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“Where Survivalism Takes Root, Political Violence Can Follow” – The Larger Context of the Attack Against Paul Pelosi

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AV Political Director Zachary Mueller: Pelosi Attack “Part of a demonstrated pattern of far-right domestic terrorism to undermine the American promise of a multi-racial democracy”

Washington, DC – In the aftermath of the horrific assassination attempt at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s house, leading commentators are highlighting the larger context and implications of the attack against Paul Pelosi and making clear why media and other observers cannot make “both sides” explanations or justifications. As America’s Voice Political Director Zachary Mueller states below, the attack is “part of a demonstrated pattern of far-right domestic terrorism to undermine the American promise of a multi-racial democracy” and is best viewed alongside the larger GOP and right wing embrace of extreme appeals to racial grievance, including the party-wide adoption of white nationalist “replacement” and “invasion” language with regards to immigrants.

Below, find excerpts of important opinion essays from New York University historian and authoritarianism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat and syndicated columnist Max Boot, followed by Mueller’s full quote.

In an MSNBC opinion column, “The attack on Paul Pelosi was shocking — and yet also predictable,” New York University historian and authoritarianism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat writes:

“Autocrats and those who wish to join their ranks know that polarization is rarely enough to get people to commit unprecedented acts. To encourage political violence and exceptional measures — harming Pelosi or Capitol rioters chanting that they wanted to hang then-Vice President Mike Pence — you need to get people to feel like they are facing an existential threat. Survivalism goes beyond the ‘us or them in power’ of polarization to a state of ‘it’s us or them, and only one of us will survive the encounter.’ Its extreme rhetoric deliberately evokes fear and dread at losing something irreplaceable, at the obliteration of America.

Yes, polarization is on the rise around the world, thanks to disaffection with liberal democracy, rising economic inequality and social media’s exposure of billions to disinformation. But when illiberal politicians and their media allies move to destroy democracy, the creation of enemies and the fomenting of hostility enter a different phase. Political opponents are depicted as existential threats who must be stopped by any means possible.

…Survivalism is also central to many Republican messaging campaigns around immigration and the dire consequences of demographic change. The ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory, which holds that white people will be extinguished in terms of birth and status in a minority-majority state, is now a mainstream belief among Republican lawmakers and media figures. Tucker Carlson, host of Fox News’ highest-rated show, has featured it in more than 400 episodes.

…Keeping people in a state of fear and agitation about losing everything is essential to strongman strategy. It prepares the masses to accept violence as a means of solving problems — from elections that don’t go well for their party to living with a changing democratic reality. Where survivalism takes root, political violence can follow.”

Under the headlineDon’t blame ‘both sides.’ The right is driving political violence,” Washington Post syndicated columnist Max Boot write:

“It should not be controversial to say that America has a major problem with right-wing political violence. The evidence continues to accumulate — yet the GOP continues to deny responsibility for this horrifying trend.

…Then there are all the terrible hate crimes, in cities including Pittsburgh, El Paso and Buffalo, where gunmen were motivated by the kind of racist rhetoric — especially the ‘great replacement theory’ — now openly espoused on Fox ‘News.’

…So please don’t accept the GOP framing of the assault on Paul Pelosi as evidence of a problem plaguing “both sides of the aisle.” Political violence in America is being driven primarily by the far right, not the far left, and the far right is much closer to the mainstream of the Republican Party than the far left is to the Democratic Party.”

Zachary Mueller, Political Director for America’s Voice, stated: 

“The assassination attempt at the Pelosi home did not happen in a vacuum. It is not an isolated incident but a part of a demonstrated pattern of far-right domestic terrorism to undermine the American promise of a multi-racial democracy. And that threat is ongoing.

We have been warning that the GOP’s embrace of bigoted lies and conspiracy theories for political expediency will continue to have deadly downstream consequences. When Republicans tell their supporters over and over again that Democorats are trying to ‘replace’ you by orchestrating an ‘invasion’ of non-white migrants to take your country from you, and that those same forces have rigged your ability to hold them accountable at the ballot box, they are all but telling people that political violence is their only recourse. And some individuals will respond accordingly. 

The line between political speech and incitement to political violence is being blurred by Republicans in this cycle. And let’s be clear,  it is a Republican problem. That is just a fact. If we cannot name this serious problem, we cannot begin to address it. Republicans (electeds, candidates, pundits, party PACS and committees, former officials) who care about the safety of all Americans and preserving American democracy must urgently and publicly fight the white nationalist, anti-democratic, and violence-inspiring conspiracy theories running unchecked inside their party. There is a deadly serious problem inside the GOP, and any Republican candidate not speaking out against it is actively complicit.”