A new form of discourse has entered American politics: domestic terrorism. Researchers agree that instances of political violence are on the rise, with no signs of stopping. Attacks like the attempted insurrection on Jan. 6, and more recently, the New Mexico election shootings are inevitable byproducts of hateful political rhetoric coming from the United States’ rightmost extreme. The only way to prevent more violence is for Americans to stand up to political extremism and the rhetoric that prompts it.
A former candidate for the New Mexico State House of Representatives, Solomon Pena, was arrested by police on Monday for allegedly paying extremists to shoot at the homes of his Democrat opponents, nearly striking a 10-year-old child. Pena denies the legitimacy of at least two elections – the 2020 presidential election, and his own in 2022. After losing by 47 points in said election, doorbell cameras at a New Mexico official’s home captured Pena attempting to persuade them that the election was rigged. Albuquerque mayor Tim Keller stated that Pena visited all four targeted homes. Pena’s behavior suggests mental instability, and he appeared to fully believe the rhetoric he pushed. This is a deadly combination.
Although a spokesperson for former President Trump denounced the shootings in New Mexico, they likely wouldn’t have happened if not for Trump’s crusade against the 2020 election. The Jan. 6 storming of the capitol was the most blatant example of endorsed extremism in recent memory, but it is far from the first. When extremist politicians promote hateful politics, hate manifests, and when these politicians don’t revise their speech, that is tantamount to endorsement.
Americans need to stop political violence while they still can. When politicians like Republican Rep. Paul Gosar promotes videos depicting themselves killing a fellow member of congress and they aren’t removed from the chamber, but rather appointed to committee seats, this is a serious problem. Election denial as a centerpiece of one’s campaign might not be popular, but spurs extremists in dangerous ways. Political violence is permeating the mainstream, and Americans need to stop it in its tracks.