The attack on Paul Pelosi should be a moment of national awakening | Jill Filipovic


MMuch of American life has become grosser, uglier and crueler since Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016. Even with Trump removed from office, his legacy persists and erodes everyday American life.

In a gruesome act of political violence on Friday, a man broke into the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the most reviled political figures on the American right, and attacked her husband with a hammer. , fracking his skull and leaving him seriously injured. The attacker, David DePape, 42, was apparently wearing zip ties and duct tape and shouting, “Where’s Nancy?”

Paul Pelosi is lucky not to have been killed – a hammer to the skull can certainly do the trick, especially when the victim is an elderly man. And while I imagine that Nancy Pelosi feels tremendous grief and guilt that her husband was nearly murdered in an attack that appeared to be aimed at her, she is also lucky that she was not home at the time of the attack.

Such an extreme act should shock the conscience of the nation. Instead, it showed how immune the Trumpist right has become to human decency and empathy. Trump’s son, Donald Jr, tweeted an image of a pair of men’s underwear and a hammer with the legend “I have my Paul Pelosi Halloween costume ready”.

His father has so far remained silent, like many elected Republicans. Conservatives in the media, meanwhile, are working overtime to deny that the right is responsible here, blaming it on a random act of violence and claiming that sometimes leftists are just as violent.

That’s not entirely untrue: A mentally ill man was arrested outside Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home with a gun last summer, and another shot to a group of Republican congressmen at baseball practice in 2017, nearly killing Rep. Steve Scalise.

But there are some major differences, including the fact that right-wing political violence is much more common than left-wing political violence, and right-wing violence is much more likely to be deadly than left-wing violence. In the United States, right-wing extremists are not only more dangerous than left-wing extremists, but they are more dangerous as Islamic radicals and those inspired by the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Since 1994, the majority of terrorist plots in the United States have been hatched by right-wing radicals.

All political violence is a problem. But in terms of numbers, right-wing violence is a much bigger problem than left-wing violence.

This may in part be due to the right’s broad license structure for unchecked misogyny, threats and threats against political opponents, and refusal to strongly condemn acts of violence. When Scalise was shot and Kavanaugh was threatened, prominent Democrats did not remain silent. Bernie Sanders, who was reportedly the preferred candidate for the man who shot Scalise, immediately came out after the shooting to say, “I’m sickened by this despicable act,” and stressed that “real change can only happen through non-violent action. When the man who was threatening Kavanaugh was arrested, Joe Biden condemned the man’s actions in no uncertain terms and supported extensive security measures for Supreme Court justices.

And prominent liberals with national platforms and ties to Democratic administrations haven’t suggested dressing up as bloody Steve Scalise or dead Brett Kavanaugh on Halloween. The only prominent liberal to crack such a tasteless joke – which had nothing to do with an actual assassination attempt – was the famously vulgar comedian Kathy Griffin, who posted a bloody photo of herself holding Donald Trump’s severed fake head; for this she lost most of her professional work and was expelled from her television gigs, investigated by the Secret Service and, according to her, threatened with a charge of conspiracy to assassinate the States President -United.

By contrast, the menacing, menacing Democrats have become a staple not only of conservative loudmouths on YouTube and talk radio, but also of Republicans looking for office. Trump, notoriously, has used his rallies to encourage his supporters to chant “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton. Republican Representative Paul Gosar tweeted a bizarre cartoon video of him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and threatening President Biden; he refused to apologize for it and his actions were not widely condemned on the right.

The Republican Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene said Pelosi had committed treason, a crime “punishable by the death penalty.” The Minnesota Republican Rep. Tom Emmer tweeted a video of himself firing a gun, along with the words “Exercising my Second Amendment rights” and the hashtag #FirePelosi. Blake Mastersa Republican running for a Senate seat in Arizona, has published campaign ads in which he is holding guns (in one of the ads he says, “It wasn’t designed for hunting – it’s designed to kill people”) and said that when it comes to what he sees as a war between left and right, “You can recite an eloquent poem about pacifism just before they line up against the wall and not shoot at you”.

Republican Eric Greitens ran for the Senate with a a d featuring him armed and breaking down a door saying, “Get a Rino hunting license. There’s no bagging limit, no labeling limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country. (Rino stands for “Republican in name only,” slang for moderate GOP members.)

There is also the fact of right-wing violence against women, which appears less and less as a political handicap. Republicans don’t have a total lockdown on misogynistic violence, but the number of GOP candidates accused of abuse and assault is truly breathtaking – as is the general party shrug in response. This seems to be another outcome of the presidency of a man who bragged on video about sexually assaulting women: abusing women and girls just isn’t a disqualifier for those on the Republican ticket .

And finally, there’s the right-wing conspiracy that predictably attracts those unconnected to reality, and the related rhetoric that makes solving the made-up problem a kind of life-and-death battle between good and evil. The anti-abortion movement truly pioneered this strategy, asserting that abortion is murder and comparing abortion clinics to Hitler’s extermination factories during the Holocaust.

The result of telling people that literally millions of babies were being murdered in this corner clinic was predictable: clinics attacked, women threatened and harassed, doctors and other workers murdered. And instead of losing, the anti-abortion terrorists won: the Republican Party agreed with their policy goals and Republican presidents appointed anti-abortion Supreme Court justices, and abortion is no longer a constitutional right protected.

The American right has become even more lopsided in recent years, with many Trump supporters embracing the QAnon conspiracy theories, believing Democrats are trafficking children through pizzerias and Wayfair furniture, and even mainstream Republicans are joining in on Trump’s “Stop the Steal” refrain that the 2020 election was stolen (it was not).

When you promulgate completely unfounded and crazy ideas and convince your followers that the mainstream media is lying to them and that political opponents are not only ideologically different but are literally a threat to your life, and you insist on living in a country where people can be armed to the teeth, it’s hard to be surprised when your followers are mad and violent.

There’s a pattern here that you just don’t see on the left: the fetishization of lethal weapons; violence against women that goes unpunished by the party and its supporters; the kind of disturbing conspiracy theories that are catnip for the mad and demand extreme action in response; and the fantasy of assassinating his political opponents, all thrown into the cauldron together.

It’s no coincidence, given the element of hyper-masculine misogyny in all of this, that much of the right-wing violent fantasies are directed against women, Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez leading the way. This isn’t the first time Nancy Pelosi has been targeted by violent right-wingers. During the January 6, 2021, uprising, she was the target of rioters who broke into the Capitol building and wandered the halls calling his name in the kind of singing voices usually reserved for horror films: “Nancy, oh Nancy!” Where are you Nancy?

Republicans have largely refused to heed what happened on Jan. 6. And even now they’re treating Pelosi’s attack as a sideshow instead of the real warning that it is. Just hours after Pelosi’s husband took a hammer to the head and as he underwent surgery to repair his cracked skull, Republican Governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin, Told an audience of rallymen: “There is no place for violence anywhere, but we are going to send [Pelosi] back to be with him in California.

The attack on Paul Pelosi should be a moment of judgment. For several years, we have had the impression that the wheels of this bus are gradually loosening and that the risks of conflict, both political and interpersonal, are increasing. Depending on how Republicans react to this moment, it could be just a footnote – a bad and tragic act, but without lasting national effects – or one of those historic inflection points. which we see as indicative of the dangerous turn the nation was about to make.


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