The interweaving facts of the shooting -- it was at an LGBT night club on the opening weekend of Pride Month, and law enforcement officials said the suspected gunman had “declared his allegiance” to the Islamic State -- makes the tragedy a particularly combustible combination of some of the most passion-infused issues in American politics, with people on both sides quickly zeroing in on one particular aspect of it to make their political point.
Those on the right were quick to blame radical Islamist terrorism. Meanwhile, those on the left were more apt to a frame this as a hate crime against gay people or to talk about Orlando in the context of mass shootings more broadly, especially given this was the deadliest ever.
From a purely political perspective, that split is entirely predictable. But this is the rare mass shooting that quickly led to both sides pushing their political priorities. When the perpetrator of such shootings has been a Muslim, Republicans have pounced. When the shootings appear to be a hate crime, Democrats have been quicker to invoke politics. While details are still scarce, Orlando quickly gave both sides reason to shout.
The political conversation will no doubt take a firmer shape as we learn more about what happened in Orlando. But it’s telling that as our nation reels from the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, it quickly became about politics for both sides — with much different focuses.
Here’s a roundup of reactions we’ve noticed so far.
On the right:
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan's (R-Wis.) statement:
It is horrifying to see so many innocent lives cut short by such cowardice. Tonight, and in the long days ahead, we will grieve with the families. We will thank the heroes. We will hope for a swift recovery for the injured. As we heal, we need to be clear-eyed about who did this. We are a nation at war with Islamist terrorists. Theirs is a repressive, hateful ideology that respects no borders. It is a threat to our people at home and abroad. Our security depends on our refusal to back down in the face of terror. We never will.
And on the left: