Update: Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan agree with the thesis of this post, that it’s time for politicos like Palin and Bachmann to apologize for their complicity in creating a hateful climate.
After Saturday’s attempted assassination of a Democratic congresswoman — and the tragic loss of six other lives — we learned, fairly quickly, that Sarah Palin had “targeted” the shooter’s intended victim, Gabriel Gifford, by putting a crosshair over her district in a midterm mailer. The retrospectively tacky decision sent Republicans and conservatives into a frenzy of spin control, with surrogates emphasizing that the Republican use of gun-related words is so frequent as to be innocuous; that madness knows no ideology; and that guns aren’t dangerous, even though one was just used to kill six people.
All of the above is surely true. Well, at least the first two points are. And neither Sarah Palin nor Glenn Beck nor the tea party, nor anyone in particular save the shooter, can be blamed directly or indirectly for this hateful act. But the fact remains that it’s so easy to reflexively blame political violence on the right because, regardless of any causation analysis of this incident, we all know that influential members of the party opposite have, over the past two years, worked hard to build a climate of extremism and violence, and that, if someone finally took it all to heart, well, we wouldn’t be too surprised.
Let’s recap the past two years. Michele Bachmann regularly implied a need for armed revolt, to refresh the tree of liberty with the “blood of patriots.” Sharron Angle touted the need for “Second Amendment remedies” to Obama administration policies. Rick Perry regularly threatened to secede (although with characteristic grace, Fox News noted that he “probably won’t”). A less recognizable pundit hoped that liberals “feel threatened” by him; another warned that “if ballots don’t work, bullets will”; and still another threatened, on behalf of his military listeners, an armed coup. Sometimes it’s even more explicit. In 2009, conservatives wore assault rifles to an anti-Obama rally. Hell, Gifford’s opponent in this last race led his supporters in firing their assault rifles into the air, as a “symbolic” attack on her candidacy. And always, and at every turn, Glenn Beck equated the President, or liberal Democrats, with tyrants, evoked images of civil war, implied the need for their “removal,” and let you come to your own conclusion about what that means. Analysis that was all intoned with a terrifying sense of urgency.
In a world where a congresswoman, a federal judge, and a nine year old can wake up one morning, and only one of them survive the day, this is unacceptable, and now is a perfect time to say so. Liberal pundits are wrong to blame the right for this murder. But for the life of me, I can’t imagine why conservative pundits won’t stand against their visible, violent, and mainstreamed fringe.