On Friday in October, most Americans were shocked, horrified and disgusted when David DePape broke into the house where 82-year-old Paul Pelosi was sleeping and beat him with a hammer, allegedly breaking his skull. bottom.
Pelosi was brutally assaulted in what prosecutors called a politically motivated attempt to capture, kidnap and torture his wife, Nancy, who was then Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
But should we have been shocked? i don’t think so. It was perfectly in line with our current political climate, a bitter and polarizing culture that has been teetering on the edge of violent tensions for years. was.
Nicholas Goldberg has been editor of the editorial page for 11 years and former editor of the editorial page and the Sunday opinion section.
Just a few months ago in August, novelist Salman Rushdie was violently attacked in upstate New York, not in Iran or Pakistan. His 24-year-old man, named Hadi Matar, stormed onto the stage where Rushdie was scheduled to speak, posing the 75-year-old writer a dozen times in front of the audience, presumably as punishment for Rushdie’s writing about Islam. It is said that he stabbed
The attack left Rushdie blind in one eye, crippled in one hand, and injured his neck, chest, and torso.
Earlier in June, an armed man was arrested outside the home of Maryland Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He was charged with “attempting to kidnap or kill” a judge.
As usual in the fast-paced American news cycle, these three unrelated incidents grabbed our attention for several days. Then the world moved.
However, they should not be allowed to fade quickly. Because it’s not just the isolated act of a mad individual. They are part of the wave of political violence that is sweeping across the country.
It didn’t suddenly appear in 2022. The Anti-Defamation League announced last February that 443 of his people had been murdered by extremists in the United States over the past decade. This does not include mob violence, death threats, kidnapping plots, or individual acts of non-fatal assault. In 2021, there were ten times as many threats against MPs as there were in 2016. Local officials increasingly say they are concerned about their safety.
Of course, there has always been political violence in America. It dates back to the Whiskey Rebellion mob during the presidency of George Washington, the assassination of President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth in 1865, and the assassination of President McKinley by anarchists in 1901.
Over the years, America has experienced violence related to slavery, immigration, conscription, and anti-Catholic sentiment.
More recently, in the tumultuous 1960s, the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother Robert, as well as of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, shocked the nation. Early 1970’s.
In 1995, 168 people were killed in Oklahoma City when right-wing rebel bombers planted powerful explosives in federal office buildings.
So political violence isn’t unprecedented, and American democracy won’t necessarily fall apart, as some extremists believe it’s time to take matters into their own hands. we have survived it before.
But if we do that again, we can’t let it slip with the changing news cycle.
The violence this time comes mainly from the far right. According to the ADL, 75% of those killed by extremists in the decade to December 2021 were killed by right-wing extremists. (There are certainly exceptions, but in 2017 Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise was shot dead at a baseball game by a man with a grudge against the Republican Party.)
Many who advocate violence seem fueled by dissatisfaction, economic instability, white supremacist ideologies, and crazy conspiracy theories such as those associated with QAnon. Social media can have an irresponsible magnifying effect, inciting or normalizing violence. Easy access to guns increases danger.
In recent years, President Trump has had an impact.
Some analysts attribute the latest wave of violence to the 2017 “Unite Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 2021, Trump’s false allegations of election fraud “incited his supporters to violence” on the U.S. Capitol, according to a recent report by a House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.
What else is driving this? About a fifth of Americans say violence can be justified to “advance important political ends,” according to a poll. In 2017 and 2018, Professors Nathan P. Carmo and Liliana Mason found that about 40% of Democrats and Republicans believed that opposition supporters were “not just bad for politics, they’re downright bad.” I found that we agreed.
DePape said he was “fighting tyranny” by targeting Nancy Pelosi.
On the temporary positive side, the riots predicted to coincide with the 2022 midterm elections did not occur. When the results didn’t live up to right-wing expectations, there was no new Stop Theft movement to speak of, no riots in the Capitol, no extremist explosions.
Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity is declining. Many Republicans seem determined to stay away from him.
But the underlying threat hasn’t gone away. Even if Trump disappears from the scene, the bitterness and frustration that helped propel him to power persists.
We count and classify episodes of serious political violence to intensify our efforts to study and combat this phenomenon. As 2023 begins, we need to recognize the serious problems they reflect in our society, problems that must be reversed, not exacerbated.