As we inch closer to the midterms, it seems as if this election carries more weight than in years past. Ideologies have taken a hold of America’s institutions and have a strong grip on the public. Approximately 60% of Republicans on the ballot this year are “election deniers,” believing that President Joe Biden didn’t win the 2020 election.
The danger in this mindset is that democracies need the public to believe in the process for them to work. Looking through history at how democracies fail, it is usually accompanied by a lack of trust in the election process. Countries where tyrants have taken over have sewed their blankets of misinformation and cry out in victimhood when they lose an election.
Political violence has been on the rise and is nearing a boiling point. On Friday, October 28th, 82-year-old Paul Pelosi was brutally attacked with a hammer in his own home. Paul Pelosi is the husband of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. Nancy was the main target of the attack but wasn’t present when the assailant arrived. As reported by the New York Times, the suspect, David DePape, allegedly took a hammer from Pelosi and beat him, causing fractures in his skull, hands, and arms. DePape will face six felony charges.
As the Times reported, this man wanted to make an example of Pelosi and make it “a lesson to other Democrats.” It speaks volumes about our current culture and state of politics if violence is seen as the only option left for people to get their points across. It’s difficult to have civil discourse when war is being declared on the other party.
This attack wasn’t the first time people have wanted to send a message to the Pelosis. A year ago, protestors vandalized their home with graffiti and left a pig head on the sidewalk. There are various reasons people dislike the Speaker of the House, whether it be policy decisions or her greed. There is a lot of anger towards the Pelosis as they’ve made millions of dollars from trading stocks. Pelosi has been accused by other members of the senate like Josh Hawley that she is committing insider trading, because as Speaker of the House Nancy has access to information that the general public does not. Speaker Pelosi has denied the allegations, but the trades of her husband conveniently happen before major decisions are made. The couple’s net worth is estimated to be $46.1 million, according to Business Insider. The salary of The Speaker of the House is only about $200,000. The majority of their wealth comes from stock exchanges.
Violence is never the answer, but it is clear to see why many are frustrated as they watch politicians get rich off of policy decisions. Last December, Pelosi was asked if members of Congress should be allowed to trade stocks she said, “We are a free-market economy. They should be able to participate in that.” It’s clear to see the conflict of interest as representatives are supposed to put the public first, but the chance to profit millions is just too much for them to ignore. Senators from both parties, including Republican Josh Hawley and Democrat Jon Ossoff, have put forth bills that would restrict members of Congress and their family members from trading stocks. Due to the amount of money involved, it seems unlikely that either bill will pass.
As we approach midterms, political violence isn’t going to just affect politicians, but everyday people trying to vote. In Arizona, “Mule Watchers” have started popping up at ballot boxes. Mules are supposedly people who drop off large quantities of fake ballots into boxes to sway the vote. This conspiracy theory was started by former President Donald Trump, and has become popular on his social media app Truth Social. NBC reported that at least 9 people were spotted patrolling ballot boxes in Mesa, Arizona on October 23rd. The patrollers were wearing military fatigues and carrying weapons. Nobody has been harmed by these so-called mule-watching parties, but they’re intimidating voters and could easily cause harm to anyone they perceive as a threat.
The movement has been pushed by an organization called Clean Elections USA, which has been hosting these mule-watching parties. Clean Elections USA is “asking every patriotic American citizen” to “safeguard our elections with a legal presence at every ballot box in each and every state that has them.” They believe that the 2020 election was stolen, and claim to have research from True The Vote, another organization with similar views of an “irregular” 2020 election.
The founders of True The Vote have recently been arrested for contempt of court in Texas. The case involves Konnech, a software company specializing in election technology. True the Vote alleges that Konnech’s technology was hacked by the Chinese government, and that this helped sway the results of the 2020 election. There is no evidence of Konnech’s machines being hacked.
While many unfounded claims of fraud are being made about the 2020 election, there is some evidence that the 2016 election was influenced by foreign nations. While a founding principle of democracy is faith in the vote, you must acknowledge that there have been issues before. The FBI reports that 12 Russian military officers were indicted in 2018 following their interference in the 2016 election. These men hacked into the computers of individuals involved in the election process and stole documents and classified information. There’s a full list of their crimes including money laundering, identity theft, and hacking of companies that supply software and technology for our elections.
While there hasn’t been any evidence of mules in the 2020 election or widespread fraud, it’s obvious to see why these conspiracy theories have such a hold on the public. There is known evidence of our elections being influenced by foreign nations, so why isn’t it possible that these issues persist?
All of the organizations pushing these lies of election fraud are rooted in a drive for profit. True the Vote and Clean Elections USA don’t have any statistical data or cold hard facts to back up their claims. They are basing their evidence off of feelings and fundraising millions, all while stoking the flames of extremism.
As we near the midterms, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Capitol Police have sent out a joint statement warning of violent attacks. The statement warns that lone wolf attacks will be a grave threat around midterms, and they state that domestic violent extremists (DVE) “..will pose a heightened threat to individuals in the 2022 midterm election cycle because of their actual or perceived political affiliation. These DVEs might target candidates, government officials, other civilians, and institutions with violence to try to redress their perceived grievances, or advance their agendas.”
This threat is going to affect all of us, no matter what part of the country one may reside in. The internet has become a conduit for conspiracy theories and hate groups, and these ideologies aren’t regional, as Maine has multiple active hate groups. In every part of the country, there are Qanon believers and other conspiracy theorists connecting in their echo chambers.
What’s dangerous is how entrenched people have become in their beliefs, because there isn’t healthy political discourse anymore. Many of these extremist groups’ talking points, for example Qanon’s stolen election and satanic democrats, have become popular. What’s been swept under the rug by many members of the media on the right is the impact January 6th has had on our nation.
The joint statement from the FBI and DHS states “Conspiracy theories related to the 2020 general election will probably continue to contribute to the radicalization of some DVEs with partisan grievances and potentially be reinforced by their view that the Capitol breach on 6 January 2021 was a success.” What makes January 6th significant is that people have seen how easy it is to endanger our democracy. Mob rule is all it takes to almost pull off a coup. The idea of denying election results is the biggest threat to our democracy. It’s a guarantee that many candidates will refuse to accept their losses this midterm season. Voters already refuse to accept the presidential results from 2020, so they certainly won’t accept their candidate for state senator losing.
As we near the midterm elections, it’s important to stay informed on what’s at stake on national and local levels. Be cognizant of the dangers our democracy is facing as extremists look to intimidate voters at the polls. Reflect on the danger our public servants now face in this volatile era of American history. Vote your conscience and exercise your right to vote.