A warning about the threat of political violence heading into the 2022 midterm elections was issued to state and local law enforcement officials by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Oct. 28, 2022.
The bulletin was released the same day that Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s husband was hospitalized after a home invasion by a lone right-wing extremist seeking to harm her.
This incident is the latest in an increasing stream of extremist confrontations taking place across the United States in recent years. These incidents have primarily targeted Democrats, including a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. But threats from both sides of the political spectrum are up significantly.
And, of course, there was the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where supporters of a defeated Republican president, acting on a widespread lie he perpetuated, violently attempted to prevent the certification of electoral votes. According to well-documented public evidence, some rioters planned to find and execute both Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.
Such incidents reflect a disturbing trend that targets the very fabric, foundation and future of U.S. democracy. But what led to this point?
As a researcher taking a critical and apolitical eye toward security issues, I believe the rise in contemporary right-wing political extremism – and violence – began with an outdated focus in national communications policy.