It has become commonplace to hear about the growing daily threats of violence to U.S. elected officials since the now infamous January 6th, 2021 Insurrection at the Capitol. On that day, millions of people in this country watched Donald J. Trump, one of the most controversial political figures in the world, refuse to condemn violence committed by his supporters in his name. Many conspiracy theories were used to justify the violence, with the popular ones claiming manipulation. Ranging from QAnon to other fringe misinformation filled websites eventually leading to multiple investigations being brought against the former president and colluding elected officials not including Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence who encouraged the Republican Party to uphold the democratic process by allowing a rightful transition of power. Inspiring many fringe, alt-right, and outright fascist groups in this country to continue the rhetoric Trump himself perpetuates. This leaves many elected officials in danger of receiving angry and often violent letters, unsolicited visits to their homes, death threats, and physical assaults due to their opposition of Donald Trump and his ideas.
Historically, it is not unheard of for elected officials to have security depending on the positions they hold and general notoriety for the work that they do. Most famously, the President and their family receive protection during their time in office and for the remainder of their lives thereafter. However, since January 6th 2021, many elected officials have been left with no choice but to hire protection whether it’s through their political parties, or their own pockets. Additionally, many have spoken out about getting bombarded with hateful messages coming from self proclaimed fans of Donald Trump through social media and personalized letters. Specifically the state of the economy and the subsequent economic hardships facing the United States in response to Covid-19. Democratic
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to increase her security and now relies on daily briefings of headshots and letters from potential aggressors that she must be able to identify. She is quoted in an interview stating, “I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive.” Others including Nancy Pelosi, Raphael Warnock, Corri Bush, Ilhan Ohmar, and more have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on round-the-clock security. Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, has reported some of the most frightening threats and encounters to herself and family from extremists traveling to her own neighborhood. Recognizing the demands of her own job she’s quoted saying, “We sign up for a lot of things when we sign up for this job, but having someone show up to your door with a gun, scaring your neighbors, scaring your staff, and clearly trying to intimidate me — it’s hard to describe.” Without a doubt, elected officials should not have this amount of stress added to their position.
If this is becoming the new political norm, there must also be strong counter actions against this culture of aggression. More politicians from all sides of the spectrum need to speak out diligently against narratives questioning Trump’s election loss. Even though Trump was impeached for his involvement in the insurrection, the Republican party as a whole has not turned away from him. Many agree with what occurred that day and have even gone as far as encouraging Trump to run for reelection. U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, one of the few Republican outliers has been clear in her anti-Trump beliefs stating, “The leaders of the Republican party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon January 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy.” A small handful of others have spoken against the Republican party’s lack of condemnation of January 6th and the role Donald Trump played, including Republican Senator Mitt Romney. Overall there has not been nearly enough backlash to squash this movement that directly threatens democracy and the future of American elections.
Another necessary step is to enforce stronger security measures that should be taken by the U.S. government on behalf of elected officials. The onus for protecting themselves and their families should not be a burden they carry alone. And security should become an inherent right to any official due to any hateful messages received no matter how small. This country is more than capable of providing defense for all elected officials, and has the power to prevent another attack such as January 6th from taking place. The more pushback these conspiracy theories against democracy receive, the safer it will be for politicians to do their jobs without fear of violence against themselves and their fellow colleagues. Which in turn protects the democratic processes of this country.