Pelosi Attack a Turning Point?
What will it take to end the cycle of violence?
AP (“Pelosi attack shocks country on edge about democracy threats“):
An America that can already feel like it’s hurtling toward political disintegration has been jolted yet again, this time by the violent attack on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi less than two weeks before Election Day.
The ambush was a particularly savage reminder of the extremism that has coursed through American politics in recent years, adding to a sense of foreboding with the Nov. 8 election nearly at hand.
The opener sparked a thought that, surprisingly, hadn’t previously occurred to me: could the attack have an impact on the election? Could it be a catalyst for getting folks to realize how untenable the poisonous atmosphere is?
One can hope, I suppose, but one would have thought the Capitol Riots of January 6, 2021 would have had that effect and, if anything, the opposite occurred. A survey this past July showed an increase in support for political violence, with 20 personally saying it was “sometimes justified” and 12 percent “somewhat willing” to engage in it personally.
The rest of the AP report simply aggregates examples of the impact this attitude is having on our democracy.
Armed watchers are staking out ballot drop boxes in Arizona to guard against false conspiracies about voter fraud. Threats against members of Congress have risen to historic levels. Public opinion surveys show fears for a fragile democracy and even of a civil war. Former President Donald Trump continues to deny that he lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, and his acolytes are attempting to consolidate their power over future elections.
A new domestic intelligence assessment from the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies said extremists fueled by election falsehoods “pose a heightened threat” to the upcoming midterms.
The assessment, dated Friday, said the greatest danger was “posed by lone offenders who leverage election-related issues to justify violence.”
“It is worse than it’s ever been,” said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster. “This is uncharted waters.” Belcher blamed “the mainstreaming of behavior in politics that was, once upon a time, left or right, abhorrent.”
To be sure, this isn’t the first time in American history we’ve seen it.
From the Civil War and attacks on Black voters during Jim Crow to the assassination of elected leaders like John and Robert Kennedy, the United States has experienced spasms of political violence. No party or ideology has a monopoly on it.
While true and I point I made myself yesterday, the current threat is mostly from the far right.
Five years ago, a left-wing activist opened fire on Republicans as they practiced for an annual charity baseball game. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was critically wounded. In 2011, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head at an event outside a Tucson grocery store.
Today, violent rhetoric and imagery have become a staple of right wing politics in the United States, and it escalated during Donald Trump’s presidency. Democrats viewed the intrusion into Pelosi’s home as an extension of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump’s supporters interrupted the peaceful transition of power to Biden.
On that day, protesters searched for Pelosi and chanted that they wanted to hang then-Vice President Mike Pence, who had defied Trump’s demands to overturn the election results.
Less than two years later, only 9% of U.S. adults think democracy is working “extremely” or “very well,” according to this month’s poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
More crucially, as David Frum notes in his Atlantic essay “Only the GOP Celebrates Political Violence,”
[I]f both Republicans and Democrats, left and right, suffer political violence, the same cannot be said of those who celebrate political violence. That’s not a “both sides” affair in 2020s America.
You don’t see Democratic House members wielding weapons in videos and threatening to shoot candidates who want to cut capital-gains taxes or slow the growth of Medicare. Democratic candidates for Senate do not post video fantasies of hunting and executing political rivals, or of using a firearm to discipline their children’s romantic partners. It’s not because of Democratic members that Speaker Nancy Pelosi installed metal detectors to bar firearms from the floor of the House. No Democratic equivalent exists of Donald Trump, who regularly praises and encourages violence as a normal tool of politics, most recently against his own party’s Senate leader, Mitch McConnell. As the formerly Trump-leaning Wall Street Journal editorialized on October 2: “It’s all too easy to imagine some fanatic taking Mr. Trump seriously and literally, and attempting to kill Mr. McConnell. Many supporters took Mr. Trump’s rhetoric about former Vice President Mike Pence all too seriously on Jan. 6.”
The January 6 insurrection is the overhanging fact above all this rhetoric of political violence. That was the day when Trump’s ally Rudy Giuliani urged, “Let’s have trial by combat”—and thousands heeded and complied. That terrible day, incited by President Trump and organized by Trump supporters, should have chastened American politics for a generation. It did not. Armed and masked vigilantes are intimidating voters right now in Arizona and other states, inspired by Trump’s continued election lies, as amplified by his supporters to this very day.
As the AP report notes, threats of violence hang over the impending election:
Members of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack have received a steady stream of threats for their work.
If we do not stop the big lie, perpetuated by those who seek to win at any cost, our democracy will cease to exist,” Rep. Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat who was assigned a security detail in recent months because of her work on the committee, said in an interview. “Then nothing else we do will have mattered.”
A 36-year-old man was arrested this past week for allegedly breaking into the campaign headquarters of Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for governor and the current secretary of state. There’s no indication the burglary was politically motivated, but it alarmed her staff, which is constantly on guard for threats.
Federal prosecutors have charged three people with threatening to harm Arizona election officials, including Hobbs, since the last election.
Earlier in the week, three men were convicted of supporting a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after a trial that raised fears about paramilitary training and anti-government extremism.
And on Friday, a man pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. Also, a Kansas man is facing a felony charge of threatening to kill one of the state’s congressmen, Republican Jake LaTurner.
Rep. Val Demings, a Florida Democrat who is running for Senate, has campaigned with a large private security detail for much of the year. It is a necessary precaution, she said in an interview, given an uptick in violent threats in the months since she served as a House manager in Trump’s first impeachment trial.
“I never thought that I would have my worst moment, feeling like I was really going to die, in the Capitol on Jan. 6,” said Demings, a former Orlando police chief. “When I had been in back alleys and bar fights and arresting people who killed other people, and never did I have the feeling on the streets like I had that day. And it was all in politics, and I’m like, ‘What is going on?'”
The poisonous atmosphere has so too many causes to disentangle. The advent of 24-hour news and the rise of political talk shows to provide a use for the AM radio band happened decades ago and both changed the information dynamic, leading to a permanent campaign. The emergence of blogs and social media 20-odd years ago have accelerated the phenomena, steadily ratcheting up the level of angst and vitriol necessary to stay relevant in an attention economy. The fact that everyone carries around a smart phone, encouraging constant connection to the world outside for a dopamine hit factors in as well.
The conservative movement dominated talk radio, both because its target demographics were more able to listen to radio for hours on end during the workday and because that viewpoint was underrepresented on other media. Progressives dominated blogs and then Twitter for a host of reasons, both because their rise coincided with the George W. Bush presidency and the Iraq War and because its target demographic was more tech savvy and likely to be online during the day.
The fights were always ugly but they got progressively worse over time. Newt Gingrich and company perfected disciplined messaging using focus-group-tested buzzwords designed to strike emotional chords. And things really started going off the rails with the rise of the Tea Party movement in 2009. They not only dialed up the rhetoric to 11 but ousted most of the old-style conservatives from the Republican Party, replacing them with “populist” yahoos. And, then, Trump extended that to the top.
I’m not sure any of these matters, though, without an underlying alienation. There’s a long-running sense among the white working class that they don’t matter anymore and they resent the hell out of it. That’s the common thread running from Rush Limbaugh through Newt Gingrich to the Tea Party to Trump. While there are certainly pockets of alienation on the left that Democratic populists from John Edwards to Bernie Sanders have tried to exploit, it hasn’t yielded much violence because they’re winning the cultural wars if not the economic ones.
Our enemies, most notably Russia, have expertly exploited all of this, adding fuel to the fire for years.
I don’t think a non-fatal attack on the Speaker’s husband will wake us up. But something has to.
The Pelosi attack will be forgotten by mid week, unless he dies. Nor will it have any effect on the political discourse. In truth, I doubt anything will.
Polling indicates that the vast majority of Americans feel that the country and democracy is at risk, but there is no agreement as to why and no agreement as to how to make things better. Like spasms of gang violence in urban neighborhoods, white working class/rural resentment is more likely to burn itself out than be satisfactorily addressed. The olds will die off and the younger generations will see the futility of looking longingly at the past and takes steps to improve their own situation.
The danger of course will be democracy doesn’t survive that transition. Unfortunately this seems more likely than not.
Missing from David Frum’s and your lists of escalations is the common Republican rhetoric of “Second Amendment solutions” to political disputes, which is nothing short of a call for violence in response to not getting one’s way.
I don’t see on the right anyone ever taking responsibility in this country for the messages they spread. Look at the anti-vaccination lies–there’s not even a hint of guilt there. People were actually angry about blaming Joe Rogan for spreading lies and causing the deaths of a hundred thousand people or so.
The indignation and sense of victimization is so deep that any kind of normal accountability is shot.
To which can be added (just on OTB) the downplaying of the assassination attempt as the act of a mentally unstable lone wolf, a defense (in the comments) of Youngkin’s “joke,” as well as a claim that the media aren’t actually helping Republicans.
I’m not noting these things as a personal attack, but rather to point out that there is undeniably a tendency (not just on OTB) to not acknowledge reality – at least initially, and sometimes not at all.
We’re not in a normal situation. And while this may be a very uncomfortable realization, looking away doesn’t make it better.
The right is a lost cause, I fear.
Personally, I worry more about decent people looking away until it’s too late.
“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in the world is that good men do nothing.”
Pelosi’s husband wont change anything, you need to remember the rule. If a right winger attacks someone it is only because they are mentally ill. If a person associated with the left does it then it is because of their politics.
Part of it is just that the right’s problems are so removed from the world. The border or trans people or crime might poll in a certain way, but the world is not bad in the way they say it is. And the more the world proves its case, the more the resentment grows on the other side.
It’s just a bad situation which can’t be defused because defusing would amount to admitting how pointless your anger was. It’s like getting angry over some inane theological matter which historians have to specialize in to understand centuries later.
From what I’ve seen/read, the top 3 Republican responses to the attack seem to be:
1) The standard “ANTIFA did it”
2) The standard “Pelosi is behind it to generate sympathy”
3) Some version of “well, she deserved it.”
These aren’t just your random nuts saying things like this, this is standard Fox News watchers’ reactions.
Seeing as only one of the three above responses even acknowledges partisan responsibility, I highly doubt this will be any kind of factor in the election.
Well, not everyone.
I think it’s all about the preservation of hierarchy against the threat of democratization – not least in the workplace, the neighborhood, and the family.
So it’s more about sense of self-worth relative to others than about actual problems, IMO.
What I’ve seen is that Paul Pelosi had a squabble with his gay lover/escort.
@drj: I saw that tweet from Scarborough yesterday and think he’s just wrong there. The attack on Pelosi’s husband was the top story on the front page of just about every newspaper in the country yesterday, including Alabama papers like the Anniston Star and the Dothan Eagle. It was the top story on the Wall Street Journal. Oddly, the Washington Post doesn’t contribute its paper to the collection.
I have no idea why the New York Times didn’t follow suit but would guess it’s because the attack happened just before the Friday edition hit the newsstands and it was clear by the time the Saturday edition was going to bed that Joe Pelosi would fully recover. It’s not a news judgment I would have made but I don’t think it’s a numbness issue.
I don’t think I’ve downplayed the attack. This is my second post on the subject in as many days. I’m an analyst by nature and training and can separate the micro from the macro. I think the perpetrator was mentally unstable and not motivated by a particular ideology; indeed, his rants all are over the map. At the same time, as noted in this post and that post, I see a toxic environment mostly created by the right.
The title of the original post was, “Craziness, Disconnectedness, and a Toxic Political Climate Equals Violence.” The whole point of it was that violence is an inevitable consequence of unstable, disconnected folks exposed to a constant stream of toxicity.
@steve: “If a right winger attacks someone it is only because they are mentally ill. If a person associated with the left does it then it is because of their politics.”
Actually, if a person associated with the left does it then it is because he was ordered to by AOC, George Soros and Nancy Pelosi.
An optimistic claim to calm people which I believe is unlikely to be true.
@James Joyner: @charon:
Paul Pelosi, not Joe.
Not by accident, the right thinks it serves their purposes. For players like Fox News that benefit from viewers it plainly does.
As was noted in a piece over at LGM, this is part of the typical process of fascist movements coming to power.
In the well known cases, it took WWII.
I wonder if Dr. T, or others, could point to examples of democracies reemerging from authoritarianism without violence.
I’m really tired of speculation about turning points, awaiting the moment when the Republican fever will break. We’ve been playing this game for decades now. Will the failure to impeach Clinton dampen Republican radicalism? The Congressional page scandal? The legislative failure of the Tea Party? Scandals in the ranks of the religious Kulturkampf right? Obama’s victory? Trump’s corruption smorgasbord? Trump’s impeachment? His re-election loss? January 6th?
Better to assume that there is no turning point, tipping point, or flash of pure moral and existential horror, and the sickness will continue to metastasize.
It will encourage Republicans. People don’t stockpile guns and ammo because they want peace. Republicans are nerving themselves up to death squads and if that fails, genocide.
Exactly. This is why it’s dangerous not to see American fascism staring us right in the face. It usually takes a real catastrophe — not an electoral defeat, not an uptick in inflation — on the scale of calamitous defeat in WWII, to end an energized fascist movement.
According to CNN, Depape brought zip ties with him.
The piece referenced:
Yes. But not in the way Dr. Joyner thinks. I believe this is the first of many. GOP whackos will be emboldened.
It’s going to get ugly.
When a headline asks a question, the answer is usually “no”.
It happened because A. G. Sulzberger is a big Trump supporter and has been using his publisher position to bias the paper’s coverage in the Republicans favor ever since he took over. See also the elimination of the public editor position and the ongoing James Bennet fiasco
Lots of pessimism about the future of the United States — on this thread and scores of others in the OTB archives. Also lots of fantasizing about secession of “Blue” states, personal immigration, etc.
One theme — sometimes explicit, often implicit — of these discussions is that people want to live* alongside those who share their values, beliefs, etc.
And the concern is that the United States is quickly becoming (has become) a place where this is no longer possible.
(I believe I have accurately summarized this position, but correct/add essential missing pieces as you see fit)
I bring this up because it rhymes with the ethos driving the crypto/decentralize/tech utopia advocates. Indeed, one of their contemporary religious texts — The Network State — focuses a lot on exit, forming communities, etc. And likewise their leading guru — Balaji Srinivasan — talks a lot** about this.
Is this another Bootleggers and Baptists style (potential) coalition? A new version of the Liberaltarian project? Might these seemingly opposed groups unify in their desire for (freely chosen) division?
*Putting aside the physical-virtual issues so as to not get sidetracked.
**Trigger warning: his manner of speaking is, um, polarizing.
@Stormy Dragon: Sulzberger had been publicly fueding with Trump for years. He fired Bennet.
@Kingdaddy: I generally agree with you, though I think James and others have this ongoing slim hope that the ringleaders of the right, the people who don’t believe the propaganda but promulgate it, will finally come to their senses and chain the beast. Without constant feeding (from the usual media sources and celebrities), the fever could slowly die. But like you, I’m skeptical that they want to or even can reverse course at this point.
@gVOR08: “I wonder if Dr. T, or others, could point to examples of democracies reemerging from authoritarianism without violence.”
I think Chile, fascist Greece and military-dictatorship Brazil are all examples.
@wr: I was going to make this point but you beat me to it. Also Spain.
I think the country would have been better off if the Jan 6th crowds gotten to one of their targets.
Would have sucked for their target, obviously, but it would have been a wake up call that couldn’t be ignored, at the right time.
The Big Lie has metastasized over the past 1.75 years, and with it the justification of violence. It was pretty fringey back then, and is now party doctrine.
There’s no cooling down the temperature of the political environment when a large chunk of the country believes another chunk has stolen elections, and the latter chunk now believes the first chunk is going to steal elections. There is no reconciling with people who live in different, fundamentally opposed realities.
I don’t speak to my brother who has bought into this shit hook, line and sinker and began quoting and believing the “Democrats are groomers” shit. Why would I want to talk to that? Where is the common ground?
(My other brother is more of an idiot nihilist “a plague on both their houses” type who enjoys the right wing stuff for the lulz… annoying, but not as bad as a true believer)
I think there will be violence after the upcoming election, or 2024. How can there not be?
I blame John McCain. He brought the crazy into the mainstream of the party with Palin. And I blame every Republican since then who has continued to embrace the crazy.
A turning point? The idea that this is a turning point is preposterous. The attacker could have been a paid operative of the RNC and it wouldn’t make a difference. As a couple of commentators have said, it will get ugly. The Republican party only cares about this event insofar as the fact that it might hurt the party in the short run. And there is no Republican party, just the party of Trump and a few dissenters, almost all of whom will support the election deniers and crazies.
Remember all the heinous violence visited upon statues?
I still fall asleep weeping for all the beautiful pieces of granite and marble and wake up so, *sniff* just, just so angry that those radical leftists commit murder and get away with it.
Then a bunch of Patriots take a leisurely walking tour of the People’s House and get hauled into kangaroo courts. It’s like getting arrested for trespassing in your own home.
Please. Make that “Peaceful Patriots.”
On the one hand, I have the luxury of being able to blend in without fear of being the victim of some act of bigotry. On the other, I don’t think I have the luxury to immigrate to another country.
But there are a lot of people that have neither luxury.
Not while opposing party politicians pitch “sending Nancy back home” as an applause line to people who can’t even vote against her, no.
Yeah, they tried to say they were using flag poles as weapons. Can you believe that? It was obviously a spontaneous dance routine done out of love for their country.
“From the Civil War and attacks on Black voters during Jim Crow to the assassination of elected leaders like John and Robert Kennedy, the United States has experienced spasms of political violence. No party or ideology has a monopoly on it.” [emphasis added]
And yet, all three examples would seem to point to conservatives as the biggest problem. Hmmm…
Definitely. It was a flash mob.
Fine, if you insist on using the correct spelling for words so as to maximize clarity of written expression…
It’s a façade to distract from my lack of intestinal fortitude.
You really slipped one through the five-hole there. It took me 59 minutes to locate the puck.
@Kurtz: My favorite is the guy who brought two guns, dropped one on the capitol grounds, and reported it stolen in IN. Stupidity, clumsiness, and chutzpa all in one package.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: I don’t think either of the Kennedy assassins were conservatives. Oswald was a Communist and Sirhan a Palestinian nationalist.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
This said, the driving force supporting violence is conservatism reacting to liberalization of society lessening the inherent existing power that is the nature of conservative thought.
@Flat Earth Luddite: That’s just a fancy way of saying that a large chunk of America just wants to be able to call Black folks the n-word, and face no repercussions for it, isn’t it?
(Just tying this into the Twitter free-speech extravaganza with 500% more n-words, and more overt antisemitism)
@James Joyner: I would ask whether anyone was painting a target on the Kennedys, and pointing the loons, but I think loon-culture was a bit more hidden then, so it might be hard to tell.
This current guy isn’t a standard conservative either — but it’s the right wing lunacy that propelled him.
@Gustopher:..That’s just a fancy way of saying that a large chunk of America just wants to be able to call Black folks the n-word, and face no repercussions for it, isn’t it?
Somehow I suspect that a large chunk of America wants to do far more than just be able to call black citizens ni99ers.
Wave Of Death Threats Against Black Colleges Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg
So Pelosi is into kinky gay sex?
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
The MAGAs say yes!!!!
The violent political rhetoric followed by violence from delusional right-wingers is not being checked or condemned by people in the GOP who should know better. It’s called a march to fascism or cowardice and it is not at all what Jesus would want from his followers.
I want to live* alongside people with values.
MAGAt’s have none.
The turning point is likely to be the death knell for mainstream media. This story had massive holes and the tears are getting larger by the minute. Even the statement by SFPD left huge holes. But we see the window was broken from the inside, a third person let the police into the house. Nor was breaking and entering in the list of charges the police anticipate, though not charged yet.
Plus there are police body cams and the Pelosis and their neighbors all have high end security cameras. Where’s the footage?
And when the NY Times went after Elon Musk’s comment on Hillary’s baseless speculations, he brilliantly put the knife in to the NY Times.
Criminal complaint has been filed.
The meat of it starts on page 6, to save folks a bit of time. It appears the perp has freely admitted his intentions, bolding is mine.
15. In a Mirandized and recorded interview of DEPAPE by San Francisco Police
Department Officers, DEPAPE provided the following information:
a. DEPAPE stated that he was going to hold Nancy hostage and talk to her. If Nancy were to tell DEPAPE the “truth,” he would let her go, and if she “lied,” he was going to break “her kneecaps.” DEPAPE was certain that Nancy would not
have told the “truth.” In the course of the interview, DEPAPE articulated he viewed Nancy as the “leader of the pack” of lies told by the Democratic Party. DEPAPE also later explained that by breaking Nancy’s kneecaps, she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other Members of Congress there were consequences to actions. DEPAPE also explained generally that he wanted to use Nancy to lure another individual to DEPAPE.
While everyone’s asking when the GOP will drop the insanity, JKB comes along to remind us that the two are inseparable.
The SF police chief has explicitly disavowed the conspiracy theories.