Conservative spokespersons nationwide, including Sarah Palin, continue to miss the point of the larger, and now necessary debate on today’s powderkeg political environment. And that is simply this, as written a few days ago (with some modification):
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, a rhetoric built on dehumanizing and threatening political opponents is unacceptable, and now is a perfect time to say so.
The half-term governor asks us when if ever political debate was more temperate. Such questions are irrelevant, because as Americans, we are not limited by our past. If our past were equally extreme, it would still be necessary to outgrow it. But there is no unbroken succession of tolerated incivility from Preston Brooks to Sharron Angle. For a reminder of when things changed, take the account of David Brock, who remembers it before, and after, in Act II of this episode of This American Life.
Brock hits on two late-twentieth century game-changers. Newt Gingrich in 1988:
The left at its core understands in a way Grant understood after Shiloh that this is a civil war, that only one side will prevail, and that the other side will be relegated to history. This war has to be fought with the scale and duration and savagery that is only true of civil wars.
And Rich Bond tothe 1992 Republican Convention in Houston:
We are America. Those other people are not.
And now Sarah Palin. Equating attacks on her extremism with “blood libel.”
If we’ve become accustomed to a political discourse where some of us are Americans, and the others are not; where politics must be conducted with a “total war” mentality that would make Napoleon blush; and where despite an actual assassination attempt, we write off assassination threats as nothing more than a major party’s attempt to energize the base; then we have a problem, and if it exists in our past, it also exists in our present, and needn’t in our future.
I acknowledge that moderate Republicans will have trouble with this debate. After all, the fault is not theirs, and one may fairly bristle at the implication of guilt by association, even where it is expressly disclaimed. But the solution to that fear — and the path of true leadership — is prompt action. And delay is complicity.