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Pelosi Attack: Can Democracy Survive With Violence?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

Early morning on October 28, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul Pelosi was attacked by a home intruder. The suspect, David Wayne DePape, entered their San Francisco home with the intent of harming Nancy, who was in Washington, D.C. at the time. Mr. Pelosi was hit in the head with a hammer by DePape which cracked his skull. His skull had to be removed and reshaped by doctors as a result. While Mr. Pelosi is recovering, this was a terrifying act of domestic terrorism, which has been on the rise in the United States.

why pelosi?

Nancy Pelosi has been vilified by the Republican Party for most of her political career. With the rise of partisan polarization and extremism, especially with Former President Donald Trump, Pelosi has become the target Democrat for members of the right. Trump has called Pelosi many nasty names, like “Crazy Nancy,” “Nervous Nancy,” and “Nancy Antoinette.” This type of rhetoric has radicalized some right-wing conservatives into seeing Pelosi as an enemy who needs to be taken out of office (or worse).

Pelosi is not the only politician who has been subject to threats. In October of 2020, 13 men were arrested for plotting to kidnap Michigan’s governor Gretchen Whitmer. Threats against members of Congress are on the rise, with 9,600 threats investigated by the Capitol Police in 2021, more than ten times as high as five years ago.

parallels to january 6

On January 6, 2021 a violent mob of extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent the verification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory. This violent attack killed five people and injured over a hundred Capitol Police officers. The mobsters were not only seeking to “stop the steal;” they also were looking for Democrat politicians like Pelosi.

“Where are you Nancy? We’re looking for you!”

Some rioters even made it as far as entering Pelosi’s office. It is scary to think about what they would have done if they found Pelosi, especially after the attack on her husband. “Where are you Nancy?” is a chilling threat uttered not only by Capitol rioters, but also by DePape. DePape shouted “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy,” before assaulting Mr. Pelsoi. What happened on January 6 and what happened to Mr. Pelosi are a sign that political violence and extremism are real threats to the United States.

what does this mean for democracy?

The rise of political violence and extremism in the United States is extremely concerning. This attack happened just less than two weeks before the midterm elections. The U.S. government recently gave a warning of a “heightened threat” to the midterm elections, regarding the rise of domestic violent extremism (DVE) in the United States. Candidates running for public office, election officials, election workers, ideologic opponents, racial and religious minorities, and more are at risk of being targets.

In a democracy, elected officials should never be at risk of violence by people who don’t agree with their views or policies. We have free elections where people can voice their concerns instead of turning to violence. But what happens when people no longer have faith in the validity of our elections? What does this mean for our other political institutions? Democracy is only as strong as the people who are willing to uphold it, and I am worried about what can happen when so many Americans are willing to turn their backs against it.

Kayleigh is a senior at the University of Connecticut, studying Political Science with minors in French and History. She loves books, Gilmore Girls, fashion, and anything coffee-related.