Long Shadow

It’s January 6, again. It’s January 6, still.

Three years ago, an insurrection threatened American democracy — and it might still be raging today.

Photo of protesters at U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 during insurrection. People stand on stairs outside Capitol Building with American flags and a 'Trump Make America Great Again' flag.

By John Patrick Pullen

Here’s a peek behind the curtain: Host Garrett Graff wanted to end the second season of Long Shadow on a hopeful note, but the problem was that there was no hope to be found. We weren’t even sure there was an ending.

A Pulitzer-finalist historian whose accounts of ground-shaking U.S. events have been called “dazzling” and “standard setting” by critics, Garrett knows how to finish a story. In wrapping the grueling first season covering 9/11’s lingering questions, he pulled out a pair of aces in telling the tales of two men who survived the Twin Towers’ collapse.

But the second season of 'Long Shadow,' which chronicles the rise of the American far right, was different. This movement culminated on January 6, 2021, but did it end there? Three years after that day, we still can’t answer this question.

If you’ve listened to Long Shadow’s second season in its entirety, you know the story is far from over. The seven-episode limited series is more than just a primer on how we got here. It helps listeners recognize far-right rhetoric and understand how and why it’s still being used today. 

By listening to Long Shadow, you will learn how the past 40 years of American history gave way to the rise of the American far right. You’ll begin to recognize the coded language Trump uses to rally his base. You’ll realize why Trump’s Republican political opponents like Ron DeSantis, who said he would “slit the throats” of federal bureaucrats, are attacking the “deep state.” And you’ll understand why candidates like Nikki Haley, who refused to declare slavery the cause of the U.S. Civil War, and Vivek Ramaswamy, who embraces wild conspiracy theories, are playing footsie with the facts.

If you haven’t listened yet, but want to start today, I’d recommend jumping right to Long Shadow’s second-season finale. In “Jan. 6: Day of the Rope,” Garrett not only provides an unforgettable tick-tock of the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, he also explores what the insurgency means for the country as it attempts to move forward.

“A decision looms on our horizon,” he says in the episode’s waning minutes. “Are we going to reject white nationalism and right-wing political violence, or are we going to turn away while it consumes our democracy? The time to make that choice is closer than you think.”

Four months before January 6, 2021, COVID-skeptics resisting Germany’s public health mandates stormed their country’s parliament. The event was eerily prescient — if only Americans had been watching.

We named this podcast “Long Shadow” (despite the considerable confusion it would cause Long Lead) because that term best describes how historic moments can loom over current events. But the decades that foreshadowed January 6 may be even more important than the consequences of that day. Time will tell. 

“Now, more than ever before, we are in the shadow cast across history by the far right,” Garrett says in Long Shadow’s season two finale. “If there’s light at the end of this tunnel, it’s that the U.S. government has finally taken a real and sustained interest in the domestic terrorism threat posed by it.” Here’s hoping they can put a stop to it.

John Patrick Pullen is the Executive Producer of Long Shadow and the founding editor of Long Lead.