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A MAGA politico has been arrested over a chilling conspiracy

The suspect behind four shootings of Democrats’ houses is a former MAGA political candidate.

A Republican election denier who failed to win his race for the New Mexico state House has been arrested on the suspicion that he orchestrated shootings at the homes of Democratic elected officials. While details of the case are still coming out, the situation is a reminder of how election denialism can prime its proponents for political violence when they don’t get their way.

Solomon Peña lost his state House race in November to the incumbent Democrat by a large margin. Mimicking what then-President Donald Trump did following his 2020 defeat to Joe Biden, Peña never conceded. Days after the election he endorsed Trump’s 2024 bid and said he was “researching my options” regarding what to do about the race that he wouldn’t admit his opponent had won.

According to multiple reports, it appears that one of the options he pursued was harassing government officials who say Peña showed up at their homes and confronted them about what he said were false election results.

​​One of those officials, Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, told NBC News that Peña came to her house after the election, acted aggressively and made semi-intelligible points about “how many doors he knocked on and how the number of votes didn’t match.” She called the police after he left. Former County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley described a similar experience of being tracked down at her home and accosted over the results in November.

“He was angry about losing the election,” she told NBC News. “He felt the election was unfair and untrue.” O’Malley also alerted law enforcement.

After those reported encounters, a series of shootings took place at the homes of four government officials, including Barboa, O’Malley, a state senator and a state representative. Fortunately nobody was injured or killed. But those shootings could’ve easily resulted in tragedy. Some of the bullets burst into the bedroom of the daughter of one of those state lawmakers.  

Police claim that Peña was the “mastermind” behind the shootings, and that he paid cash to four men to carry them out. Police say they’re still investigating, but that one of the alleged members of the conspiracy is acting as an informant, and that they believe Peña may have been motivated by his election loss.

It is a stroke of fortune that the shootings didn’t cause physical injury or death. But they underscore a disturbing trend of rising political violence in the U.S. that will not be reversed until the right firmly disavows both political violence and the ideology that incentivizes it.

When influential Republicans delight in mocking the brutal assault on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, the base notices. When Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., shares cartoons that depict him killing his Democratic colleagues — and most of his party stands by his side — the base notices. When Trump celebrates his fans beating up critics at his rallies and calls for people to get “wild” and “fight like hell” at the U.S. Capitol, the base notices. 

But even without Trumpism’s nonchalance over real and fantasized  violence, it seems only logical that election denialism would lead to violence. If the right keeps telling the lie that the entire electoral system is being rigged against them, then it makes sense that some people will be convinced that use of force is an attractive “option.” The right-wing authoritarian playbook includes sapping right-wingers of any faith that the political establishment can be trusted. It seems inevitable that those susceptible to that lie will increasingly come to perceive anti-government violence as a reasonable response.