Right-wing support for political violence 'is no longer a fringe position': analyst
Donald Trump fans (Photo by Ringo Chiu for AFP)

According to an analysis by Rachel Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the belief that rightwing political violence stems mostly from disaffected younger white men -- like what was seen in Charlottesville five years ago -- is fast becoming a myth as more and more conservatives begin to believe it is time to take up arms.

In an op-ed for Politico, Kleinfeld said that belief is quickly sweeping up conservatives who once would have blanched at the idea of acts of violence.

Using the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband as a springboard, the analyst claimed that it is just another in a burgeoning list of violent attacks that are becoming more common every day.

"The problem we face is not solely the number of incidents. It’s that violence has been mainstreamed on the right. It’s effectively become another partisan tool for too many in the GOP," she wrote. "Changing the climate that fuels political violence won’t be easy, but there are ways to do so, particularly by easing polarization so that mainstream Republicans step away from supporting a violent faction."

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To make her point, she noted the wide demographic range of pro-Trump fans who stormed the Capitol and rioted on Jan. 6.

"On the right, support for violence is no longer a fringe position. Hate crimes remain the purview of the normal criminal demographic: unemployed and unmarried young men without kids<" she explained. before elaborating, "However, those joining violent political events like the Jan. 6 insurrection are more likely to be married middle-aged men with jobs and kids. Those most likely to support violence on the right feel most connected to the Republican Party according to a November 2021 Bright Line Watch survey. This is not a marginal movement: It is people who see violence as a means to defend their values, an extension of their political activity."

According to Kleinfeld, the heated rhetoric that has exploded since Donald Trump is a contributing factor as it increasingly dehumanizes political opponents.

"Many people who support violence would never actually commit it themselves. But when language that simultaneously depicts people as a threat and less than human becomes common, more aggressive and unbalanced individuals will act," she wrote before adding, "... is now at the point of what experts call stochastic terrorism — a situation in which one can’t predict who will commit violence, or exactly where or when, but it’s highly predictable that someone, somewhere, will take the bait and act against the target."

More alarming, she pointed out, is that violence has seeped downward to the local level as government officials -- and even volunteers -- serving the public at the local level are increasingly under threat.

"Election volunteers, school board members, public health officials, mayors — they are now part of a rolling group of targets whose lives can be ruined by a tweet depending on the latest conspiracy. Local office holders are often paid nearly nothing, while being asked to give long hours away from family to take part in endless meetings among haranguing neighbors," she explained before warning, "Add in death threats against oneself and ones’ children, and who will be left to tend to the everyday offices that a democracy needs?"

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