OPINION: The attack on Pelosi shows how far America has fallen


Jeff Chiu | AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is escorted to a vehicle outside of her and husband Paul Pelosi’s home in San Francisco, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.

The U.S. Capitol building attacked, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer threatened with kidnapping, California man Nicholas Roske plotting to murder Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and now Paul Pelosi’s skull fractured by a hammer according to USA Today. Political violence in the U.S. is on the rise, and it is unacceptable. 

“Violence goes against the grain of constitutional democracy,” DePaul political science professor Susan Burgess said.

But this problem is only growing and the extremists on the right side of the aisle are fanning the flames.

“Political violence is on the rise,” ABC anchor and DePaul’s senior journalist in residence Christopher Bury said. “It’s well documented by scholars, by the Anti-Defamation League and the Capital Police. The Capitol Police report, ‘in the five years since Trump’s election, threats against members of congress increased tenfold.’ There’s no question we are in an era of political violence that we haven’t really seen since the Civil War.”

Burgess explained how violence of this kind is not uncommon in transitional times when the country is deciding if it is going to swing left or right. 

Regardless, while times of violence do not last forever, it is dangerous when public figures come under attack. Burgess stressed this fact. She said it is not just an attack on a person but the government itself.

“I think we should be worried,” Bury said. “I don’t like to predict the future. We have a problem that we must deal with, and it’s up to our political leaders to make it clear that political violence won’t be tolerated.”

The issue presently is that the right is not denouncing the growing violence. Both Burgess and Bury agree that at this point in U.S. history, the right is the seedbed of violence and misinformation. 

“My concern is on the right, the political leaders are not standing up, in fact they are fanning the flames with misinformation and rumors and language of violence,” Bury said. “In my mind, there is a direct line from Jan. 6 to the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi. Jan. 6 was incited by Donald Trump. The rhetoric of false claims over the election, the idea that Nancy Pelosi is some kind of a demon, all of this comes from the right.”

Former member of the Illinois House of Representatives, Al Riley also echoed this idea of right wing groups fanning the flames of violence in an interview. 

“One party and a lot of its members and a lot of the people who aspire to be elected officials in this entire country seem to countenance political violence as a means to an end,” Riley said. “That’s about as un-American as you possibly can get. People on one side, basically Democrats, some Republicans, specifically Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger really talked about how reprehensible something like that is. Many of the top Republicans basically gave it lip service.”

While much of this worrisome rhetoric is coming from the right, it does not represent the Republican party as a whole. Bury explained how much of this violence is sparked by a right wing fringe.

“I want to make it clear that I am talking about a fringe on the right,” Bury said. “I’m not talking about the minority leader Mitch McConnell who’s actually spoken out consistently against violence since Jan. 6.

“But only the right has armed militias that are in the business of intimidating people,” Bury said. “The Oath Keepers’ leadership is on trial right now for seditious conspiracy. The Proud Boys have been involved with political intimidation. In Arizona we’re seeing armed men intimidating people who are trying to vote. This is all coming from the right.”

Despite all of this, the end of democracy is far from neigh. Burgess, Bury and Riley have all stated that giving up on the political process, especially for the college age generation, is not the right step to take.

“I think if young people are critical thinkers and critical readers and consumers of news media and call out bad behavior, I think that’s really important,” Bury said. “The other thing they can do is vote. Vote for people who are standing up against violence regardless of the party and get involved to whatever extent they can in encouraging a civil society where we can have disagreements politically without tearing each other down and tearing each other apart.”

Despite all of America’s flaws, it is still worth fighting for. 

“We should try to fix our democracy but we should never say that it’s no good or it doesn’t work,” Riley said. “We all have to pitch in, identify the problems, and try to make it work better. You know, a more perfect union.”