Leading Republicans graciously, and rightly, let Democrats off the hook for one of their party’s zealots opening fire on GOP congressmen on Wednesday. Leading Democrats showed their appreciation by blaming the shooting on Republicans.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi ended the 24-hour era of good feelings on Thursday by slamming Republicans as “sanctimonious” in their response to the attack. She traced the current incivility to Republicans, a sort of Professor Moriarty in her storytelling. “Somewhere in the 1990s,” she claimed, “Republicans decided on the politics of personal destruction as they went after the Clintons and that is the provenance of it and is what has continued.”
Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, responding to the GOP’s support for the Second Amendment, tweeted, “Republicans are getting what they want.”
The New York Times, ultimately forced to retract this claim, editorialized, “In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.”
This grasping-at-straws non sequitur belies the description of the student-shooter as “quite liberal” and “left-wing” by a classmate. More germane, the gunman, who appeared as though he ingested 80 tabs of acid before vacantly mugging it up for his mugshot, exhibited severe mental illness of the like that cannot tell Sarah Palin from Michael Palin. His politics mattered as much in this instance as his favorite color or astrological sign.
Tucker Carlson opened a Wednesday broadcast by giving Bernie Sanders a pass on his follower shooting a congressional colleague. Would Bernie Sanders do the same for a Republican?
“This horrendous act of violence is not some kind of strange aberration for this area where, it appears, threats and acts of violence are part of the political climate,” Sanders wrote in a fundraising appeal mailed out in the aftermath of the shooting of Congressman Gabby Giffords. “Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred.” He blamed “right-wing reactionaries” for a crime committed by a loon whose only discernable political views leaned in his direction.
Indicting a whole party for the sins of its most unstable members strikes as cheap politics. The reflexive blame cast on political opponents for crimes committed by political allies comes across as a hubristic indecency well beyond the gutter tactics of exploiting victimhood for poll numbers. James Hodgkinson, though unavailable for comment, would surely blame Republicans for him shooting Republicans, too.
People convinced of their righteousness paradoxically display a capacity for enormous wrongdoing. They dehumanize opponents (fascist, racist, traitor), which ironically coaxes subhuman behavior out of humanitarians. By imagining their cause as a world-saving mission, the do-gooder allows himself to do bad for the imagined greater good without qualm. James Hodgkinson’s ends justified his means — at least to him.
A guy marching around his post office with a “Tax the Rich” sign, incessantly writing political diatribes to his local paper’s letters section, and turning social media into anti-social political propaganda recalls Eric Hoffer’s “true believer.”
The longshoreman philosopher pegged this non-individual individual: “The taint hidden in selfishness is that selfishness is the only moral justification of ruthlessness.” “It is understandable that those who fail should incline to blame the world for their failure.” “The permanent misfits can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement.”
Recognize the guy turning a baseball field into a battlefield?
Extremist politics beget extremist behavior.
Who assassinated the last Congressman to die performing the duties of of his office? Jonestown Communists. Who fired a shot at Gerald Ford? A Symbionese Liberation Army sympathizer who, in her own words, tried to start a “revolution.” Who assassinated John F. Kennedy? A Communist who renounced his American citizenship and moved to the Soviet Union. Who assassinated William McKinley? An anarcho-communist compared to Brutus by the assassin’s acquaintance, Emma Goldman. Who assassinated James Garfield? A Bible Communist crazy who lived for five years within the group marriage at the Oneida Community.
Notice a pattern? James Hodgkinson falls into it.
An opportunity to condemn extremists of their party presented itself to Nancy Pelosi, the New York Times, and the Daily Kos. Instead, they condemned the opposition party targeted by a gunman. This does not help.