As armed vigilantes have taken it upon themselves to allegedly intimidate voters at ballot drop off locations across several states, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) is warning that the right wing in the U.S. is creating an “environment of fascism” — and that the only way to combat it is to build a strong movement to defend democracy.
In an MSNBC interview about the ballot box vigilantes, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that political violence is rampant on the right; officials in the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have warned as such, she said.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the data shows that the vast majority of incidents of domestic terror come from white nationalism, and that we are really truly facing an environment of fascism in the United States of America,” she said. “This type of intimidation at the polls brings us to Jim Crow. It brings us back and harkens back to a very unique form of American apartheid that is not that long past ago.”
Experts have indeed likened Republicans’ current voter suppression efforts to Jim Crow laws, which were designed to keep Black people from voting. In modern times, voter suppression has taken the form of laws that appear to specifically target and restrict Black and Latinx voters’ voting access, racist district maps drawn by GOP lawmakers, the criminalization of Black people who may have been misled about legal guidelines for voting, and more.
“We have never fully healed from [Jim Crow] and those wounds threaten to rip right back open if we do not strongly defend democracy,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Federal officials have warned about the heightened potential for violence and threats in the days surrounding the upcoming elections. On Friday, DHS, FBI, U.S. Capitol Police and the National Counterterrorism Center released a report warning that “perceptions of election-related fraud and dissatisfaction with electoral outcomes likely will result in heightened threats of violence against a broad range of targets.”
As early voting rolled out last week, right-wing groups began watching polls and ballot boxes. The most widely publicized incident took place in Arizona, where heavily armed vigilantes allegedly threatened voters at drop boxes, though voter intimidation incidents and threats have also surfaced in states like Pennsylvania and Oregon.
The watchers are seemingly motivated by debunked right-wing conspiracy theories that took hold on internet forums that there are people stuffing ballot boxes for Democrats — claims that are based on fabricated evidence. They are also motivated by people like Donald Trump and the Republican Party, who have been waging a years-long campaign to throw doubt into the election process altogether.
Later in the interview, Ocasio-Cortez discussed how Republicans and conservatives have presented a false dichotomy in their political messaging, which claims that voters have to choose between advancing social issues or having a strong economy and democracy.
“This idea that it’s either or is very dangerous,” she said. “The idea that emphasizing social equity is somehow a detriment to our democracy is playing into the hands of the folks who don’t want us to talk about either.”