Column: Political violence and de threats to democracy


Photo credit: Charlotte Tragos

The American flag flies above the US capitol on a windy afternoon. The United States congress has been sworn in and will begin governance in January.

By Charlotte Tragos, Columnist

There is a transient lull between the election and the inauguration. Bags are packed, offices are closed, Steve Kornacki sleeps and new governments emerge. The returning old-timers rest up and recharge for another round, while the awestruck newcomers prepare to fix the world. And as the soundtrack to this change of guards, we welcome back some favorite tunes: election denial and violence.

When the red wave let fell short of floating congress back to the Republicans, some people began to point fingers and deflect blame: it’s all Donald’s fault, and the democrats are cheating at the polls. But despite a general consensus that extremism has become toxic, Donald Trump is back in the batting cage. Will Americans, let alone Republicans, give the Orange Crush another chance?

Once the rallying cry for a right-wing revival, Trump’s old spiel has now become stale and rotten. Trump 3.0 is largely unchanged while much of the country, including the leadership of his own party, has moved on to different talking points. Blunt, repugnant honesty is what made him such an appealing candidate. People bought the Trump product because it was exactly what he is, and, for a while, stupid, angry and racist really worked — until it didn’t. When Trump’s endorsees failed to win their midterm bids, it was clear that his brand of politicking had lost some of its appeals. But Trump had no room to pivot because, by design, the ugly rhetoric is the real Trump, and there is no other smarter version of his candidacy. So if it’s not Trump, what happens now?

Florida Governor Ron Desantis seems like he might be the next flag bearer for the whole conservative enterprise, and he’s potentially a much more dangerous presidential opponent. Much like Trump, he can be a malicious populist showman flaunting the slicked-back hair of a real-life Disney villain who flies undocumented immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard with promises of riches. But unlike Trump, he can also be a careful and cunning behind-the-scenes operator who suppresses votes and gerrymanders congressional districts to help secure a victory in the house.

Of course, Desantis is just a more subtle presentation of the same old ideas, and we should hold little hope that the heart of the beast itself will change. When Republicans failed to condemn the Jan. 6 attack on our government, they also condoned violence as an acceptable means of pursuing ideology. It was their deafening silence that emboldened an intruder to invade Nancy Pelosi’s home in Northern California with the exact same Jan. 6 call to arms, “Where’s Nancy?” and to bash in her husband’s head with a hammer.

The party of Desantis and violence against the Speaker of the House are guilty. And, yet, they’ll face no responsibility, much like our former, document stealing, court packing, lie-telling violence instigating ex-president Donald Trump.

2024 will be another test of our fragile democracy, and it will once again be our responsibility as young new voters to show up and make a difference. Join the solution.