The GOP Incites Violence

Republican politicians have targeted Nancy Pelosi with misogynist, violent rhetoric for years. The fact that this inspired someone to attack her husband while looking for her shouldn't come as a surprise.
Image Credit: Brian Birzer

On Friday, Paul Pelosi, husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was violently attacked in their California home. The attacker broke into the house searching for Pelosi, almost certainly with the intent to harm or kill her. The police have refused to name a motivation for the attack, but the culprit has an online profile similar to what we often see in cases like these: conspiracy theories, racism, misogyny, QAnon, etc. You can also somewhat trace the path of radicalization, as we often see with these guys.

That someone successfully broke into the Speaker of the House’s home and violently assaulted her elderly husband should come as more of a shock. Pelosi is third in line for the Presidency, after all. But it also feels inevitable. Political violence has been escalating for years, and America’s tolerance for it has only grown. I’ve covered it extensively for the entirety of this newsletter. How the Right incites violence, how the media and social media amplify that incitement, and how there isn’t any real cost to powerful people and institutions that engage.

Many of the worst offenders of incitement are Speaker Pelosi’s colleagues in Congress. They’ve spouted violent rhetoric for years. The incitement gets worse every election cycle to the point where you now have Marjorie Tayloe Greene harassing AOC in the hallways of Congress and Ted Cruz retweeting harassment campaign from Libs of TikTok. Congress is a toxic workplace, but little has been done to protect those harmed.

Elected officials and election workers now face an unprecedented level of threats in particular. The threats come from social media, Donald Trump, Fox News, and from their own colleagues. The same day Paul Pelosi was assaulted, US security agencies issued a heightened threat advisory “warning of potential attacks on political candidates, election officials and others.” And that “attacks conducted by lone actors pose the most plausible threat to potential targets.”

America’s tolerance for this incitement, and the fact that we’re all living with the constant threat of violence now, apparently hasn’t reached its limit. Sometimes I wonder if a limit exists at all.

Consider that this is the second time Pelosi has had a brush with death due to political violence in the past two years. The attacker in her home was looking for the Speaker, and the January 6 insurrectionists occupied her office, and were it not for her security detail, Pelosi could have very well been killed that day.

GOP politicians have targeted Pelosi in particular with misogynist, violent rhetoric for years. It didn’t stop after January 6, and it didn’t stop on Friday after news broke about her husband. In a speech after the news broke, RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel asked the crowd, “Who’s ready to fire Nancy Pelosi?” Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin joked about sending Pelosi back to California as Pelosi was flying to California to be with her husband. He made this comment while referencing the attack in the same sentence!

This isn’t sustainable. It’s no way to live, and it’s no way to run a country.

Americans can’t keep pretending this is accidental. Every public figure on the Right who engages in this behavior knows what they’re doing and is working to accomplish the same goal: destroying American Democracy and seizing power. The violence is a feature, not a bug, and the people using the rhetoric aim to incite more violence. The violence manifests in ways large and small, from mass shootings to vandalism, online harassment, an insurrection, and this week the attempted murder of the Speaker of the House.

I wish I had an easy answer to stop this, but this is a systemic issue we’ve let fester for years now. But I do know that this will keep happening until we find ways to hold those who incite violence accountable. And the first step towards doing that is to name the problem, acknowledge the all-encompassing effect it has, and call out those responsible by name.

Nancy Pelosi is probably the toughest elected official active in politics right now. I don’t always agree with her political decisions, but I’ve always admired how steady and unflappable she is, as the recent video of her on January 6 shows. I don’t worry about her ability to come through this week and continue to lead, but I do wonder how much longer our systems of government, local and national, will hold under the strain of all this.

Again, there’s no easy fix to this problem, but one way to take immediate action is to vote in the midterm elections. There are MAGA candidates running for every office, from school board to Senator. Folks who will use their platform to incite violence and their office to try and break our system from within. Vote against incitement, against violence, against fascism, and against MAGA. Vote because we all deserve better than this.

There are just 8 days until election day. Find all the information you need to vote and your voting rights here.

This is an excerpt from the newsletter Ctrl Alt-Right DeleteIt was republished with the author’s permission. Subscribe HERE.

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Melissa Ryan

Melissa Ryan Ctrl is the author of Alt-Right Delete, a newsletter devoted to covering the rise of far-right extremism, white nationalism disinformation, and online toxicity, delivered on a weekly basis to more than 16,000 subscribers. Her writing has appeared in publications such as The Progressive, Buzzfeed News, Refinery29, NowThis, and Media Matters.

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