The Lawfare Podcast: What the French Third Republic Can Teach Us About January 6

By Jen Patja Howell
Monday, January 31, 2022, 5:01 AM

What’s the best historical analogue for the American political situation today? Often, pundits will compare our current age of rising polarization and increasing political violence to the era preceding the American Civil War. If they’re alarmed and looking for a European analogy, sometimes they’ll point to Weimar Germany. But another point of comparison from prewar Europe might be more apt: the French Third Republic, from the late 19th century leading up to World War II.

Lawfare Managing Editor Jacob Schulz and Quinta Jurecic spoke with John Ganz, who writes the Substack newsletter Unpopular Front and is working on a book about American politics in the 1990s. He’s written in depth about the political crises roiling the Third Republic, from the Dreyfus Affair to February 6, 1934—a violent riot outside the French National Assembly, which has striking echoes in January 6. So why is France a more apt comparison than Germany or Italy? What can studying the Third Republic, and February 6, tell us about January 6 and the rise of an American far right? And what might we learn from the striking differences between how French civil society responded to February 6, as opposed to the more muted American response to a similar riot almost 90 years later?