Restoring civility was the talk of Washington after a crazed leftist opened fire on Republican congressman as they attended a Wednesday baseball practice.
The act of political violence shocked the nation, but it was determined by the powers that be that it wasn’t the time to wonder about who was responsible for inciting the left-wing gunman to kill GOP lawmakers. It was apparently just a reminder that we need to be more civil to one another.
Granted, most of this determination was spurred on by a media unwilling to air the obvious about the shooting and accept some of the blame for driving a progressive to violence.
The Washington Post published an article boldly claiming the attack on the Right by a leftist was actually, somehow, an “attack on all of us.” Similarly, most media outlets treated the matter as a tragedy without explanation; more akin to a tornado than an intentional political attack.
Those on the Right who did make the obvious points on the violence were treated with scorn by journalists and became subject to pieces that treated them as nuts for arguing that the Left should be blamed for one of their own attacking congressmen. Not surprisingly, there seemed to be more “check out these right-wing nut jobs!” articles than ones exploring what left-wing sources might have driven James Hodgkinson to pick up a gun and take murderous action.
Surprisingly though, leading Republicans and conservatives were happy to oblige the feeling of false unity by demanding more civility and calling for a toning down of unspecified rhetoric. In a dramatic example of this reaction, Republican Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis held up a piece of shrapnel on “Fox News Sunday” he found in his practice bag after the shooting. Davis’s message on the shrapnel: “We have to tone down this rhetoric.”
The “we” in Davis’s plea indicates that Republicans have a share in the blame in the violence against Republicans. While GOP lawmakers were eager to accept blame for America’s toxic rhetoric, Democrats and liberals had no such inclination. In fact, they seemed only willing to point fingers at Republicans — particularly Donald Trump — for the anti-GOP violence.
For instance, here were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s thoughts on who should take the blame for America’s “coarsened political culture”: “Somewhere in the 1990s Republicans decided on the politics of personal destruction as they went after the Clintons and that is what started and it has continued.”
And bringing it to today: “When the president says ‘I can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and nobody would care’, when you have somebody say ‘beat them up and I’ll pay their legal fees’, when you have all the assaults that are made on Hillary Clinton, for them to be so sanctimonious is something that I really am almost sad that I had to go down this path with you because I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to have the fullest discussion of it.” (RELATED: Day After Shooting, Pelosi Attacks Trump And Republicans’ ‘Politics Of Personal Destruction’)
Imagine if a crazed right-winger shot at a bunch of Democratic congressmen and the media demanded no one politicize it while treating it like a natural disaster. Imagine House Speaker Paul Ryan blaming Hillary Clinton and the other side for America’s toxic political climate after an attack on Democrats. Imagine Democrats and liberals themselves saying that they themselves need to do more to police their rhetoric after being shot at by a conservative.
That would never happen. If the reverse had occurred last Wednesday, there would have been all hell to pay. Calls for censoring conservative media would have been lodged on a hourly basis. Democratic lawmakers would demand federal agents round-up any right-wingers who may be considered a threat.
There would have been no calls for civility and no reaching across the aisle.
It’s abundantly clear how inane the “let’s try to be more civil” response to the shooting was. A jarring example of the disingenuous nature of these calls were the fiery condemnations lobbed by the same folks on the Right and Left who called for civility to a brief disruption of a Shakespeare play by two Trump supporters on Friday.
Apparently a premeditated assassination attempt on our representatives is something our country can shrug off — but America cannot ignore the outrage of a one-minute interruption of Shakespeare in the Park.
Cracks in the new civility facade were also noticeable in the coverage following the attack. Besides the numerous denunciations of Trump for somehow inspiring a left-wing gunman to attack Republicans, many journalists took the time to sling dirt at Republican Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise while he fought for his life after he was wounded by the gunman.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid devoted a whole segment of her Saturday morning show to highlight all the supposedly terrible things Scalise has done as a congressman. The Twitter account for Reid’s show promoted the segment with a tweet that implied the House Majority Whip had it coming. (RELATED: Steve Scalise Can’t Defend Himself But MSNBC Is Back To Attacking Him Anyway)
— AM Joy w/Joy Reid (@amjoyshow) June 17, 2017
While Scalise was smeared as a white supremacist homophobe as he lay unconscious, The New York Times revived a long-debunked fake news narrative about the shooting of Gabby Giffords to demonize Sarah Palin — in an essay from the austere publication’s editorial board, no less.
Even though any political motive in the 2011 shooting of Giffords was ruled out shortly after the incident, The Times’ editors saw fit to bring it up in order to diminish the Left’s complicity in last week’s violence. As the editorial smugly argued, “Though there’s no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack, liberals should of course hold themselves to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right.” (RELATED: NYT Uses GOP Shooting To Falsely Attack Sarah Palin With Debunked Conspiracy Theory)
The paper of record later meekly corrected the editorial after it had already seen publication in Thursday’s edition.
Republicans should have been smart enough to know that thinking civility could be restored after an attack on them and playing the better man wasn’t going to earn them any serious goodwill. It certainly didn’t stop left-wing journalists from dumping on their colleague who nearly died from his bullet wound delivered by a progressive.
And, more importantly, the sincere, yet unheeded calls for dialing back the rhetoric won’t stop future left-wing violence. To Democrats and liberal journalists, Republicans are still the bad guys — even when they’re the victims.
Maybe it’s because most congressional Republicans wish that they could just focus on fiscal matters and avoid hot-button cultural topics that they hoped everyone could just get along. Tax rates don’t get people fired up like immigration does.
But the Left isn’t interested in having a civil discussion with people it sees as an enemy. The members of the Left want to transform this country, and a shooting isn’t going to make them reconsider the tactics and rhetoric they’re using to pursue that goal.