This is the same Steve Scalise who barely survived an assassination attempt last year when James Hodgkinson, a former Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer, fired at least 70 rounds in his attack on Republicans practicing on an Alexandria, Va., field for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. Scalise was shot in the hip, spent weeks in the ICU and had to undergo multiple surgeries.
It’s worth keeping these incidents in mind as we listen to the rising chorus of warnings that the president’s irresponsible attacks on the media will result in violence. CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta recently tweeted, “I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt.” And New York Times columnist Bret Stephens warned, “We are approaching a day when blood on the newsroom floor will be blood on the president’s hands.”
Let’s pray something so awful never comes to pass. But by that standard, the blood on the Alexandria field was blood on the Democrats’ hands. Before shooting Scalise, Hodgkinson joined Facebook groups such as “Join the Resistance Worldwide” “Terminate the Republican Party” and “The Road To Hell Is Paved With Republicans.” He posted that “Trump is a Traitor” and “Republicans are the Taliban of the USA.” Where did he get the idea to compare Republicans to terrorists? Well, just to give one example: During the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton compared Republicans to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, declaring, “Now, extreme views on women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans.”
And Bayon, the man who threatened Scalise and McMorris Rodgers, was reportedly driven to rage over Trump’s border policies. Many Americans were outraged by the horrific policy of family separation, but it is inexcusably irresponsible for those such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to compare Trump’s policies to those of Nazi Germany and the detention centers along the U.S.-Mexico border to Hitler’s concentration camps. It isn’t difficult to imagine how an unbalanced mind could be influenced by overheated rhetoric by people in positions of authority.
Let’s be clear: No individual, Democrat or Republican, is responsible for the violent actions of a deranged person. But we are all collectively responsible for creating the climate of hatred that is permeating our politics today. Those who call Republicans Nazis and terrorists, and Trump supporters “deplorables” who “didn’t like black people getting rights,” are just as guilty of feeding this climate of hate as those who call journalists the “enemy of the people.”
Here’s an idea: If we are really concerned that the state of our political discourse is going to get someone killed, then maybe people on both sides should cut it out. I’ve been outspoken in my criticism of those on the right who engage in divisive rhetoric. It would be nice if voices on the left would do the same on their side. Journalists are not “the enemy of the people” and don’t deserve to be called such. But while they express understandable outrage over being labeled enemies, they should also be doing a better job of calling out Democrats who compare Republicans to our actual enemies. Because demonizing our fellow Americans is not wrong and dangerous only when Republicans are the ones doing the demonizing.