Rep. Andrew Clyde, is quickly proving just as ready to embody the spirit of a party more and more comfortable with subverting democracy and leveraging white racial anger and fear for political power and minoritarian rule. If, as it appears, the Republican Party is on a path toward an increasingly anti-democratic, authoritarian disposition, Clyde has emerged as someone eager to accelerate the course.
Violent authoritarian ethnonationalism is not new in the U.S., of course. For four years in the 1860s, the Confederacy made war on the United States in pursuit of just such a regime. That martial effort to maintain a brutal slave state is still celebrated in some white corners of Clyde’s Northeast Georgia district, one of the most conservative in the country, and Clyde himself is, almost explicitly, a neo-Confederate.
If any future rightist violence is attempted to overturn democratic elections, Clyde will be seen as one who stepped into the fray early to help normalize insurrectionary activity. Clyde has been one of the leading figures in the GOP running cover for the violent attempt on Jan. 6 to install Donald Trump as president over the democratic will of the people. After likening the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion to a “normal tourist visit,” Clyde joined Greene and only 19 others in the House (all Republicans) in voting against an official commemoration of the Capitol Police who defended the chamber against the pro-Trump attackers. Last month, Clyde further solidified his reputation as a leading sympathizer with the Capitol attackers when he refused to shake the hand of Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone, who was savagely beaten by pro-Trump insurrectionists on their way in to halt the peaceful transfer of power.
That same week, Clyde became one of only a handful of members of Congress to make what can be labeled an almost explicitly pro-Confederacy vote, when he voiced a rare objection to a Juneteenth federal holiday. Juneteenth, the day chosen to celebrate the emancipation of 4 million enslaved Americans in 1865, is necessarily a marker of the final death of the Confederate dream. After unanimous passage in the Senate last week, a mere 13 Republican House members (less than 3% of both chambers combined) joined Clyde in opposition to a holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved Americans.
In just six months in office, Clyde has already demonstrated a remarkable sympathy for violent far-right ethnonationalism, but that isn’t what makes him a neo-Confederate. What makes him an almost literal neo-Confederate is his gun shop built to look exactly like a nearby Confederate factory that supplied the rebel army with rifles. Clyde sees himself as an inheritor of the legacy of white supremacist violence. The resemblance of Clyde’s Atlanta Highway house of arms-dealing to the former Cook and Brother rebel armory across town in the Chicopee-Dudley neighborhood is unmistakable, with the distinct octagonal bastion of the Confederate gunmaker meticulously replicated. The Cook and Brother Armory was said to be the “largest and most efficient private armory in the Confederacy,” and one is left to imagine how many U.S. soldiers were felled by its output in the war to preserve the enslavement of humans.
Clyde’s office did not respond to several attempts by Flagpole to obtain comment for this article, but a proud Clyde explained to the Associated Press at the time of its construction that he built his own “armory” to resemble the pro-slavery forces’ armory “to the brick.” It was important to Clyde to ensure that there be no mistaking his intentions to inherit—aesthetically, at the very least—the history of white Southern violence against the United States. Clyde’s armory makes clear in its street sign and logo that the guns it prefers are the ones that kill humans, and lots of them. Almost larger than the name of the armory itself is a large assault rifle with a drum magazine (one that is able to fire 50-plus rounds before reloading).
That Clyde’s behavior has helped animate an anti-Capitol Police sentiment in the wake of Jan. 6 angers many in his home district. Devin Pandy, the Gainesville military veteran who ran against Clyde in November, was particularly incensed by Clyde’s refusal to shake the hand of Officer Fanone, charging in a statement to Flagpole that Clyde “falsely claims to be all about law and order and backing the Blue [but] he refuses to shake the hand of an officer who nearly gave his life defending Clyde and the rest of the United States Congress.”
Pointing out the uniqueness of both he and Clyde being veterans squaring off for the northeast Georgia seat, Pandy said he feels that Clyde betrays the kinship the two rivals shared. “Oftentimes we as a society fail to honor the sacrifices of the women and men who risk their lives defending our democracy,” Pandy lamented, adding that Clyde “continues to distinguish himself as someone who is indifferent to, or perhaps even uninterested in, the dangers our law enforcement community faces.” And Pandy seethed at what he sees as Clyde’s growing ambivalence toward American principles: “I’m proud to have fought for the Stars and Stripes. Andrew seems to prefer the Stars and Bars. To each their own.”
While Clyde does not as often seek the performative sensationalism of his fellow Georgia first-termer Greene, Clyde’s behavior and very presence in the House is perhaps more alarming. Clyde has been in a battle with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi since the earliest days of this legislative session over the speaker’s measures to keep firearms off the House floor. Last month, Clyde and Texas congressman Louie Gohmert filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Pelosi’s rule fining members who refuse to subject themselves to metal detectors. Clyde was fined earlier in the year for refusing to be checked.
Yale historian Joanne Freeman’s research reveals how violent Congress became in the tense decades before the Civil War. The eventual national conflagration was prefigured by violent clashes on the House floor among members, with guns and knives drawn by pro-slavery Southerners to bully Northern legislators (for example, South Carolina Rep. Preston Brook’s famous caning of abolitionist Sen. Charles Sumner.) It worked, and many Northern congressmen feared violence at their place of work. One member estimated 70 to 80 of his fellow legislators brought guns onto the floor. One assumes those armed racists would have rejected a metal detector, as well.
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