Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the co-chair of the House Select Committee on the January 6th insurrection, faced constant death threats from supporters of Donald Trump and his hand-picked opponent to Cheney, Harriet Hageman. In a state like Wyoming, where handshaking retail campaigning is a key to electoral success, being forced to host small political events in living rooms proved to be an electoral disaster for Ms. Cheney. Death threats against other Republican and Democratic opponents of Trump have been reported from around the country, a fact that led some Republicans in the House to decide not to seek re-election.
The worst example of such political violence was the January 6th storming by Trump supporters, including neo-Nazis, far-right militias, and Qanon supporters, of the U.S. Capitol during its certification of the 2021 presidential election. Dozens of insurrectionists said they were intent on executing Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, and the members of the House Democratic “Squad”—Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Presley.
Individual threats transmitted by phone, social media platforms, and email have been directed at scores of politicians. Criminal conspiracies by far-right militias to execute Democratic Governors Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Andy Beshear of Kentucky, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, and Ralph Northam of Virginia, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Threats of violence against political candidates from governor and school board and even volunteer election workers are a key factor in advancing fascism. As Ms. Cheney said in her August 16 concession speech, “No patriotic American should excuse these threats or be intimidated by them.” Political violence always been a hallmark of fascist banana republics and tinhorn dictatorships. Our current era of right-wing political violence began on January 8, 2011 outside a Safeway in Casa Adobes, Arizona, when Jared Loughner, a grievance-ridden white male and a champion of the fringe Tea Party, opened fire on a constituent event held by Representative Gabby Giffords (D-AZ). Among the six people killed in the shooting spree were U.S. Judge John Roll and the 9-year-old granddaughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green. Giffords was shot in the head and was severely injured. She continues to suffer from the effects of her traumatic injury. Giffords’s husband, former astronaut and Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly has faced death threats from supporters of Trump and his Republican opponent in this year’s election, the Nazi-praising Blake Masters.
State and local law enforcement have been asleep at the wheel in dealing with threats of violence from the far-right supporters of Trump. It is also the case that several local sheriffs, police chiefs, state police superintendents, and police associations actually agree with those who threaten to kill or harm candidates who are anti-Trump Republicans, independents, or Democrats.
Right-wing political violence and threats of violence are intended for one purpose: to convince the public that in order to achieve public safety, they should abandon the trappings of democracy—free and fair elections, representative legislatures, and political leaders answerable to an electorate every two, four, or six years—in favor of a political strongman. Today, demagogues like Trump, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott offer voters that fascist option.
Today, only one political party offers up a firm commitment to the principles of democratic governance. The Republican Party now proclaims a fascist cult of personality around Trump or whoever takes his place as the champion of totalitarianism. The Greens and Libertarians, as well as Bernie Sanders’s fellow “Democratic Socialists” are mere fronts for Vladimir Putin’s global campaign of subjecting democracies to the electoral dissonance brought about by unfounded allegations of election rigging. Joining the Republicans in the muck of anti-democratic fascist “populism” are the Conservatives of Britain and Canada.
The United States is careening toward a dark era of American history. Thanks to Trump and his allies, right-wing violence and threats of violence will continue to deter politicians of good will from running for office. Soon, the United States will resemble countries like Mexico, Colombia, India, South Africa, and the Philippines, where election violence is par for the course. During Mexico’s 2021 legislative and municipal election campaign, over 91 politicians were assassinated. Of these, 36 were candidates for office. They included Cazones de Herrera mayoral candidate René Tovar Tovar of the Citizen Movement (MC) and candidates for legislative seats representing multiple parties, including PAN,
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), National Action Party (PAN), Chiapas Unido Party, National Regeneration Movement (Morena), and Green Ecological Party of Mexico (PVEM). The assassinations occurred across Mexico, including in the states of Veracruz, Colima, Guerrero, Chiapas, Guanajuato, Quintana Roo, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas, Sonora, and Queretaro. During the 2018 election campaign, 132 candidates and election workers in Mexico were murdered in 22 of Mexico’s 31 states. The perpetrators of the murders were primarily tied to drug cartels, organizations that are anathema to pro-democracy parties and favor oligarchical rule, as has been the case not only in Mexico but also in Colombia, Honduras, and El Salvador.
What the fascist Republicans hope to achieve in the United States is a situation similar to that in election violence-plagued countries around the world. They want a country that wakes up to not only weather reports and sports scores but numbers of political assassinations occurring overnight. Something like: “Political violence and killings were reported from across the nation, with political assassinations being reported in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Tennessee, Michigan, and Ohio during the night. Among the dead are three Democratic candidates for state legislatures, two candidates for city council seats, and one candidate for governor.”
With law enforcement, particularly at the local and state level identifying with the right-wing and generally unwilling to protect anti-Republican candidates and parties, the Democrats may be forced to organize their own armed self-defense units. The German Social Democrats were forced into such a situation in 1931 when it formed the Iron Front, a paramilitary organization with a logo of three arrows pointing at totalitarianism. The Iron Front was intended to defend Weimar Germany’s democratic parties and trade unions against the violence of the Nazis. The German Communist Party did the same in creating Antifaschistische Aktion (Antifa) in 1932. It was an outgrowth of the Roter Frontkämpferbund (“Red Front Fighters League”) created in the 1920s to combat Nazi and other far-right thugs who attempted to commit acts of violence against Communist rallies. In the Nazi catechism instilled by Fred Trump, Sr. into the mind of his heir, Donald Trump, “antifa” is a triggering pejorative for Trump and his cult members. In fact, “anti-fascism” was the prevailing political view of the entire Western world during the 1930s and 40s and it should be again.
Political violence and death threats against Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans and independents carried out by far-right groups like the Proud Boys, III Percenters, Groyper Army, Qanon, Patriot Front, and other terrorists should be met head-on by pro-democracy protection units in the spirit of the Iron Front, the Red Front Fighters, and Antifa in Germany in the 1930s. If Trump and his riffraff hordes of incels, bigots, bikers, and lunatics want violence, let it be them who reap what they sow, not those who are committed to uphold the Constitution and democracy in the United States.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).