After Paul Pelosi attack, no one cared about calls to keep politics out

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Typically, when a high-profile violent act occurs in America, political figures pause, lay out their talking points, and call for reflection, prayer — and a brief reprieve from politics.

That didn’t happen after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, was violently attacked with a hammer at their San Francisco home on Friday. Eleven days before a midterm that could reshape who wields power in Congress, many felt there was too much to lose.

Few people sat in the political shiva for long before weaponizing the attack for their own political gain – another sign of how American leaders tacitly encourage political violence, whether against office holders, their families or election officials
earn $125 a day.

Two hours after the news broke on Friday that an intruder broke into Pelosi’s home and beat her 82-year-old husband while shouting, “Where’s Nancy?” — an echo of what the Capitol insurgencies howled during the Jan. 6 attack — Republican California Senate candidate Mark Meuser released a statement. It happened before anything was known about the alleged attacker.

“California criminals have been emboldened by our soft-on-crime policies. Every Californian has been affected by these disastrous policies, including Paul Pelosi. I pray that he makes a full and speedy recovery, and the SF DA will continue to the fullest extent permitted by law,” he said. (Meuser, by the way, is part of the legal team
sue the city of San Jose
on its first ordinance in the nation requiring gun owners to purchase insurance and pay fees to a nonprofit aimed at preventing gun violence.)

Meuser followed a wish with thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery. Some of Meuser’s Republican colleagues weren’t so adept. Like Ohio State Rep. Mike Loychik,
who tweeted
about 90 minutes after the attack, “I hope San Francisco sent their best social worker to respond to the brutal assault by Nancy Pelosi’s husband.”

Three hours later, after Loychik had had time to think about his answer,
he tweeted:
“Will the Democrats wake up to the crime now that it’s on their doorstep, or will Paul Pelosi’s attacker be released on bail and roam free to commit more crimes?”

Will Democrats wake up to the crime now that it’s on their doorstep, or will Paul Pelosi’s attacker be released on bail and roam free to commit more crimes?

— Representative Mike Loychik (@MikeLoychik) October 28, 2022

Loychik, who hosted Donald Trump Jr. at a recent fundraiser in his district, apparently took a crash course in media literacy — and humanity — soon after.
and added that
“I sincerely hope that Paul Pelosi makes a full recovery and his attacker is locked up. Political violence is unacceptable regardless of political leanings.

Yeah, that’s it. But many conservative politicians don’t seem to understand that their violent words can incite violent actions, including the “attempted murder” of Paul Pelosi, New Jersey Democratic Rep. Paul Pascrell said.

“Let’s be direct. The violence today appears to be the direct product of many Republican and Republican propaganda outlets telling lies about Democrats and American democracy,” Pascrell said in a statement.

He
blame
“to lather up the hosts (on
right-wing media) screaming untold lies and baseless conspiracy theories about women, religious and ethnic minorities, city dwellers, young people and dozens of other Americans. That some radicalize to commit unspeakable violence against their perceived enemies cannot be a surprise.

Welcome to America on the eve of the 2022 election. GOP members jumped on the attack to advance their existing belief that Democrats are soft on crime. Pelosi’s fellow Democrats, meanwhile, insisted the attack showed the violent, anti-democracy rhetoric of Jan. 6 had dangerously metastasized into the nation’s blood. Both are versions of the story they were already telling about the upcoming elections.

But for all of Republicans’ concerns about the crime, few seemed interested in calling for an end to the rhetoric that might incite it.

Paul Pelosi’s alleged attacker
David DePape, seems to have kept a blog
which was filled with references to far-right conspiracy theories, Q-Anon trash, and racist and anti-LGBTQ ramblings. On August 25, DePape, a
former member of the Green Party, created posts with titles reading “Communist Voodoo Science” and “Feminists Are Possessed.” An article from August 25 is titled “The woke are racists with a bad conscience”.

We don’t yet know exactly what fueled the motives of the alleged abuser, but we can’t ignore the political venom being pumped into the atmosphere, said Garen Wintemute, one of the country’s leading researchers on the violence. He is an emergency physician and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis.

Wintemute led one of the greatest
political violence investigations. In June, its national survey found that one in five Americans believe violence can be at least sometimes justified “to advance an important political goal,” and half believe a civil war is underway “in the coming years”.

“Republicans were more likely to approve of political violence than Democrats. We found that MAGA Republicans were much more likely than other Republicans, let alone Democrats, to approve of violence,” Wintemute told me on Friday. .

Much like what happens after a mass shooting, Wintemute said that when people seek to understand what caused it, we often find that “the most important causes are further upstream.”

Lawrence Rosenthal, president of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, told me on Friday that “what struck me was that (Paul Pelosi’s attacker allegedly) used the exact same words” as the insurgents who stormed the US Capitol on January 16. July 6, 2021: “Where is Nancy? »

“It’s very hard to assign blame — to say the Republican Party is responsible for this, to incite such violence,” Rosenthal said. “Yet what about a party that buys into a leader (Donald Trump) who says January 6 (of the insurgents) ‘We love you’?” (On the day of the attacks, Trump
said to the assailants of the Capitol“Coming home. We love you.”)

“There is the creation of an atmosphere, which is perhaps decisive in this case,” he said.

Rosenthal said it was “very difficult logic to follow” that Pelosi’s attack, as some Republicans have suggested, is a consequence of Democrats being soft on crime. Nor did he believe Democrats were responsible for the California man with a gun and knife who was charged with the attempted murder of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in June. The man, who was arrested near Kavanaugh’s home in Maryland, was shocked by the leak of a draft document announcing the court’s quashing of Roe v. Wade.

“You don’t find anyone in the House of Representatives — Democratic figures, Democratic representatives, Democratic senators — who condone this kind of behavior, let alone encourage it,” Rosenthal said.

Meanwhile, the potential for more violence against less prominent figures is high in the days leading up to Election Day – and beyond, as the votes are counted. Of the 552 Republican candidates seeking federal and high-level positions in the November ballot, 199
completely deny the legitimacy
of the 2020 election, according to election analysts fiverthirtyeight.com

In Arizona, home to hotly contested Senate and gubernatorial elections — and a hotbed of people who mistakenly believe the 2020 election was “stolen” — two armed people in tactical gear patrolled near boxes of vote on October 21. The Maricopa County Department of Elections
said these “uniformed vigilantes”
“do not increase the integrity of elections. Instead, they lead to complaints of voter intimidation. While monitoring and transparency of our elections is essential, voter intimidation is illegal.

It’s no wonder that many states don’t have enough voters.

Wintemute likes to point out that the “good side” of his survey is that 80% of Americans totally reject political violence. Even among those who think it might be justified, the vast majority said they would not participate, he said.

Yet, “this climate of support for violence can be an incentive for people who are willing to participate in it themselves. They think their back is covered,” Wintemute said.

But the math is still scary: Wintemute said his research showed that “1% to 5% of people are willing to participate in political violence, that’s a small percentage.” But at 2.5 million per percentage point, that’s still a lot.

Joe Garofoli is the San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political editor. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @joegarofoli

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