In the wake of a mass shooting that left a Republican member of congress and several others injured, many on both sides of the aisle are asking that the partisan rhetoric on both sides cool down a bit. It’s an admirable goal and one worth reaching for. However, it’s also worth noting that the very same Republicans now suggesting liberals are inciting violence don’t seem to have the same concerns about their own side.
The calls to “cool down partisan rhetoric,” ironic as it may be, seem to be entirely partisan. One side – and it rhymes with treepublicans – aren’t pulling their weight. The story unfolds each time this happens like clockwork: Liberals join with conservatives in condemning hate on both sides. Conservatives fall silent when right-wing extremists go on violent rampages, repeatedly failing to police their own.
A prime example of this disconnect is Sen. Rand Paul. He was at the baseball practice when shots began to ring out. He was unharmed, but experienced the horror. However, his understandable desire to condemn political violence is not reflected in his Twitter history. Just last year, while a Democrat was still president and during the deeply-heated election, he passed along a message of encouraging political violence. Quoting a Fox News guest, Paul wrote:
.@Judgenap: Why do we have a Second Amendment? It’s not to shoot deer. It’s to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical!
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) June 23, 2016
Amazingly, he never bothered to delete the tweet. (We took screenshots in case he decides to now.)
The political climate of June 2016 was, in some ways, even more heated than it is now. By that point in Obama’s presidency, it had become clear that the right’s boogieman was not going to be impeached and that his two terms in office had been overwhelming successful. Confronted with that reality, conservatives grew hysterical. Even in the months before he left office, Obama was being labeled by right-wing media as “tyrannical.”
Here’s how The Federalist, a so-called “intellectual” right-wing outlet, was describing Obama just months before Rand’s tweet:
The year before, Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott were seriously suggesting that Obama might invade Texas and enact a martial law program named “Jade Helm” to confiscate Texans’ guns. The allegations were patently absurd, but they riled up many conservatives who suddenly became terrified that the government was about to round them up and put them in detention camps. (Trump’s friend Alex Jones helped promote the idea, going so far as claim to have identified several locations where the military was setting up internment areas.)
Rand Paul isn’t the only one to blame here. Fox News, which today is making blanket, factless statements about the “violence” of liberals, was responsible for the original comment by Judge Napolitano, a longtime contributor to the network and full-time nutjob. Nobody batted an eye when he encouraged people to lash out at the “tyrannical” government with guns. Fox was being viewed by millions of people a day, all being told relentlessly that Obama was acting like a dictator. They could connect the dots.
In conclusion: Spare the indignation, conservatives. While we can all agree that violence has no place in the political discourse, that only works if both sides are operating in good faith. So far, Republicans have not shown an ability to condemn their own violent extremists the way they have asked liberals to do. Without that equal shouldering of the responsibility there can be no true change in the political climate.
Featured image via Alex Wong/Getty Images