MAGA’s Violent Threats Are Warping Life in America

Amid the constant drumbeat of sensational news stories — the scandals, the legal rulings, the wild political gambits — it’s sometimes easy to overlook the deeper trends that are shaping American life. For example, are you aware how much the constant threat of violence, principally from MAGA sources, is now warping American politics? If you wonder why so few people in red America seem to stand up directly against the MAGA movement, are you aware of the price they might pay if they did?

Late last month, I listened to a fascinating NPR interview with the journalists Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman regarding their new book, “Find Me the Votes,” about Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. They report that Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis had trouble finding lawyers willing to help prosecute her case against Trump. Even a former Georgia governor turned her down, saying, “Hypothetically speaking, do you want to have a bodyguard follow you around for the rest of your life?”

He wasn’t exaggerating. Willis received an assassination threat so specific that one evening she had to leave her office incognito while a body double wearing a bulletproof vest courageously pretended to be her and offered a target for any possible incoming fire.

Don’t think for a moment that this is unusual today. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing Trump’s federal Jan. 6 trial, has been swatted, as has the special counsel Jack Smith. For those unfamiliar, swatting is a terrifying act of intimidation in which someone calls law enforcement and falsely claims a violent crime is in process at the target’s address. This sends heavily armed police to a person’s home with the expectation of a violent confrontation. A swatting incident claimed the life of a Kansas man in 2017.

The Colorado Supreme Court likewise endured terrible threats after it ruled that Trump was disqualified from the ballot. There is deep concern for the safety of the witnesses and jurors in Trump’s various trials.

Mitt Romney faces so many threats that he spends $5,000 per day on security to protect his family. After Jan. 6, the former Republican congressman Peter Meijer said that at least one colleague voted not to certify the election out of fear for the safety of their family. Threats against members of Congress are pervasive, and there has been a shocking surge since Trump took office. Last year, Capitol Police opened more than 8,000 threat assessments, an eightfold increase since 2016.

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