Left Denies Responsibility for Rhetoric in Wake of Scalise Shooting
Alexandria ambush occurs against backdrop of increasing incidents of anti-GOP violence
In the wake of Wednesday’s targeted shooting of congressional Republicans in Alexandria, Virginia, Democrats and liberals rushed to clear themselves of any responsibility for influencing the attacker.
Many Democrats and liberals implied the shooting was symptomatic of a general coarsening of political discourse. They ignored, downplayed, or outright denied the evidence that their divisive and hyperbolic anti-Republican and anti-Trump rhetoric likely played a role in the motivation for the horrific attack.
The Left’s reaction stands in stark contrast to its behavior following the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.). Following that tragedy, liberals rushed to place blame on Republicans’ allegedly violent and divisive rhetoric.
Their sole piece of evidence was that Sarah Palin's website produced a map of 20 Democratic congressional districts that Palin believed Republicans could win in upcoming elections. The map depicted crosshairs over the 20 districts, one of which was Giffords'.
Nevertheless, Democrats were adamant that Republicans needed to tone down their rhetoric. Following the shooting, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — who, though quick to condemn today's violence, was noticeably silent on the Left's violent rhetoric — sent out a fundraising email that painted a chilling picture of Republican rhetoric.
"Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred," the email proclaimed. "Congresswoman Giffords publicly expressed concerns when Sarah Palin, on her website, placed her district in the crosshairs of a rifle — and identified her by name below the image — as an encouragement to Palin supporters to eliminate her from Congress," it continued.
"In light of all of this violence — both actual and threatened — is Arizona a state in which people who are not Republicans are able to participate freely and fully in the democratic process? Have right-wing reactionaries, through threats and acts of violence, intimidated people with different points of view from expressing their political positions?" the email read.
Giffords' shooter was Jared Lee Loughner, a mentally ill person with no obvious ties to any particular political ideology.
However, the assailant who targeted Republicans Wednesday, and critically wounded Scalise, was James T. Hodgkinson, a far-left activist who'd volunteered for Sanders' campaign and whose Facebook page was littered with rants against Republicans, adoration for liberal figures, and implications of violence targeting conservatives.
Sanders and others saw fit to imply that American democracy was under threat from violent "right-wing reactionaries" on the basis of a single image on Sarah Palin's website — now they see, hear and speak no evil in regard to the Left's increasingly violent rhetoric.
Indeed, as desperate as the Left was to denounce the devil of allegedly violent Republican rhetoric, it could only provide the most tenuous examples. Following the shooting of Giffords, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) called on Republicans to change the name of their Obamacare repeal legislation — the "Repeal the Job Killing Health Care Law Act."
Pingree's move prompted ThinkProgress to publish an op-ed by the Deputy Director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund proclaiming that, "From 'Job Killing' to 'Death Panels,' Republicans Have Numbed Us to The Imagery of Their Rhetoric."
But in contrast to the imaginary violent Republican rhetoric that Democrats claimed surrounded the shooting of Giffords, the environment of hostile and hyperbolic rhetoric from the Left is very much real. That rhetoric paints Republicans as a threat to American democracy and even American lives. The shooting in Alexandria on Wednesday was just the latest in a string of violent attacks and threats against Republicans that have occurred in that environment.
Shortly after Wednesday's shooting Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) received an email that read, "One down, 216 to go."
"Did you NOT expect this? When you take away ordinary peoples [sic] very lives in order to pay off the wealthiest among us, your own lives are forfeit," the person wrote. "Certainly, your souls and morality were lost long before. Good riddance."
In May, a woman in Tennessee was charged with felony reckless endangerment after trying to run Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) off the road following a town hall meeting. Also in May, Politico reported that Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) and his family had received multiple death threats.
"This is how we're going to kill your wife," read one message.
In February, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's (R-Calif.) 71-year-old district director, Kathleen Staunton, was knocked unconscious during an angry protest outside Rohrbacher's office.
And of course, last year there were numerous attacks on Republicans and Trump supporters during the election. On November 12, 2016 two men were arrested in Meriden, Connecticut, after beating up a Trump supporter.