Kim Weaver had planned a race against incumbent Steve King to represent Iowa’s 4th congressional district, but cited death threats among the reasons she dropped out yesterday.
In a statement on Facebook, Weaver said that “personal circumstances along with the political climate” had led to her decision, citing “very alarming acts of intimidation, including death threats” and concerns about maintaining her access to health insurance as reasons to end her campaign.
“While some may say enduring threats are just a part of running for office, my personal safety has increasingly become a concern,” Weaver said, due to “recent events at my home.” Weaver added that she also wants to spend more time with her elderly mother.
Rep. King, who is beloved by the racist Stormfront website and recently drew attention for saying that “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” is perhaps the most shameless white nationalist in Congress. The 4th District is largely rural, many of its white residents feel challenged by immigration, and registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 75,000.
So Weaver faced a difficult environment for a run against King anyway, but the credible terroristic threats against her are a disturbing sign of the times in a region where illiberal forces are both angry and strong.
This weekend, the New York Times reported on the gangs of right wing “street fighters” now organizing around the country. The phenomenon marks a shift in strategy: instead of using public space under the rubric of free speech, they want to dominate it through violent action.
“These are new people to us,” said Heidi Beirich, the Intelligence Project director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist movements.
Typically, the far-right groups they study will demonstrate but avoid confrontation, acting in a “defensive crouch,” she added.
“But saying, ‘We’re going to show up and we’re intending to get in fights,’ that’s a new thing,” Ms. Beirich said.
Stewart Rhodes, leader of the Oath Keepers militia, says that his group will provide armed guards for an alt-right, anti-Muslim “free speech rally” being held in Portland today. The event comes one week after 35 year-old Jeremy Christian stabbed two men to death on a Portland train when they intervened in his verbal abuse of a Muslim woman of color.
Add in the hundreds of hate crimes since Election Day, and it’s clear that the Donald Trump presidency has awakened a bloody and hateful spirit across the land. No doubt Rep. King, one of the original heroes at Breitbart.com, has some fans that are ready to threaten, or even harm, a Democratic challenger.
Worse, the terrorism has worked in Iowa. To whatever degree those threats affected Kim Weaver’s decision to drop out of the race, it is exactly what the person(s) who threatened her had hoped to achieve.
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