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The Pelosi Attacker and the Horseshoe Theory of Politics

Plus: Midterm predictions.
November 3, 2022
How Pelosi's Attacker Went From Berkeley Nudist To MAGA Extremist | Not My Party with Tim Miller

[Editor’s note: Watch Not My Party every week on Snapchat.]

Tim Miller: Horseshoe lunacy plus horse-race predictions.

Louis Kazagger (on The Muppet Show): And they’re off!

Bojack Horseman (on Bojack Horseman): Oh God.

Miller: This is “Not My Party,” brought to you by The Bulwark. All right, y’all, stick around for the Not My Party midterm predictions at the end of the ep. But we have to start with the insane assassin who bludgeoned Nancy Pelosi’s husband to the brink of death while searching for the speaker in the hopes he might “break her knees.”

KeithWongTV (YouTuber): Break your knees.

Tracy Crane (Eric Johnson on Condor): That is an oddly specific detail.

Miller: In a normal, healthy society, we might all unite together in sympathy for the Pelosi family, and with a renewed effort to keep our leaders safe. But that ain’t our world.

Donald Trump: We are transferring power from Washington, D.C.—

Trump and Bane (audio synced): —and giving it back to you, the people.

Rowan Atkinson: The resemblance is uncanny.

Miller: The American right—and Elon Musk, their new Chief Twit (that’s a formal title)—spent the week instead making crude jokes about the Pelosis, defaming the media for how they covered it, and spreading fake news about how this might have been a gay love affair gone wrong.

Phil Phillips (in The Happytime Murders): What the [bleep]?

Miller: The basis of this conspiracy-mongering emanated from a pretty strange fact about this case: The attacker was a Berkeley nudist who once lived in this house with a BLM sign and a rainbow American flag.

Langston (Langston Kerman on Bust Down): That doesn’t seem right.

Miller: To the cons this was proof it was nothing more than a gay lover spat rather than a political hit. But that preys on a misunderstanding of our current politics and how radicalization works. It’s called the “horseshoe theory.” You see, the parties do not exist on a line with a far-left Berkeley nudist and the far-right MAGA nationalists are on opposite ends. Instead, we have an ideological horseshoe and inside the horseshoe, the conspiratorial extreme sides of both parties are getting closer and closer together.

Jessie (from Toy Story 2): Yeeeehaw!

Bob Belcher (from Bob’s Burgers): No, that’s not good.

Miller: As a result, it’s much more common than you might expect for someone who is a far leftist to go full MAGA.

Eric Cartman (from South Park): I’m anti-establishment.

Miller: They hated the Iraq War and supported Occupy Wall Street. Then over time they gained such a mistrust of government and institutions that they jumped the shoe and began to hate Hillary and the deep state. And then went down the path to QAnon and COVID conspiracies.

Kathryn Pinewood (Mary Faber on Parks and Recreation): Stop restricting our freedoms.

Miller: If you read the Pelosi attacker’s blog, that was his essential trajectory with a few crazy sidebars mixed in.

Leo Spitz (Ramón Rodríguez in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen): It’s aliens man.

Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen): Okay, okay.

Miller: Look around online long enough, and you’ll find plenty of dudes who followed this trajectory. And somehow, despite the fact that we have a deposition where the attacker explained his rationale for trying to take out Nancy, assholes on the right are using his status as a Berkeley nudist to continue to peddle the debunked gay-lover theory for political ends.

Randy Marsh (from South Park): What?

Miller: But the sad reality is that kind of incessant conspiracy-mongering is what fuels the radicalization of people like that attacker in the first place.

January 6th insurrectionist: Where are you, Nancy? We’re looking for you.

Larry David (Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm): Yikes.

Miller: And now we move from the horseshoe to the horse race—my midterm predictions. The race for control of the Senate comes down to these four states: Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.

Paul Drake (William Hopper on Perry Mason): I mighta known.

Miller: The Republicans need two of the four to take the chamber. The Dems need three of those four to maintain their majority. My prediction: Republicans actually win three of those four states to get to 52 Senate seats and keep an eye on long shots in Colorado and New Hampshire where Republicans might steal one to get to 53.

Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy in Bowfinger): Awesome.

Miller: In the House, a red wave is coming. Or a mini wave, at least. I have Republicans picking up 20 seats with surprising wins in the more conservative areas of blue states, like New Mexico and Rhode Island.

Professor Hardy (Peter Sarsgaard in The Lost Daughter): Thrilling.

Miller: In the governor’s races, I think the Democrats do better, with abortion as a key issue. I see wins for the Dems in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, while Republicans take Georgia and maybe Arizona—though I really hope not. So tell your friends in Arizona to vote, vote, vote against the election denier.

Kari Lake: Nancy Pelosi, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C.—apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection.

Smith (Jonathan Groff in The Matrix Resurrections): Hilarious.

Miller: We’ll be back next week for a recap and an analysis on what the big takeaways are from the Tuesday elections.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.