Threats of Violence Become the New Normal for Politicians

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Some startling beliefs in the United States were revealed in a study last fall by the University of California, Davis: Nearly one in three respondents said violence was justified to advance political objectives, like stopping an election from being stolen, or to “preserve an American way of life I believe in.”

That reflects a broader trend of rising support for political violence — something that has already had real consequences. In a 2021 survey, more than 80 percent of local officials in the U.S. said that they had been threatened or harassed.

“A steady undercurrent of violence and physical risk has become a new normal,” my colleagues Danny Hakim, Ken Bensinger and Eileen Sullivan recently wrote in The New York Times. “Often masked by online anonymity and propelled by extreme political views, the barrage of menace has changed how public officials do their work, terrified their families and driven some from public life altogether.”

I highly recommend their full article, which is important and compelling.

The reporters spoke to Joe Chimenti, a former chairman of the board of supervisors in Shasta County, who started getting death threats soon after he took office in 2019. A wave of anti-government sentiment began to engulf the county during the coronavirus pandemic, and grew after Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.

Chimenti, a Republican, chose not to run for a second term. “I got into this to make a difference,” he said, “but I thought, Why do I want to put up with this?”

Natalie Adona, the Nevada County clerk and recorder, said her staff had become accustomed to confrontations with people menacing them over contentious issues like election results and public health mandates.

“A lot of what we have experienced falls into this gray area,” Adona said. “It makes you look over your shoulder.”

Monday is Memorial Day, and California State Parks is offering free admission at 143 state parks for veterans and active-duty and reserve members of the military and their families.

You can find the list of participating parks here.


Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Halina Bennet and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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