Just hours removed from the news that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband had been attacked at the couple’s San Francisco home, Gov. Glenn Youngkin was on the stump for fellow Virginia Republican Yesli Vega, who is running for a House seat.
And Youngkin said this: “Speaker Pelosi’s husband had a break-in last night in their house, and he was assaulted. There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re gonna send her back to be with him in California. That’s what we’re going to go do.”
CNN reported that the intruder shouted “Where is Nancy?” before the attack and tried to tie Paul Pelosi up until his wife got home. The man suspected of the attack posted memes and conspiracy theories on social media about Covid-19, the 2020 election and the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.
It’s easy to shake your head at what Youngkin said. It was clearly inappropriate and horrendously badly timed. But what makes it all worse is that it’s extremely unlikely that Youngkin, who is regularly mentioned as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, will pay any political price for what he said. And in some circles, he might even get a boost from it.
Thanks in no small part to Donald Trump, the lines across which politicians were unwilling to go have been blurred, if not entirely eliminated. You can get away with saying anything and everything about the other political party because, well, they are viewed now as not just misguided, but purposely doing things that will decimate America.
A recent NBC News poll found that 81% of Democrats and 79% of Republicans said the other party’s agenda will “destroy” America. And even this morning on his Truth Social site, Trump was decrying the “Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs that truly hate our country” as part of a post celebrating Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.
When the threat the opposing party poses is seen in such existential terms, seemingly anything – whether it be in words or action – becomes justified. And when extreme rhetoric is rewarded rather than punished, guess what you get? More extreme rhetoric.
“When you convince people that politicians are rigging elections, drink babies blood, etc, you will get violence,” tweeted Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger. “This must be rejected.”
Following the rally, Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told CNN, “As the governor clearly said, the assault on Paul Pelosi was wrong and there is no place for violence. He wishes him a full recovery and is keeping the Pelosi family in his prayers.”
Youngkin’s comment and the attack on Paul Pelosi come amid a rising number of threats against members of Congress and their families.
As CNN reports:
“Calls for violence against lawmakers online and elsewhere have referenced both elected officials and their families, according to sources familiar with the threat environment who told CNN that law enforcement agencies have been grappling with how to address those threats in the wake of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.”
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that even events like what happened with Paul Pelosi will cool down the hot rhetoric. In fact, there’s evidence that such rhetoric will draw people to the politician willing to cross all previously held boundaries.