So Far Biden Is Taking Right-Wing Extremism Seriously. But Actually Fixing the Problem Will Be a Lot Harder.

Experts say he’s taken the right initial steps to begin identifying the problems.

Pro-Trump protesters inside the US Capitol on January 6 Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/Zuma

Since before he was even sworn into office, Joe Biden has made it clear that fighting the spate of right-wing extremism would be a top priority for his administration. The day after the Capitol insurrection, in announcing his Justice Department nominees, Biden said he wanted to take the department back to its original roots “to stand up to the Klan, to stand up to racism, to take on domestic terrorism,” he vowed. “This original spirit must again guide and animate its work.”

Though the Biden presidency is still nascent, the fight against domestic terrorism and extremism has been at the center of the administration’s work so far. Immediately after he was sworn in, Biden ordered his just-appointed director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, to work with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to put together a top-to-bottom assessment of the threat from violent extremists. That report, which came out last month, found that “newer sociopolitical developments,” like the pandemic and the rise of right-wing conspiracy theories, “will almost certainly spur some [domestic violent extremists] to try to engage in violence this year.” Meanwhile, the Justice Department has arrested at least 360 people in connection with the insurrection. And the Defense Department is engaged in its own efforts to address extremism in the military; in early February, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed a memo directing commanding officers to conduct a one-day “stand down” to discuss extremism in the ranks with personnel.

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