There are many parallels that can be drawn between the United States and pretty much every other major empire throughout history. One of the most common parallels to make, and one I myself often like to make, is the commonality that the United States shares with ancient Rome (which makes sense since the United States was established with Rome in mind).
Early Roman politicians were the quintessential holier than thou characters. Almost everything they did was meant to create an image that they were pious, entirely dedicated to Roman law, and only had the best interests of Rome in mind. As Rome rose in prominence the facade those politicians built began to chip away. The most obvious illustration of this breakdown, in my opinion, was the fate of Tiberius Gracchus. Gracchus fought for and eventually managed to pass legislation that would redistribute much of the public land that was being monopolized but Rome’s rich and powerful to the underdogs. While he used every dirty trick in the book to get his land reforms passed, he did follow the letter of the law more or less (his opponents consider his actions illegal but Roman law, like United States law, had a lot of gray area). But redistributing public land wasn’t a popular idea with the senators who were, not necessarily legally mind you, holding it so they decided to set aside their masks of dedication to Roman Law and publicly clubbed Tiberius to death. What made this assassination a real turning point was that it didn’t appear to be a career killer for most of the involved senators. The facade of political piety to Roman law was torn down and few of the demolition crew suffered any real consequences.
Like politicians in ancient Rome, politicians here in the United States have built a facade of piousness (to the religion of the State more than any other), dedication to United States law, and having the best interests of Americans in mind. Part of that facade is foregoing violence, whether direct or indirect, and instead resolving matters through debates. However, in recent decades and especially in the last decade that facade is beginning to chip away. Although direct violence hasn’t been taken (by the politicians themselves), it’s being spoken of more frequently:
“She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding,” Alexandra Pelosi bluntly told CNN in an interview Wednesday morning. “That’s all you need to know about her.”
Pelosi was asked about her mother’s approach to meetings, ahead of a highly anticipated briefing with President Trump and other top congressional leaders scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in the White House Situation Room. The meeting comes a day before Democrats reclaim the House majority, with Nancy Pelosi expected to ascend once again to speaker.
Admittedly it’s difficult to know that you’re bleeding when you no longer have a head but I digress.
The written records we have from ancient Rome are incomplete (an understatement) so I can’t say whether a similar process precede the senators clubbing Gracchus to death but I’m left to believe it did. I imagine Rome’s descent into political violence began with the clientes of one or two senators talking about how badass their patronus was and, failing to be reprimanded for implying that their senators would ever stoop to violence, inspired others to talk up their senators’ badass nature. I imagine that that tough talk eventually inspired a handful of senators themselves to begin making violent comments and, failing to be reprimanded, that inspired senators to finally set aside the bullshit and just club that annoyance Gracchus to death.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an act of politician on politician violence in the coming years. We’re already at the point where talking about violence is, if not acceptable, not something that results in serious reprimand. Given how device politics is today, it wouldn’t be difficult for a politician to justify to themselves an act of violence as being in the best interests of the American people. And, unlike the days of Aaron Burr, I wouldn’t be surprised if the act of violence didn’t end their political career.