The left’s insistence that every conservative personally “condemn” the actions of the mentally ill man who attacked Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul has nothing to do with lowering the rhetorical temperature or averting violence, and everything to do with trying to compel Republicans to take responsibility for the incident.
Forget the ugly, transparent cynicism of partisans like Joe Scarborough or David Frum or Bill Kristol. Take The Washington Post, which ran a triple-bylined, reported piece headlined, “Attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband follows years of GOP demonizing her.” “Years of vilification,” contend the authors, have “culminated” in Pelosi’s husband being attacked with a hammer.
By “demonizing,” the Post means that Republicans run lots of political ads targeting perhaps the most powerful, partisan leader in the nation. Pelosi is demonized in the same manner Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis are demonized. Remember ads depicted Paul Ryan pushing grandmas off cliffs? Is it that kind of demonizing?
All three of the “reporters” involved in writing the Washington Post piece know full well that the person accused of attacking Pelosi with a hammer was mentally unstable, his brain, according to the mother of his children, addled by long-term drug use. This is a former pro-nudist activist, convinced that “he was Jesus for a year,” who lived in a bus on a semi-commune and has embraced conspiracy theories from the left and right.
Even if he wasn’t unstable, of course, it doesn’t mean the GOP has any responsibility to stop pointing out that Pelosi’s policy ideas are bad for the country. Do reporters, columnists, ad makers, or politicians consider the safety of Republicans before saying anything critical about them? I sure hope not. Because neither political discourse nor political reporting should be inhibited by the prospective actions of third-party nuts. If Americans had to ponder the actions of political terrorists every time they took a position, they would only be empowering those nuts.
Yet, this weekend, John Dickerson was wringing his hands on CBS News over the alleged structural and rhetorical pro-violence position of the right. You see the trick, right? Conservatives have a duty to self-flagellate over the Jan 6 rioters, to answer for Alex Jones and white supremacists of Charlottesville, and to condemn the nudists of Berkley, because they’re the ones who have allegedly coddled those extremists in the first place. It doesn’t matter that vast majority of conservative have never supported or instigated any violence, whatsoever.
On the other hand, when a Black Lives Matter fan murders five Dallas police officers, the coverage is virtually devoid of any political concerns. There is no CBS News panel convening to agonize over the left’s support for BLM after riots decimated neighborhoods across the nation in 2020 — the costliest in American history. No, not even after the future vice president helped bail out people who participated in that violence, one of whom would later be accused of murder.
When a man who volunteers for the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders attempts to assassinate Republican leadership on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, no one in the major media tells us it’s the culmination of the socialists’ decades-long demonizing of non-socialists. When an assassin brings a Glock, extra ammunition, a knife, pepper spray, and zip ties from California to D.C. to murder a Supreme Court justice — two years after Chuck Schumer warned justices that they had “released the whirlwind” and would “pay the price” — not only did we not have a national conversation about the perils of toxic rhetoric, the story was barely covered, appearing on page 20 of The New York Times.
But because Kevin McCarthy once made a hamfisted joke about it being difficult not to hit Nancy Pelosi with a gavel, every conservative must now denounce Jesus McNudist or they might as well be attacking the speaker’s husband themselves.
No one is innocent, but the notion that the right is more prone to violent or dehumanizing rhetoric is a convenient fantasy. Were these people asleep when Democrats were accusing their political opponents of being nihilistic death cultists who were happy seeing people sick and poor and plotting to murder their fellow Americans with nefarious “tax cuts” (Nancy Pelosi called the Trump cuts “the end of the world,” “Armageddon,” and the difference between “life and death”)? Democrats have now spent years fueling conspiratorial and paranoid fictions about how Republicans had seditiously conspired to destroy “democracy” or the endless, fact-less effort to convince Americans that their votes are being stolen.
Knock yourself out. But spare me the national conversations.