On Monday, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar (R) tweeted out a 90-second anime video in which his face is superimposed on some sort of animated hero, slaying a giant with Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s face on it and then flying in the air with two swords toward another figure bearing the visage of President Joe Biden.
Gosar’s office sought to explain away the action hero video as a joke. “Everyone needs to relax,” Gosar’s digital director told the Washington Post on Monday. Gosar’s Twitter account posted a cartoon image Tuesday that further mocked critics, saying, “It’s a cartoon. Relax.”
One of his targets reacted to it with a sobering prediction.
Ocasio-Cortez said that Gosar had released “a fantasy video of him killing me” but that “he’ll face no consequences bc (House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy) cheers him on with excuses.”
This situation is only the latest example of elected officials – up to and including House members – being threatened with violence due to their political beliefs or even for saying something as simple as the 2020 election was not, in fact, rigged.
* Michigan Rep. Fred Upton recounted to CNN a voicemail he received shortly after voting for the $1 trillion infrastructure package late Friday night. “I hope you die,” the caller said. “I hope everybody in your f**king family dies.” Upton, on Twitter, said this: “I regret that this good, bipartisan bill became a political football in recent weeks. Our country can’t afford this partisan dysfunction any longer.”
* Secretaries of state from swing states like Arizona have been repeatedly threatened due to their unwillingness to perpetuate former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. “I am a hunter – and I think you should be hunted,” said one woman in a voicemail left for Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) in September. “You will never be safe in Arizona again.”
* School boards across the country have become threat targets as people rage against mask mandates, vaccine requirements and the way race and racism is handled in teaching.
Looming over all of this is the ongoing investigation into the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6. That riot left 5 people dead and more than 100 police officers injured. More than 600 people have been arrested for their role in the riot that day.
The hope had been – at least in the immediate aftermath of January 6 – that that day had been such a near-cataclysm for the country that no one wanted to repeat it. That the violence and hate – and misinformation - that fueled that riot would dissipate after that day.
That has not happened.
While there hasn’t been any major violent event the likes of what happened on January 6, there have been a steady stream of threats and ugly incidents directed at health experts and elected officials over everything from Covid-19 to critical race theory to Trump’s relentless lies about the 2020 election.
Violence – or the threat of violence – is now mainstream in American politics. While once a Member of Congress tweeting a video in which he appears to kill a fellow Member would have been met with broad and bipartisan condemnation, now it is chalked up on the right to “owning the libs” and not just tolerated but celebrated.
Down this road lies nothing good. When violence is mainstreamed – or ignored for political purposes – it festers, and grows.