[V]olent talk has tipped over into actual violence in ways big and small. School board members and public health officials have faced a wave of threats, prompting hundreds to leave their posts. A recent investigation by Reuters documented nearly 800 intimidating messages to election officials in 12 states.
And threats against members of Congress have jumped by 107 percent compared with the same period in 2020, according to the Capitol Police. Lawmakers have been harassed at airports, targeted at their homes and had family members threatened. Some have spent tens of thousands on personal security.
“You don’t understand how awful it is and how scary it is until you’re in it,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who praised a Republican colleague, Representative Fred Upton, for publicly sharing some of the threats he received after voting to approve the infrastructure bill. (Mr. Upton’s office did not respond to requests for comment.) “But not telling people that this violence isn’t OK makes people think it is OK.”
Ms. Dingell, who said she was threatened by men with assault weapons outside her home last year after she was denounced by Tucker Carlson on his Fox News show, shared a small sample of what she said were hundreds of profanity-laden threats she has received.
“They ought to try you for treason,” one caller screamed in a lengthy, graphic voice mail message. “I hope your family dies in front of you. I pray to God that if you’ve got any children, they die in your face.”
Bradford Fitch, president of the Congressional Management Foundation, which advises lawmakers on issues like running their offices and communicating with constituents, said he now urged members not to hold open public meetings, an American tradition dating back to the colonies, because of security concerns. Politics, he said, had become “too raw and radioactive.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea right now,” Mr. Fitch said. “I hope we can get to a point where we can advise members of Congress that it’s safe to have a town-hall meeting.”