Incidence of threats and intimidation rises as political temperature heats up in the US

America Letter: “The darkness is spreading” as even life-long conservatives face abuse for being “Rinos”

“The darkness is spreading”, one of the two Republican Party politicians serving on the congressional committee investigating the riots at Capitol Hill on January 6th last year warned in recent days.

Adam Kinzinger forecast there would be increasing levels of political violence in the United States in the future. He disclosed the contents of a letter sent to his wife telling her that she, himself and their five-month-old baby son would all be executed.

His “crime”, the author of the letter seems to suggest, was to have publicly stood up to former US president Donald Trump and his allies over their unsupported claims that the 2020 election was stolen. His wife, it seemed, was deemed guilty by association. The letter also said it was blasphemous for the couple to have named their son Christian.

“There is violence in the future, I’m going to tell you. And until we get a grip on telling people the truth, we can’t expect any differently,” Kinzinger told US broadcaster ABC last weekend.

There has always been an element of violence linked to politics in the US. Four presidents have been assassinated in office; two others have been injured in attacks.

The congressional committee has examined evidence that some Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol on January 6th would have hanged vice-president Mike Pence if given the opportunity.

Among some on the right the term Rino appears to be defined as people who are seen as not fully supporting Trump in his various grievances

And it seems the level of threats and intimidation against politicians – and indeed against some private citizens who just happen to get caught up in political controversies – is rising alongside the political temperature every day.

The other Republican on the House of Representatives select committee, Liz Cheney, has had a security detail since last year. It was reported this week that she has been unable to hold large, publicised campaign events, in part due to security concerns.

Other members of the January 6th committee are also likely to receive increased protection. Kinzinger said this week that he believed he and Cheney were on the receiving end of threats as they were considered to be Rinos (Republicans in name only).

“Rino” is a particular term of abuse used frequently by Trump and his supporters. On Wednesday he attacked Texas senator John Cornyn as a Rino for his role in putting together new legislation on gun controls in the wake of the Uvalde killings. He has previously attacked his former attorney general Bill Barr, Utah senator Mitt Romney and former House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan as Rinos.

Among some on the right the term Rino appears to be defined as people who are seen as not fully supporting Trump in his various grievances. And being a lifelong conservative is no exculpatory factor when it comes to those intent on pursuing the insufficiently loyal.

It’s turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card ... I don’t want anyone knowing my name. I don’t go to the grocery store at all. I haven’t been anywhere at all

—  Wandrea “Shaye” Moss

The January 6th committee this week heard from Rusty Bowers, a senior politician in Arizona and a man of obvious deep faith and conservative conviction. When he did not back the efforts of Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election, protesters — on one occasion one had a gun — began turning up at his home at weekends proclaiming that he was corrupt and a paedophile. That his gravely ill daughter was in the house at the time did not seem to matter.

Following his testimony, Trump accused Bowers of being a Rino.

A mother and daughter who were poll workers in Georgia told horrific stories of receiving death threats and abuse after Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani accused them, falsely, of being involved in vote fraud.

Wandrea “Shaye” Moss told of the impact of claims made by Trump and Giuliani: “It’s turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card ... I don’t want anyone knowing my name. I don’t go to the grocery store at all. I haven’t been anywhere at all. I’ve gained about 60 pounds. I just don’t do nothing any more,” she told the committee.

Her mother Ruby Freeman said she had had to leave for home for several months due to fears for her safety.

Condemning opponents as Rinos is not just another comic nickname like those that Trump used to attach to his opponents. Remember “lyin Ted” etc. Earlier this week Eric Greitens, a former governor who is seeking to secure the Republican Party nomination to run for the Senate in Missouri, released a video showing him walking down a street with a gun in his hand.

“I’m Eric Greitens, Navy Seal, and today we’re going Rino hunting,” he says. The video then switches to a house where what appears to be a heavily-armed Swat team smashes down a door.

Greitens walks through the door carrying a shotgun and says: “Join the Maga [Make America Great Again] crew. Get a Rino-hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

It is understandable that some politicians feel the darkness is spreading.