Sunday, November 6, 2022

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Political terrorist violence is now an open fact of life for local, county, and state Democrats in red and purple states, particularly for Black folks and women and especially for Black women.

Jameesha Harris, a councilwoman in New Bern, N.C., bought a gun and obtained a concealed-carry license to protect herself and her children against a spate of death threats from constituents. Deanna Spikula, the top election administrator in Washoe County, Nev., resigned after receiving a battery of menacing emails, including one warning her to “count the votes correctly as if your life depends on it, because it does.” After speaking out against book bans, Amanda Jones, a librarian in Livingston Parish, La., received a death threat from a man in Texas who saw a photo of her posted in a right-wing Facebook group.

Across the U.S., there has been a surge of harassment, attacks, and violent threats targeting civic and public officials and their families. America is a nation shaped by violent acts and founded on principles that protect free speech, even when it is ugly or incendiary. Yet the specter of politically motivated violence today has become alarmingly pervasive, and the fear it engenders is upending the political landscape, according to more than two-dozen interviews with analysts and public officials.

For the past year, TIME has tracked violent threats, harassment, and attacks targeting public officials and their families. News reports, public records, and interviews with experts and officials at all levels of government paint a portrait of a nation whose most basic institutions—election offices, city councils, municipal health departments, school boards, even public-library systems—are being hollowed out by relentless intimidation.

Some episodes of searing violence have made national headlines, from the insurrection in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 to block certification of the presidential election to the Oct. 28 break-in at Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home, in which an intruder who allegedly threatened to break the kneecaps of the 82-year-old House Speaker hit her husband in the head with a hammer, according to prosecutors. There were more than 9,600 recorded threats against members of Congress last year, a jump of nearly tenfold from 2016, according to Capitol Police records.

But prominent politicians are far from the only targets. Threats against federal judges have spiked 400% in the past six years, to more than 4,200 in 2021. Of 583 local health departments surveyed by Johns Hopkins University researchers, 57% reported that staff had been targeted with personal threats, doxing, vandalism, and other forms of harassment during the pandemic. The U.S. Justice Department was forced to create separate task forces to combat the intimidation of public officials—one focused on threats to education workers, the other on threats to election administrators. So far, more than 100 of the latter have “met the threshold for a federal criminal investigation,” according to a statement from the agency.

“Local leadership is becoming a full-contact sport,” says Clarence Anthony, who served as the mayor of South Bay, Fla., for 24 years. Officials are dealing with angry neighbors “turning up at their front door, on their front lawns, attacking their children, attacking their family members when they go to the grocery store. They didn’t expect this as a part of the role. They didn’t sign up for this.”

Anthony is now the executive director of the National League of Cities, an advocacy network for more than 2,700 municipal governments. In a survey it published last November, 87% of local officials reported a rise in attacks, and 81% said they had personally experienced harassment, threats, or physical violence. “This is serious,” Anthony says. “It’s a real trend, and it’s disrupting America’s local government system.”

Many of these episodes of harassment fall under constitutionally protected free speech, leaving it to officials with limited resources to comb through angry threats to decipher which ones endanger their safety. They also disproportionately target officials who are women or people of color, analysts say. Several public officials told TIME the spike in violent threats has strained state and local budgets, forcing steps like hiring armed guards for their homes, installing bulletproof glass in local government offices, investing in trauma counseling for staff, and devoting time and resources to things like active-shooter trainings and monitoring emails and phone calls for menacing messages that might have to be reported to law enforcement.

Most of these threats are not made by deranged individuals or habitual criminals. They’re made by ordinary Americans acting in an environment in which the political discourse has been coarsened to the point that threats of violence have become commonplace, experts say. About one in three Americans now say they believe violence against the government can sometimes be justified, including 40% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll earlier this year. “Violent political sentiments used to be held by fringe groups that were disavowed by major political parties,” says Rachel Kleinfeld, who studies polarization and violence at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Now, violent viewpoints are held by mainstream members of the right, and are growing in acceptance on the left.”
If your local librarian, your local public health official, your local judge, your local city council member, you local county commissioner, your local school superintendent, your local social service worker, and your local hospital staff, if all of them and their families aren't targets by now, they will be very soon. 

Republicans, high on theocracy and conspiracy nonsense, are making sure your local and county government services cant work for anyone but them. Anyone who resists is deemed "groomer" or "communist" and run out of town, torches and pitchforks in hot pursuit.

If you're still wondering why there are few if any any Democrats on your local office on Tuesday, it's because increasing, being a Democrat at the state and local level, being a social service worker at all, regardless of political affiliation, makes you and your family targets for harassment and violence.

If Republicans can't be in charge of America's modern democracy, they'll burn the place down until the point where violent armed theocratic anarchy is all that remains.

Social media, cable news media and former President Donald Trump bear “a lot” of responsibility for the rise in political violence, a majority of registered voters say in the latest national NBC News poll.

Nearly all voters surveyed in the poll — 93% — say social media deserves a lot or some of the blame in the rise in political violence, while 87% say the same of cable news media, and 72% say the same of Trump. A majority of voters — 51% — the former president bears “a lot” of the responsibility.

A slightly higher share of voters say Republican candidates and elected officials bear responsibility compared to Democrats. And 59% say President Joe Biden bears a lot or some of that responsibility.

The survey also finds a majority of voters across political parties, including 65% of Democrats, 70% of Republicans and 71% of independents, say social media bears a lot or some of the responsibility for political violence.

”Americans are all really concerned about social media’s impact here,” said Jeff Horwitt of the Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates, who conducted the poll along with Bill McInturff of the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies.

The NBC News poll also found that a plurality of voters believe extreme rhetoric contributed to instances of political violence, rather viewing them as isolated incidents.

The bad news is of course that two-thirds of the country believe Democrats are to blame and nearly 60% believe President Biden himself, are personally responsible for the political violence in this country. The "both sides" smokescreen has worked overwhelmingly.

When Democrats and their voters are harmed or killed by this violence, people will say that it was justified.

Vote like your country depends on it tomorrow and Tuesday.

Run like your country needs you in the next election.

Sunday Long Read: Austin's City Limits

The self-proclaimed Weirdest City in Texas has gone full bougie thanks to explosive population growth, tech giants, and red state exurban pressure and residents aren't just lamenting the Austin of ten years ago, they're leaving the state altogether.

On a late summer evening, friends of John Stettin gathered at a bar called Kitty Cohen’s in East Austin to say good-bye. A carrot cake with “Good Luck” written in orange icing softened in the heat, but as far as they were concerned, the occasion was his birthday. “You can’t say, ‘Happy going away!’” said Jeff, his best friend, greeting him with a hug. “We’re just not happy. We’re all very sad about it.” Good-bye parties are inherently not that fun. They’re even less fun when they’re driven by a far-right takeover of the state government.

“Tell him he can’t leave,” whispered a woman seated under an umbrella. “There are too many Republicans.”

To hear Stettin tell it, that is precisely why he is moving out of what Rick Perry once described as the “blueberry in the tomato soup,” a predominantly Democratic city full of liberal expats like himself seeking progressive politics and an urban lifestyle at a red-state cost-of-living discount. “It was easy to just be in Never Neverland, floating with a bunch of other transplants having a good time,” said Stettin, who relocated from Dallas to Austin five years ago.

But then 2020 happened. As the pandemic raged, Governor Greg Abbott banned municipalities including Austin from implementing COVID measures such as mask mandates. The following year, amid a brutal winter storm, the state’s electric grid failed, killing hundreds and leaving millions freezing in the dark, and it has yet to be fixed. That summer, Abbott codified permitless carry and further restricted voting access. This past February, he ordered investigations into the parents of trans children for child abuse. By June, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Texas was ten months ahead, having already effectively banned abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest and topped it with a $10,000 reward for informants.

“It’s like how a frog boils one degree at a time,” Stettin said. “They trigger-banned all abortion and they’re offering a bounty! What more do you need if you are a remotely liberal person to get the fuck out of here?” His destination was Massachusetts. “At least if I’m going to get into an argument with a guy in Boston,” he said, “he’s probably not carrying an AR-15 in his trunk.”

This summer, that anxiety pervaded a stratum of liberal Austin, namely women, LGBTQ+ folks, parents, and people of color who fear a future in Texas and have the means to escape. The overturning of Roe seemed to remove the last obstacle in the state’s march to the far right, which is likely to be cemented in the upcoming election where Beto O’Rourke is way behind Abbott. While the Democratic mayor and the liberal city council institute token measures such as decriminalizing abortion, it’s cold comfort. One 25-year-old woman said she had her tubes tied, fearing the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy. One couple may relocate to the Northeast to carry out their pregnancy. Some job candidates are refusing to relocate. At Stettin’s party, his friend Jeff swiped open his phone to a note entitled “New Austin Cities” — a list of places that are what Austin used to be to him before he moved here from New York. It read, “Pittsburgh, Durham, Boise, Columbus, Jackson Hole, Chattanooga. Factors: Climate change, demographics, economy, location, taxes, nature, weather.” He plans to stick it out at least for now. “Global warming in the next ten years,” he said. “That’s gonna be fucking real.”

The alarm was acute among transplants. Bri Jenkins is moving home to Hamden, Connecticut, after six years working with various nonprofits in Austin. “It could be three weeks before I saw another Black person, and that was such a mindfuck for me,” she recalled feeling when she first moved to Austin. After a far-right gunman killed 23 people in El Paso in 2019, she stopped going to parades. “Too many vantage points,” she said. “White men with guns and Army fatigues are protected, but people who are peacefully protesting … are always bombarded by the police,” she said, referring to the police crackdowns during 2020’s George Floyd protests. As a queer woman, she fears for the fate of gay rights, which Senator Ted Cruz and Attorney General Ken Paxton have expressed could be next. “I just want to be back in a state that isn’t trying to strip away all of my rights at every turn,” she said.

However many people leave, it will be small in comparison with how many keep coming. Austin is the fastest-growing metro in the U.S., and its population has increased by one-third over the past decade, with people from across Texas and the nation lured to the hippie-cowboy capital by tech jobs. In some cases, this explosive growth has bred at least as much discontent as the shifting political landscape. What was once seen as an affordable, creative haven is now a runaway boomtown, pricing out most of whatever was left of Austin’s proclaimed weirdness and drawing frequent comparisons to San Francisco. In the past year, rent soared more than 20 percent, and the median home price rose almost as much over the same period (before home prices dropped thanks to interest-rate hikes). The airport has new direct flights to Vail, Colorado, and Texas’s first Soho House opened there last year. Elon Musk has built a $1.1 billion “gigafactory” nearby, turning “Tesla” into shorthand among some to describe the city’s bougification. “There’s nothing weird about Austin,” said one Soho House patron, who recently flew home to California for an abortion. “Lululemon is everywhere.”
And of course, driving out all the impure, inhuman communist scum out of our Godly American Christian Red State is exactly what the plan has been. It's all related, the dehumanization of the "other", Christianity as a cudgel, bigotry and hatred, racist redlining, it's all part of the same plan, to turn entire states into white supremacist enclaves.

It's working.

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