Over the past five years, incidents of political violence in the United States by right-wing extremists have soared. Few experts who track this type of violence believe things will get better anytime soon without concerted action. Domestic extremism is actually likely to worsen. The attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of the speaker of the House of Representatives, was only the latest episode, and federal officials warn that the threat of violence could continue to escalate after the midterm elections.
The embrace of conspiratorial and violent ideology and rhetoric by many Republican politicians during and after the Trump presidency, anti-government anger related to the pandemic, disinformation, cultural polarization, the ubiquity of guns and radicalized internet culture have all led to the current moment, and none of those trends are in retreat. Donald Trump was the first American president to rouse an armed mob that stormed the Capitol and threatened lawmakers. Taken together, these factors form a social scaffolding that allows for the kind of endemic political violence that can undo a democracy. Ours would not be the first.