Viewpoint: Political violence is domestic terrorism

Viewpoint: Political violence is domestic terrorism
Karen Rubin, Columnist

The split screen could not be starker in contrast: President Biden praising and thanking the heroes who stormed Normandy, turning the tide of World War II to defeat Fascism and drawing parallels to the need to defend democracy again.  And the former guy, Trump, promising retribution for his political enemies (“vermin”), ripping up the Constitution and trampling the Rule of Law.

Trump has elevated violence to a mainstream political weapon – not just politicizing the Justice Department, as his henchmen in Congress have done, and weaponizing social media and disinformation, but actual weapons made all the more dangerous by the ubiquity of guns, especially assault weapons in our society.

Trump has promised a “bloodbath” if he loses the election (again).

The very idea of permitless open carry – as in Texas and Florida – and gangs like Proud Boys and Oath Keepers leering at protesters and at town halls is aimed at intimidating others from exercising their rights to free speech, assembly, even voting.

Political violence, terrorism has been building throughout Trump’s time on the national stage and is only getting worse.

He and his thugs have intimidated people from serving as election workers, jurors, school board members, doctors, lawmakers, and are doing their damnedest to intimidate judges, prosecutors, and lawmakers – and it is working.

Trump, who loves to call the United States a “third world nation” because a court system actually found him guilty, wants the U.S. to become just that.

This year’s Mexico election was the bloodiest in its modern history with 37 candidates assassinated. An anti-corruption, pro-democracy candidate for president of Ecuador was assassinated, eliminating a threat but also sending a warning to anyone else: Be afraid.

Now Trump is expecting “his” Supreme Court to anoint him “immune” from prosecution.

His entire campaign is founded on violence:

He demonizes immigrants (“poisoning the blood” of the nation and literally lying about their criminality) and promises to use the military to round up and deport 11 million people “on Day 1” when he says he will be a dictator.

(Not clear how his forces will be able to distinguish between a Hispanic heritage American, legal migrant or tourist, but I’m sure his Supreme Court justices will set aside the Fourth Amendment “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”).

Trump promises to invoke the Insurrection Act to circumvent the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act prohibiting the military from enforcing domestic policies to send armed forces to take control of Democratic cities, just as he tried to do during the George Floyd protests.

His most substantive legacy of his singularly destructive term as president has been to normalize hatred, bigotry, corruption, criminality and violence – basically following his mentors Putin, Orban, Duarte, Xi and Kim Jong Un in his quest to replace democracy with an autocracy – supported by those who see themselves on top in a theocracy, a kleptocracy, an oligarchy.

Instead of “the rule of law,” we have “might make right,” and the MAGA right believes they are the better armed in this race and will not hesitate to use it.

The message is: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

You have tens of millions of people who want to break down the rule of law, dismantle law enforcement (except when an unarmed black man is gunned down by police), who increasingly use intimidation, threats of violence and actual violence. It doesn’t take millions, it takes only one who takes the rhetoric to heart.

They use swatting – hoping to trigger violence – and doxxing in which the personal information, email and addresses of individuals are publicized to inspire waves of violent rhetoric.

Judge Arthur Engoron, who was overseeing the Trump Organization fraud trial and who lives in Kensington, was subjected to a swatting attack – where someone phoned police about a bomb threat, hoping the police would come in shooting, and also received white powder in the mail.

Following the guilty verdict in New York City for election interference, there has been a surge of violent posts on social media, many on the same websites used by Trump supporters to organize the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and mimicking Trump’s call for violence, NBC News reported (

“We need to identify each juror. Then make them miserable. Maybe even suicidal,” wrote a user. “1,000,000 men (armed) need to go to Washington and hang everyone. That’s the only solution,” another wrote. “I hope every juror is doxxed and they pay for what they have done,” another wrote on Trump’s Truth Social platform. “May God strike them dead.”

“We are continuing to see a dangerous erosion of democratic norms,” Daniel J. Jones, president of Advance Democracy, the group that monitored the posts, told NBC News.

Political violence is domestic terrorism intended to intimidate anyone who would uphold the Rule of Law, and to destabilize and overturn our democracy.

We need to reclaim our democracy:

The FBI, which already understands the danger domestic terrorism poses but is handcuffed by law to from prosecuting domestic terrorism in the same way as foreign, must nonetheless investigate the source of threats and hold individuals accountable, and expose and shut down entities deliberately spreading misinformation.

Fraud, defamation, incitement of violence, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, election interference and voter suppression are not protected “free speech” but crimes.

The Department of Justice must prosecute those who make threats in order to intimidate court proceedings (obstruction of justice, witness tampering).

The Department of Justice must also prosecute anyone who threatens or intimidates election workers or candidates or who interferes with anyone’s ability to cast a vote and have that vote counted (voter fraud, voter suppression, election interference).

Congress has to view domestic terrorism with the same vehemence as they do foreign terrorism. (Fat chance.)

The Supreme Court has to invoke the 14th Amendment that bars insurrectionists from holding federal office; affirm that no one is above the law and that judges, prosecutors, police and courts must administer the law without fear or favor; and see the difference between incitement to violence and “political speech”. (Fat chance.)

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