Countering Anti-Democracy Threats Requires a Full Government Response

A report last week issued by the Oregon Secretary of State laid out a series of recommendations for lawmakers to address the threat posed by anti-democracy movements. The report, “Oregon Can Do More to Mitigate the Alarming Risk of Domestic Terrorism and Violent Extremist Attacks,” urges the state legislature to enact new laws including additional criminal penalties and a domestic terrorism statute.

“Oregon needs to take the threat of bigoted violence more seriously, and this document is an important step towards doing just that,” said Eric K. Ward, executive director of the Western States Center. “Addressing the threat of white nationalism and political violence requires a full government response. I’m glad to see the Secretary of State making clear that taking on this challenge will include raising public awareness, addressing the threat of misinformation and reckoning with the presence of anti-democracy actors inside the government itself. This is a front burner issue for Oregon and for the U.S., and this report treats it like one.”

Ward pointed to a range of tactics needed to comprehensively address rising political violence and the threat anti-democracy movements pose to our communities and democratic institutions, including stronger laws to limit paramilitary activity, additional training and support for government employees and local elected officials on the frontlines responding to anti-democracy attacks, the examination of political bias in law enforcement, and improved information sharing across municipalities and agencies.

At the same time Ward warned against efforts to address anti-democracy threats as primarily a law enforcement issue rather than the broader political and cultural challenge it is. 

“We’ve seen again and again that laws purporting to address all forms of domestic extremism can be used to harass, intimidate and undermine the work of legitimate civil rights groups and target communities of color and religious minorities, while white nationalists and paramilitaries aren’t held accountable to the laws already on the books,” said Ward. “Coun­ter­ing Viol­ent Extrem­ism (CVE) and fusion center programs that use disproven tactics to target individuals the government suspects of potential violence have repeatedly been shown to reflect destructive biases and do nothing to keep communities safer. Instead we need the full force of state government—with the cooperation and support of federal and local agencies—to vigorously support the institutions that make up our inclusive democracy, enforce existing laws that white nationalists violate and, just as importantly, call out bigotry and anti-democracy activity as antithetical to the safety and health of our communities.”

Ward urged Oregon legislators to increase their outreach to the most impacted communities as they determine next steps for addressing violent anti-democracy threats. 


Based in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States, Western States Center works nationwide to strengthen inclusive democracy through building movements, developing leaders, shifting culture, and defending democracy.

MEDIA CONTACT: Drew Courtney,


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