Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) was recently made the chair of the U.S. House of Representatives' Intelligence & Counterterrorism Subcommittee within the House Committee on Homeland Security. She says a crucial part of her work with the subcommittee will be focusing on the rise of domestic terrorism.
Prior to being elected to Michigan's 8th Congressional District, Slotkin worked as an analyst for the CIA. She calls herself a "militia and terrorism expert." She says she was surprised to have to use those skills to examine things happening in her own district.
"Being from Michigan and in particular, Michigan’s 8th District, we have been dealing with this rise of extremism and domestic terrorism long before January 6. In my district in April, armed protesters forced their way into our Capitol."
She also referenced the alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and other extremist groups.
"The raids on the plotters seeking to kidnap and kill our governor, many of those raids took place in my district, three of the six indicted on federal charges are constituents of the 8th District," she said. "We have seen groups like the Proud Boys proliferating long before they were mentioned in a presidential debate or Googled by so many Americans for the first time, and in our Republican primary for my seat, there was a sympathizer of the proud boys and people who participated in some of those armed rallies."
Elected officials play an important role in making sure their constituents have accurate information, and can help ease tensions in communities, according to Slotkin. But she says she hasn't seen much of that mediation in Michigan lately.
"We've seen plenty of elected officials up and down the level of government in the state of Michigan that have done nothing to dampen the tensions, but in fact has increased the tensions: they have talked about how it was okay that lawmakers were scared for their lives; who have brandished their weapons at community meetings. That kind of behavior normalizes violence, and Michigan, unfortunately, has seen quite a bit of that."
She also mentioned an incident from last summer, where members of the Proud Boys volunteered at an Antrim County event where Senate candidate John James spoke.
Slotkin says some of the priorities for the House committees and subcommittees working on domestic terrorism responses are establishing a shared vocabulary for talking about domestic terrorism and extremism, developing more robust data collection on domestic terror and extremist groups, looking at legal and regulatory tools to prevent more violence, holding social media platforms accountable, and confronting radicalization in our communities before it becomes a threat.
"If you drive from the Detroit airport to my farm in Holly, Michigan, there are no fewer than seven giant billboards from the FBI that say 'Do you know someone who was in the Capitol? Call the FBI tipline, turn them in.' And there's a real effort going on right now to identify leadership and take actions." But she says that's not enough, and doesn't address the problem at its root.
"You cannot arrest your way out of this problem. You have to get to people through education and outreach in their communities, in order to make sure they are critical thinkers and that they're not inspired by people who are sowing propaganda and inspiring them to violence."