…and Domestic

We were reminded again yesterday of the growing threat domestic terrorism poses. From the AP:

A failed Republican state legislative candidate who authorities say was angry over losing the election last November and made baseless claims that the election was “rigged” against him was arrested Monday in connection with a series of drive-by shootings targeting the homes of Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico’s largest city.

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina held a news conference Monday evening hours after SWAT officers arrested Solomon Pena at his home.

The AP also noted:

Police said Pena, an election denier, had approached county and state lawmakers after his loss claiming the contest had been rigged against him despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022. The shootings began shortly after those conversations.

The shootings began Dec. 4, when eight rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. Days later, state Rep. Javier Martinez’s home was targeted. On Dec. 11, more than a dozen rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, police said.

The final related shooting, targeting state Sen. Linda Lopez’s home, unfolded in the midnight hour of Jan. 3. Police said more than a dozen shots were fired, including three that Lopez said passed through the bedroom of her sleeping 10-year-old daughter.

Fortunately, no one was injured in the shootings, but four families have been traumatized, or perhaps I should say four more as they are hardly alone.

Many politicians seem to want to keep at least part of the nation in a state of fear. Trump throws threats around like candy, knowing that often, his devoted MAGA followers will take him up on the suggestion and attempt to make the threats real. Campaigns, such as ones run by Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene and others, show the armed legislative hopefuls making threats against opponents (and, by extension, their supporters) or against various beliefs or causes many Americans support.

Threats regularly roll into the offices of officials who extremists have called out for various offenses, frequently falsely. According to Forbes

The number of threats against members of Congress has skyrocketed in recent years. More than 9,600 threats poured in to Capitol Police in 2021—over ten times the 902 threats reported in 2016, just before Trump took office

Eric Swalwell has released tapes of death threats that he’s received, and Nancy Pelosi’s husband was shot in his home by someone looking for Nancy.

Even private citizens have faced harassment, such as Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, election workers who trump claimed had been behind part of the alleged (but non-existent) fraud in Georgia that cost him the election. Both were driven from their jobs and Ruby had to leave her home. Not only were they getting calls, but there were even people coming to their door to harass and threaten them. During the 2017 anti-Semitic march in Charleston, VA, one person, Heather Hoyer, was killed and others injured when a participant in the march drove his car into a group gathered to protest it.

Of course, the biggest domestic terrorism attack in recent years was the January 6th, 2021 insurrection. As much as it was an attempt to overthrow the government, it was also an attempt to make lawmakers fear the opposition, to let them know that the opposition could get to them, even in the presumably secure Capitol building, and that if they didn’t do what this group of domestic terrorists wanted, their lives could be forfeit.

Yet nothing has been done about any of this. Yes, there have been trials and punishments for people who participated in the insurrection, but those who organized it have, so far, gotten away with it and many keep amassing more power.

Members of the Congressional Freedom Caucus gather around a podium.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus
Several of the Freedom Caucus members who held Kevin McCarthy’s speakership hostage until he caved in to seemingly all of their demands, consequences be damned, supported the insurrectionists, and yet will now be given positions on important committees, able to wield power over a government they tried to help destroy.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Congress got right to work creating various laws to shield us from foreign terrorists But no such laws or policies exist to combat domestic terrorism, not even following 1/6. And if you go back further, nothing was done the last time the right wing began engaging in domestic terrorism, which was during the Clinton administration. In 1995, we suffered our worst domestic attack in the country’s history. The Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 people, and no domestic terrorism laws were passed then, either.

The extreme right wing – which is almost becoming something more of a near centrist position in the Republican Party – finds terrorism useful. They know that keeping people afraid – of those who are “different,” of the minorities coming to “steal your jobs,” schools “indoctrinating your children” by teaching them the sometimes harsh truth about our nation or “grooming” your child to become gay by exposing them to the mere knowledge that homosexuality exists, and so on – as they promise to take out these threats keeps people voting for them, giving them the power they so desperately crave. And they hope, eventually, to have enough power to keep a permanent majority, essentially turning us into a one-party country.

One reason we survived the wave of domestic terrorism in the 90s was the 9/11 attacks. For a time, foreign terrorism was a great source of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And, in the 90s, there was much less of a visible connection between elected leaders and the right-wing white supremacists, militias and “patroits” (who are actually more anti-government than anything) who were the ones primarily carrying out the attacks. But after we hadn’t suffered any foreign attacks for a while, the right-wing turned back to their old friend, domestic terrorism. Only this time, their leaders aren’t hiding their connections to those who are committing the attacks nearly as much.

All of this is, of course, a threat to our Democracy. The more power the right-wing gains and the more its followers can scare people away from running for office, serving as election workers, speaking out about what they believe or even voting, the easier it becomes for the right-wing to make a power grab. So, what can we do? Regrettably, I don’t have the answer for how to get us out of this situation immediately, but maybe we can hold the Republicans at bay for the next 2 years if we refuse to let fear get the better of us. We need to make our voices heard, hold more large-scale protests, pressure legislatures to push back against the Republicans, and join or otherwise support pro-Democracy groups. We also need to pressure the DOJ into acting against the leaders of the insurrection, all the way to the top.

If we can make it to 2024 with our Democracy intact, then the best thing we can do is vote for Democrat candidates in such numbers that we give them a sufficient majority in the House and Senate *and* keep the White House so that they can enact domestic terrorism legislation as soon as possile, and then we need to push them until they do.

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