The Right’s Path to Terrorism
Can we predict when right-wing extremist groups will adopt terrorism?
You will not replace us! Right-wing extremists chanted at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, where a counter-protester died. Before this moment, Americans were mostly ignorant of the breadth and depth of right-wing extremist groups and their potential and willingness to use violence.
But these groups are not new, and neither is their potential to use violence, including terrorism. Nor did they rise as a direct consequence of Mr Trump’s election — — although they have benefited from the news echo chambers that Mr Trump’s election nationalized. Like other extremist factions, their importance has ebbed and flowed throughout America’s history with some periods of high relevance connected to high levels of violence — sometimes including terrorism. In 2009, DHS assessed that right-wing extremist groups were going to experience a renaissance  in the coming years. Recent studies by CSIS’ Transnational Threat Project, an American think tank,  and FBI Director testimony  to Congress suggest that DHS’s assessment was right.
The question facing America today, then, is not how or why these groups resurged. That question has been well-answered and documented in academic literature. Rather, the question — in light of the recent uptick in individual attacks — is can we predict when right-wing extremist groups will exclusively employ terrorism to obtain their political goals?
Della Porta’s research can help answer this question. She pioneered the application of social movement theory to terrorism studies. In general, her research demonstrated seven mechanisms through which non-violent political groups — including ethnic-nationalist, left-right-wing, and religious groups — evolve towards terrorism.  These mechanisms underscore Della Porta’s key finding: political groups progress towards terrorism; seldomly do they directly arrive at it.
Right-wing groups in America are generally grouped under a loose ideological category. However, they diverge widely in their professed grievances and political objectives. This divergence has caused a “fracture”, in the words of Bruce…