How bad is political violence … and who is causing it?
There is a major narrative in left-wing news that suggests those producing the stuff that goes in the newspapers or on the teleprompters read by the talking heads have no sense of history. Because of that, they are proffering narratives that are disinformation, at best – and political lies, at worst. Perhaps they are just creating this false narrative for political purposes – hoping the people have no sense of history.
We often hear that because of Republicans and right-wing rhetoric, we are in one of the most divided … dangerous … violent eras in American history. We have seen that spin regarding the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
There is no argument that it was a dastardly action – and universally condemnable by any rational American. The person who broke into the Pelosi home is reported to have serious mental issues. He has been described by family and acquaintances as “drug addicted” and “out of touch with reality.” That does not suggest that he should be absolved from responsibility or immune from justice. That is most certainly going to happen, as it should.
The incident, however, untapped the left’s hyperbolic and pernicious narrative that the incident was an example of the unprecedented growth in violence against public figures – mostly caused by the rhetoric of right-wingers. In support of the narrative, the left claims that the very Republic is on the edge of extinction should Republicans win the Midterm Elections at any level.
The problem with the Democrats’ and their media allies’ narrative is that it is not true – or at least not completely. Are we really in an extraordinary time of political violence?
I will divide my comments into two parts – before and after my age of reason (roughly between Eisenhower and Kennedy. First the earlier era.
One of those ubiquitous talking heads on cable television said today’s political violence poses the greatest danger in the 270-year history of the Republic. He seemed to be unaware of the War of 1812, when the British came back and sacked the Capital – destroying the White House and other federal buildings. Then there was the Civil War that split the nation and took more than 600,000 American lives to restore the Union. (Based on population, that would be 6.6 million casualties today). Many scholars see the four elections of Franklin Roosevelt as a dangerous point to democracy. He was referred to as “America’s first dictator.” Republicans and Democrats in Congress – seeing the danger to the Republic — quickly passed the 22nd Amendment limiting a President to two terms.
In those earlier (pre-Horist) days, you had three presidents assassinated in 36 years – Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley – and several attempted assassinations (most notably Andrew Jackson (who beat his would-be assassin with his cane) and Teddy Roosevelt (who took a bullet but amazingly finished his speech). Those three successful assassinations amount to one-third of all the presidents who served in those years.
In 1856, United States Republican Senator Charles Sumner was critically injured when beaten to within an inch of death on the Senate floor by an angry Democrat House member. In another instance, guns were drawn on the floor of the House by members. There was the assassination attempt on FDR, when the assassin missed the President, but killed Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak – who was standing next to Roosevelt. A security guard was killed by a would-be assassin that was attempting to reach Truman inside Blair House – where the President was residing during the renovation of the White House.
In 1954, a group of Puerto Rican separatists, shot up the House chamber from the balcony – wounding a number of members of Congress.
Of course, that was then.
More relevant to today’s discussion of political violence is that post-Eisenhower (Horist) years. There have been periods of MUCH more political violence than we are experiencing today.
The era started off with the assassination of yet another President (Jack Kennedy) — and before the 1960s were over, the nation suffered the assassination of America’s greatest civil rights leader since Frederick Douglass (Martin Luther King), a United States Senator (Bobby Kennedy) and the shooting and crippling of a presidential candidate (Governor George Wallace).
There were violent riots in virtually every city. Bombs were going off on a regular basis – at schools, military facilities and recruitment offices, and at corporate offices. Students were rioting and being killed. Following the murder of MLK, cities across the nation were burning.
And it was not all group violence. We can recall the left-wing environmentalist nut case called the Unabomber, who terrorized, maimed and killed with home delivered bombs.
In the post-Eisenhower era, presidents were still being targeted. It was not just Kennedy. President Ford survived two assassination attempts thanks to bad aiming. President Reagan was hit but survived.
The Democrats’ narrative that we live in more violent times in terms of politics does not hold up – but neither does the spin that it is all being produced by right-wing extremists – with the passive complicity of every Republican in America. The perception is created by what the left-wing media chooses to report and what they choose NOT to report.
Come on, man. Look at the facts.
A deranged left-winger attempted to kill a group of Republican members of Congress practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game seriously wounding Congressman Steve Scalise. Senator Rand Paul was attacked and seriously injured on his front lawn. Both Scalise and Paul have permanent residual effects of their injuries. Paul is the first senator since Sumner to be severely injured in such a personal political attack – other than Robert Kennedy, who was killed.
Security forces intercepted a man with a gun outside the home of Justice Brett Kavanagh – with the avowed intention to kill the jurist. The Republican candidate for governor of New York fought off an attempt by a man to stab him in the throat. A campaign worker was severely beaten and hospitalized in Florida for wearing a Marco Rubio t-shirt and Ron DeSantis baseball cap. Pro-life offices across the country were threatened and vandalized by an organized group of female terrorists.
Even if you accept the figures indicating an increased number of death threats against elected officials, you must admit that the “conversion rate” – if you will – has been pretty low. For whatever reason, the threats are not resulting in a proportionate increase in acts of violence.
In fact, most of the provocative rhetoric about violence in the political sphere is prospective. We hear the dire warnings of some ill-defined folks preparing to do this or that. That is fearmongering at its worst. Stick with the facts.
Remember how the left warned us of a predicted explosion of violence on the anniversary of the Capitol Hill riot. They warned of possible outbursts of violence in cities across the nation. None of it happened. It was nothing more than political fearmongering.
The left says the violence we do see is caused by the rhetoric of Republicans. They say that by sowing distrust of government and elections among the people encourages acts of violence. But what about the rhetoric used by the left against Republicans? What about the attacks on Republicans– encouraging the people to believe that the GOP is a seditious institution hell-bent on taking over America by force? The left says elections cannot be trusted if Republicans hold or win future office. Democrats say that elections will be rigged in 2024 if Republicans win in 2022. Hillary Clinton made that specific claim in a recent podcast.
What about that “basket of deplorables” — and a recent member of the view comparing republicans to roaches? What about the Democrats’ culpability in increasing the heat – the anxieties and unreasonable fears — in the political sphere?
Arguably the left’s anti-police rhetoric has led to an unprecedented number of attacks on police – including a number of cold-blooded assassinations.
We should remember how Antifa, and other left-wing groups produced waves of violence – occupying public spaces. In Portland, the left’s so-called autonomous zone resulted in a number of killings. On record, the right-wing Capitol Hill riot can be put into perspective by counting the scores of left-wing riots in our major cities over many years … decades. There has been no national move to “get to the bottom” of them, and they actually benefited from the rhetoric and protection and encouragement of Democrats – including Vice President Harris raising money to bail out the perpetrators.
This commentary should not be seen as a defense or encouragement of violence of any kind at any time. I am a peace lover. But I do believe that if you look at the record of political violence, you will discover that we are living in times of less political violence – actual violence — than occurred at various times in American history. There is still too much of it. But this narrative of some massive right-wing plan to violently end the Republic and American democracy is utter nonsense – and dangerous. Moreover, it is provocative and dangerous language that contributes to civic division and anger. It is nothing more than shameful campaign rhetoric based on false accusations.
So, what conclusion can we draw if will look at the long view of history and a more comprehensive view of political violence today. Bad as it is, we can see that we are not living in the worst of violent times. We can see that today’s political violence is bipartisan – perhaps even more coming from the left than the right.
If the Midterm Election goes according to the polls and projections, it would appear that the American voters are not being fooled by the Democrats’ preposterous and mendacious narratives about future violence, insurrections, coup attempts, plans to bring down the American small-d democratic Republic. And that is a good thing.
So, there ‘tis.