The Rise of Extremism

Part II: The Stakes of the Midterms

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: The rise of extremism has been widely covered, but many sources fail to talk about why these threats are rising. Exploring the mental and emotional reasons why extremism is escalating helps to combat it.

In Case You Missed It: What Road Will We Take in November?

Read on for moreโ€ฆ

Itโ€™s no secret that extremism is on the rise in the United States.

Since Donald Trump descended that golden escalator in 2015, there has been a steady increase in hate groups and violent incidents with the ultimate example on January 6, 2021. Sadly, while January 6th should have been the culmination, the violence and threats have only increased since then.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 733 hate groups currently operating in the US. These groups typically operate under neo-confederate, white nationalist, neo-nazi, and anti-government ideologies targeting any number of marginalized groups.

And many members of these groups are now running for office up and down the ballot. Particularly, they are running for Secretary of State so that they can โ€˜influenceโ€™ (read steal) the 2024 election in a few different ways. In fact, over half of the GOPโ€™s candidates running in 2022 deny that Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

While the news has covered this threat regularly throughout the last few years, many sources fail to talk about why these threats are rising. Itโ€™s important that we understand the mental and emotional reasons why extremism is escalating in the wealthiest country in the world. If we can understand the veil behind their ideologies, we can dismantle the myths in full view of voters and push back against the regressive hateful policies they espouse.

Fears of a Changing America

Last year, I wrote about the swings in the electorate and what they mean for a changing America. In it, I said, โ€œhalf of the country thinks that we are changing too fast, while the other half believes weโ€™re not changing fast enough.โ€

First, itโ€™s well-documented that the U.S. is becoming more diverse. The 2020 Census shows that 61.6% of Americans identify as white, an 8.6% drop since 2010. In the next 20 years, itโ€™s predicted the country will be a 50%+ multiracial society.

While the racial and ethnic shifts are significant, there is another looming change that has been challenging for many Americans. Younger generations are beginning to question ideologies that were perceived as foundational by older generations. Gender, sexual orientation, relationship structures, view of work, and other concepts have buckled thanks to Millennials and Gen Z challenging the status quo.

For some, it can be thrilling to see a broadening of acceptable norms, but for others, it leaves them uncertain where they fit in society. After all, it is really difficult to be told you were wrong after believing something so deeply your whole life. There can be real fear in not knowing something and having to learn new things.

Fear of Power Loss

For many white Americans, these realities are difficult to swallow because of societal norms they grew up with.

With this world-view there is a perception of a zero-sum game. If someone gains, then someone else must lose. An individualistic society encourages us to get what you can for you and your family or someone else will take it. But this is not true. There is enough to go around. And that includes power. The fear of a changing America stems from a perceived loss of power. Many white Americans are afraid that their status in society will change, but social justice activists are just asking for equity.

For many white Americans, there is a lot of fear wrapped up in this fact. By heightening fear with white voters, the GOP hopes to consolidate their votes no matter what other policies they embrace.

The question before us on November 8th is will that fear sway voters or will their transparently harmful policies be seen for what they are?

Next Up:

The Emotional Barriers in Extremism
๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: Why do some people turn to extremism? The answer lies in a personโ€™s emotional capacity, adaptability, and self-reflection. 3-minute read - Read on for moreโ€ฆ
๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support communicators, organizations, and activists ๐Ÿฅต to avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change.

Learn more about the Roots of Change Agency.