Barack Obama honorably eschewed this tactic when Jared Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. But many of his supporters and sympathizers went where the president feared to tread. Jacob Weisberg argued in Slate that the tea party “did make it appreciably more likely that a disturbed person like Loughner would react, would be able to react, and would not be prevented from reacting, in the crazy way he did.”
After all, Weisberg reasoned, “anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism” would make it easier to get a gun, harder to get health insurance, and considers some of what the federal government does unconstitutional and therefore illegitimate.
Why doesn’t this logic apply equally to progressives who compare social conservatives to the Taliban and warn of an impending “Christianist” theocracy? What influence does their rhetoric have on a disturbed person like Floyd Corkins, who allegedly took up a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun against a “hate group”?
In truth, nobody knows what thoughts were swirling through the suspect’s head. Whether they support gay marriage, oppose abortion or want to index the minimum wage to inflation, peaceful proponents of a political viewpoint shouldn’t be held responsible for the violent extremists in their midst — especially when they are quick to denounce violence carried out in the name of their cause.
But yesterday’s events should remind us that disagreement isn’t a hate crime. The acts of violent lunatics should not become an excuse to suppress legitimate political groups.
W. James Antle III is editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow him on Twitter.