“Biden and Pelosi are breaking our country,” reads the narrator in a House GOP ad promoting their candidate, Ryan Zinke, in Montana’s newly created 2nd District. Another ad from the House GOP campaign arm lambasted Democratic nominee Eric Sorensen in Illinois for being “in Pelosi’s pocket” and “in tune with his expensive liberal agenda.”
However, the GOP’s laser focus on Pelosi, while not a new phenomenon, is drawing fresh criticism following the violent assault on her husband early Friday morning. The attacker, whose online activity was steeped in conspiracy and baseless allegations regarding the 2020 election, had specifically sought out the speaker, according to law enforcement officials – shouting “Where’s Nancy? “
“Yesterday morning a violent man broke into our family home, demanded to confront me and brutally attacked my husband Paul. Our children, grandchildren and I are heartbroken and traumatized by the potentially deadly attack on our Pop. We are grateful for the quick response from law enforcement and emergency services, and for the life-saving medical care he is receiving,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to House colleagues Saturday night.
For Rep. Jackie Speier, a Bay Area Democrat and longtime Pelosi ally who has survived political violence, the blame rests squarely with Trump, who “didn’t unleash the vitriol he spits” and endlessly assailed Pelosi as “crazy,” “corrupt,” or the epitome of Democratic wrongdoing.
“There’s no question looking at his social media that he’s become radicalized online” and “is a classic convert to the very Trumpian, very dangerous philosophy of weeding out people who don’t look like them,” Speier said. about DePape in a phone interview.
“The scary part of it all is that we identify the people who took action — who wrote, who called, who stalked,” Speier added. “These are the people harboring the same horrific positions that have yet to be identified, like the man who attacked Paul Pelosi.”
Hillary Clinton, no stranger to Pelosi’s mantle as a GOP target, tweeted on Saturday“The Republican Party and its spokespersons now routinely spread hateful and delusional conspiracy theories. It is shocking, but not surprising, that violence is the result. As citizens, we must hold them accountable for their words and subsequent actions.
A range of top Republicans strongly condemned Pelosi’s home invasion, making it clear that it was unacceptable criminal behavior. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has traveled the country campaigning for House Republicans, said, “We may have our political differences, but violence is still wrong and unacceptable.”
But as Democratic lawmakers denounce GOP political rhetoric with new ferocity, the attack on Paul Pelosi becomes the latest inflection point in an American political discourse that has become exponentially cruder since Republicans embraced for the first time Nancy Pelosi as a publicity scarecrow. While both parties routinely demonize their opponents in campaign messaging — Democrats slam former President Donald Trump, as well as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene ( R-Ga.) – the president occupied an arguably unique position.
Greene, for her part, was stripped of her committee assignments by Democrats last year after social media posts surfaced showing the Georgia Republican liked a Facebook comment that called for the assassination of Pelosi.
Pelosi’s fellow Democrats insist the focus on her goes too far in a political world now defined by the Jan. 6 Capitol siege by Trump supporters. Rioters also chanted Pelosi’s name that day as they marched through the building they had invaded, and some eventually ransacked his office. It was later reported that some of those who broke into the Capitol that day intended to seriously injure the speaker, who is second in line to the presidency.
The attack horrified California State Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, but he said it was “completely and utterly predictable” given the endless demonization of Pelosi by Republican politicians, conservative media and social media trolls.
“We have a whole right-wing machine dedicated to promoting conspiracy theories, brainwashing people and directing their anger at specific leaders, including Nancy Pelosi,” Wiener said. “This machine led directly to this attack.”
Wiener added that he had faced growing acrimony in recent years, including a death threat specific enough that the man who made it was convicted of multiple crimes last month. He attributed this to the “mass delusion” of election denial and the proliferation of online toxicity that has seeped into the Republican Party.
“QAnon doesn’t necessarily exist anymore, but QAnon is now part of the DNA of the Republican Party,” Wiener said. “The great establishment forces of the Republican Party,” he added, “created this monster.”
Democrats have already highlighted what they call growing and dangerous GOP extremism in some of their own hotly contested midterm races. The House Democratic campaign arm has centered its message on so-called pro-Trump “MAGA Republicans,” pointing the finger at candidates who have backed right-wing conspiracy theories or run for at least some of the January 6 events to protest Congressional certification. of Trump’s loss.
White reported from San Francisco.