The Blog

Once Again, Republican Rhetoric Is Not to Blame for Violence

3:44 PM, Jun 10, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

But let's not stop there. The FBI stopped five members of the Occupy Wall Street movement from blowing up a bridge in Cleveland. In 2010, there was an armed hostage situation at the offices of the Discovery Channel by a gunman with a radical manifesto about environmental and population control concerns. What about left-wing terror organizations such as the ELF and ALF? What about union violence? In 1973, in the United States v. Enmons ruling, SCOTUS ruled that violence done to further “legitimate union objectives” was exempt from the Hobbs Act, a 1946 federal law that prohibited the obstruction of commerce by violence and other criminal activity. That's right, the Democratic party's biggest source of campaign cash has legal protections that keep it from being prosecuted for violent acts. Violence is so deeply embedded in unions that rhetoric from the current head of the nation's largest union may well have incited the shooting of mine worker during a union dispute.

Still, I'm hesitant to blame the rhetoric of any mainstream American politician or political party for violence. It's also worth noting that much of the "extreme rhetoric" Waldman blames for inciting violence is actually just a response to actual Democratic legislation. "The most obvious component is the fetishization of firearms and the constant warnings that government will soon be coming to take your guns," he writes. Except that the government is actually out to take people's guns. Here's a copy of the confiscation notice that New York sent out last fall, in the wake of new gun control measures passed in the state.

As for inciting rhetoric from mainstream GOP figures, Waldman cites GOP Senator Ron Johnson saying Obamacare is the “last shred of freedom,” and then asks "is it at all surprising that some people might be tempted to take up arms" in response. Waldman notes that Johnson should have said,  “Well, of course I didn’t mean that literally."* As hyperbole goes, Johnson is playing in the same league with Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Alan Grayson. (Well, Grayson may be playing in a league of his own.) 

The truth is it's a big country--some measure of political violence has probably always been inescapable, though that doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything we can to prevent it. And the exploitation of tragedies and unfair demonization of half the country in order to score cheap political points about the supposed moral superiority of Democrats isn't helping anybody.

*Clarification -- the source of this quote is Waldman hypothesizing about what Johnson should say, not Johnson himself. 

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers