American politics has entered a dangerous, violent new phase where threats and intimidation have replaced respectful political debate. Now, members of the House of Representatives will receive up to $10,000 to upgrade security at their homes in the face of rising threats against lawmakers, the House sergeant at arms announced last week.
The announcement over increasing security for people in Congress came days after a man was arrested outside the home of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for allegedly shouting racist obscenities and threatening to kill her. Last month, authorities filed federal charges against a man who they say traveled from California to Maryland with the intent of murdering Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but surrendered to police before acting.
According to a new survey conducted by researchers at the University of California-Davis (UCSD) released this month, one in five Americans say political violence is “justified” at least in “some” circumstances. A much smaller portion of survey respondents, 3%, believe that political violence is “usually or always” justified.
NEW – the King County Prosecuting Attorney charges Brett Forsell with one count of felony stalking.
He was arrested outside Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s house with a gun pic.twitter.com/rVUACTkbI3
— Nicholas Wu is at #AAJA22 (@nicholaswu12) July 28, 2022
The US Capitol police reported 9,625 threats and directions of interest (meaning concerning actions or statements) against members of Congress last year, compared to 3,939 such instances in 2017. The members of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection have frequently been the targets of violent threats, requiring them to get personal security details. One member of the committee, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) recently shared a threatening letter sent to his wife last month in which the sender vowed to execute Kinzinger, his wife, and their newborn son. He is not seeking re-election in 2022. Democrat Eric Swalwell of California, a favorite target of Trump’s MAGA base, also shared a voicemail he received threatening his family after being targeted by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA).
Have a LISTEN 🔊
Marjorie loves to play the victim. But she’s an inciter of violence. Her constant attacks — even after the FBI said I was never suspected of wrongdoing — lead to threatening calls like this. This caller from today threatened to kill my three children. https://t.co/MlR1ogAxN3 pic.twitter.com/xVWosh1Uco
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) June 23, 2022
A study of online messages sent to 2020 congressional candidates found that women, particularly women of color, were more likely to be the target of abusive content. Of all the candidates reviewed, the progressive congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who is Somali American, received the highest proportion of abusive messages on Twitter. Fellow progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is Puerto Rican American, saw the most abusive comments on Facebook.