Threats against members of Congress – regardless of political affiliation – are higher than ever and the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband points to an era of political violence that began during Barack Obama’s presidency and has only grown since. With the subsequent election of Donald Trump came the normalization of political hate speech and the brutality it creates. Coupled with attacks on marginalized groups, it’s becoming clearer that political violence is here to stay.
Despite most cable news pundits disregarding the threats of violence surrounding the elections, it appears plots were already set in motion. In what seemed like a strategic move, talk of violence by far-right radicals didn’t appear online until about two days before election day. The precursors to political violence surrounding the midterm elections began with intimidation at the polls.
One of the most telling things made public about the January 6th attack on the Capitol was how hate group leadership planned the raid and relayed messages to others on message boards just hours prior to the attack. It provided an example for those who have trying to been explain this to the general public. That same tactic was seen over the weekend prior to the Midterm Elections.
On the morning of election day, seven fires were started in Jackson, Mississippi beginning at about 2:45 a.m. Two of the structures were churches with one burning to the ground in a fire that lasted 4 hours. Another fire was started at Jackson State, a historically Black public university. The fires were reportedly located in the Jackson State neighborhood.
But it wasn’t what many initially thought it could be.
It isn’t lost on most people that fires occurring during elections aren’t new. Especially when it comes to Black institutions. Historically, burning down Black churches has been used as an intimidation tactic to try and scare Black people away from voting. While the events throughout history only served to motivate Black voters to vote, it didn’t stop racists from burning down sometimes entire communities wiping them off the map. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.
People are on edge and many initially refused to believe the fires were a coincidence even after learning the suspected arsonist is Black. That they happened on election day seems to have motivated more people to get out and vote. If the intention was to silence or scare Black voters, particularly college-aged Black voters, once again, it failed.
And while it’s too early to tell if the actions of the suspected arsonist Devin McLaurin were politically motivated, they represent precisely what some feared on election day.
We all know the Republican Party to be the party of grievance. All they do is complain. They spread fears about immigrants while never offering solutions for a more efficient system that would minimize or eliminate people crossing the border through deserts and rivers. They run long-cons, like “white extinction” nonsense while using immigrants of color as scapegoats. If you notice, they don’t complain about white asylum-seekers like Cubans or people from Europe.
They demonize Black people and Latinos as criminals yet offer no tangible solutions to prevent crime. Instead of investing in poor communities, their idea of a solution is to put more cops on the street despite data showing that does nothing to prevent crime. Including poor white communities who suffer under similar oppressive systems that are often used against non-white groups.
So when they started crying about losing so many elections in the absence of their “red wave” because of failed opportunities and Democrats doing better than them at outreach in Black and Latino communities – rather than screaming the elections were stolen – they quieted much of the far-right rhetoric driving potential violence. Armed extremists took a seat in their La-Z-Boys and waited for the dog whistles that never came.
Instead, what they witnessed was a comedy of temper tantrums and finger-pointing.
That we haven’t seen political violence is a great thing. It doesn’t mean we won’t see more of what we’re seeing with the high amounts of threats and the attack on Paul Pelosi.
But while Republicans bicker, Governor Greg Abbott is already making extremist moves. He declared a state of emergency in Texas and imposed ArticleIV, Section 4 of the U.S. constitution otherwise known as the “invasion clause” which says the United States “shall guarantee every state in this Union a republican form of government and shall protect each of them against invasion.”
In addition, Texas Republicans were active on the first day to day to propose bills for the upcoming legislative session. Introduced were several bills targeting the trans community. Two bills criminalizing gender-affirming care as child abuse and banning children from attending drag shows. Both bills could land parents in jail.
These actions and the rhetoric that accompany them put targets on the backs of trans kids, their parents, asylum seekers, and everyday Latinos in the U.S. along the border. As is the case with many stories from Uvalde to Ft. Bend County, Texas, Latinos are often profiled and searched for contraband or accused of being “illegal” sometimes for nothing more than having a Latino name.
It’s also the kind of rhetoric once employed by former president Donald Trump resulting in many mass shootings and thousands of violent physical attacks against Latinos all over the country.
While Democrats enjoy their victories and as former president Trump announces his campaign to again seek the presidency dominates the conversation, Republicans are already at work driving bigger wedges in this country’s culture wars. Yes, their tears likely shut down any major political violence, but don’t let that distract you from the power they still have to create and stoke more violence all over the country. We’re living in scary times.
Don’t give up the fight.