Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stood on the floor of the House and asked her colleagues to hold Paul Goser accountable for sharing a converted anime video that showed him hitting him and attacking Joe Biden.
“Our work here matters. Our example matters. There is meaning in our service,” Ocasio-Cortez said in his speech last week. “And as leaders in this country, when we incite violence against our allies with portrayals, it turns into violence in this country.”
House Republicans heard Ocasio-Cortez’s passionate plea and responded with a collective shrug. All three Republican members voted against condemning Goser and stripping his committee’s actions, while every House Democrat supported the motion.
Gosar’s incident served as the latest data point in an alarming trend in American politics. In a year that began with a deadly rebellion at the US Capitol, lawmakers have seen a sharp increase in the number of threats against them. Republicans’ tacit response to Gosar’s behavior has intensified fears about the potential for more political violence in the US in the coming months.
Democratic congressman Jackie Spear, who led the effort to condemn Goser, warned that Republicans’ refusal to hold him accountable could have dire consequences.
“If you are silent about a member of Congress who wants to murder another member of Congress, even in a ‘cartoon,’ you are inciting violence,” Spears told the Granthshala. . “And if you incite violence, it breeds violence.”
That cycle is already underway in the halls of Congress. US Capitol Police informed of Earlier this year the agency saw a 107% increase in threats against members compared to 2020. The USCP chief, Tom Manger, has said he expects the total number of threats against members to surpass 9,000 this year, compared to 3,939 such threats. 2017.
Some of those threats have clearly demonstrated over the past month. In addition to Gosar’s violent video, 13 House Republicans who voted in support of the bipartisan infrastructure bill earlier in the month have received threatening messages.
Michigan Representative Fred Upton publicly shared One such message, in which a man called a Republican congressman a “nonsense traitor.” “I hope you die. I hope everyone in your fucking family will die,” the man said in the message.
And these kinds of threats aren’t just reserved for members of Congress. election workers and school board member It also says that they are getting more violent messages. according to a April survey Commissioned by the Brennan Center for Justice, nearly one in three election officials are concerned about their safety on the job.
Stephen Spaulding, senior counsel for the government watchdog group Common Cause, described such violent tactics as “a major threat to our democracy”.
“The threat of violence is really to intimidate people from doing their jobs and upholding their oath of office,” Spaulding said. “When you see these violent episodes starting to enter the system, it’s completely counter to the way that we should engage in open and fair debates about policy issues in this country.”
There are already signs that fears about personal safety are driving lawmakers out of office. When Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzalez announced in September that he would not run for re-election, he said his vote to impeach Donald Trump for inciting rebellion had affected the lives of his family members.
gonzalez told the New York Times that, earlier this year, due to security concerns, unofficial police officers had to escort him and his family through the Cleveland airport.
Gonzalez said, “It’s one of those moments where you say, ‘Do I really want this for my family to take my wife and kids out of the airport when they travel?'” Gonzalez said. .
Even though the threats are affecting their own caucus members, House Republicans declined the opportunity to send a message by voting to condemn Goser. Instead, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attacked the censure motion as a Democratic “abuse of power” and suggested that he reward Goser with a “better committee assignment” whenever Republicans gain control of the chamber.
“There are many radical extremists in his caucus who are very effective communicators to the right extent, and he can’t really rein in them because they would attack them,” Spear said. “You can even put a brass ring in Kevin McCarthy’s nose because they’re pulling him.”
Dr. Joan Freeman, Yale history professor and author of The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to the Civil War, warned that McCarthy’s reaction to Goser’s behavior could encourage similar incidents in the future.
After all, there are other historical examples of lawmakers being rewarded for violent behavior, Freeman said. After Congressman Preston Brooks attacked Senator Charles Sumner with a cane over his anti-slavery views in 1856, he resigned from the House, but was then quickly re-elected by South Carolina voters.
“He’s going to be rewarded for it in some way, and because of that, there will be others who follow that model,” Freeman said. “This is a moment that shows how far the party is from government and above institutions of government and above institutional stability.”
Acknowledging the potential for future violence within Congress, Freeman said that the Gosar incident could also provide an opportunity for a course correction in political discourse.
“We are in a moment of extreme contingency, and things could really get a lot worse,” Freeman said. “But during that kind of highly casual moment where anything can happen, there are also moments where it’s possible to make positive change.”
To Spear, Goser’s behavior was a reminder of how far some of his colleagues have strayed from their duties. California Congresswoman, Joe announced his retirement last week, urged fellow members to focus on advancing policy rather than making violent rhetoric to raise funds and retweet.
“I love this institution. It is such a privilege to serve,” Spears said. “We have been given the opportunity to create fashion legislation to make life better for the American people. And that’s what we should do.”