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How bad is political violence … and who is causing it?

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.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry HoristLarry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.

13 Comments

  1. Art meeks

    I remember when people agreed to disagree and political discussion was mostly friendly. But with people like Maxine Waters , Eric holder and the squad suggesting violence against the republicans we don’t have to look far to find the cause. The left wants to start a civil war and make it look like the fault of republicans. We might soon be forced to defend ourselves from the “other side”God forbid!!! We have one guy who posts on this site that would probably fire the first shots at republicans. Let them start the war. We will finish it.

    Reply
  2. Larry kuhn

    Duh!!!!! The Marxist left is causing the violence. Remember 2020? It wasn’t the republicans doing the rioting.

    Reply
    • frank stetson

      And how many politicians were harmed during the Summer of Floyd?

      Think you need to stay on point and not go cruising in the bushes.

      Reply
    • trumpsucker

      Guess you don’t own a TV set. Even Fox was forced to show it dingus

      Reply
  3. Ac

    Larry, I, too, came to the age of reason while our country was in a worst of times valley. It was in the 1960’s when the Vietnam war took young peoples’
    life before they were allowed to vote. The nation’s population became divided. Pro-war side were hawks and anti- war folks were doves. Generally, hawks pushed the war effort, while doves protested to end that conflict. A conflict for not being sanctioned by Congress. Hawks typically had no skin in the game. No family members “In country” fighting or training to go. My family was naturally adverse to that war. We had skin in the game, my brother. Army infantry saw the worst casualty numbers on the ground. The ink on his college diploma had not dried and his butt was on the bus to camp. That convinced us. We became anti-war doves and immediately dissenters among uncles on the hawk side.
    Meanwhile, with parents freaking out anticipating the worst life for us 3 siblings got put on hold. My sister and I at college, but living at home and commuting. At home was the youngest of the four and he acting out with friends in the scene, skipping school. Parents’ focus became narrowed to their oldest boy and day to day survival in combat.
    If you recall, Larry, those where the days of all 18 year olds registering with their local draft board. Late 1969 drafting status became Luck of the draw. A lottery system choose those drafted into training for Army Service. Lottery numbers were pulled at random for every calendar date. Which day was your birthdate would determine your draft lottery number. That first pull matching date with a number approached with much anxiety, eligible men in college and their loved ones waited for the other shoe’s sound dropping. I know, I was one who as waiting. Friends not in college also waited. The number drawn for us was to narrow our options. I was in college with a lottery number so low my choices came down to keep full load at college every semester and defer being drafted until leaving college or graduation. The other choice was, get a job and work for the few months when the draft notice came by mail.
    I chose the four year college route gambling the Vietnam conflict could not last that long.
    Friends beginning college at the same time believing they were going the distance, all four years recurved a low number dropped out of college and signed with the Army National Guard, a six year commitment. Promising the would return for their eduction. However, life determined another path so few did continue their education.
    As draft lottery numbers relative to my local draft board drafted men with numbers 175 and below and I had 89 drawn for my birthdate. With my brother serving in combat, our parents’ already suffering distress emotionally, and my being relatively secure in college. How could I not continue my college education?
    In the end, I did graduate and my gamble paid off.
    After graduation I did receive notice from my draft board of my status change to 1A. The letter stated, a date would be set to appear for your physical examination pre- induction and begin training.
    However, some time elapsed and I had not received the physical exam date letter. Relief was coming. American military presence went into reduction as unit after unit were withdrawn. We saw the fall of Saigon televised. Afterward, the requirement the draft had been instituted to fill was cut to a fraction. These numbers were believed more representative and possible using volunteer enlistment.
    Larry, you are partially correct, worse times in our nations history are there for evidence for anyone with a keen interest to know history’s truth in facts real and objective. As well as one possessing a sincere desire to understand history’s lessons pertaining to the present.
    These certainly are not the best of times for far to many. These are not the worst of times in American history, but it can be argued that these aware the worst of times in the life of those denied; equal justice, liberty for thought expression, freedom to pursue happiness without fear of bullying cancellation, and more rights merited yet going without notice.
    You and I are of the same generation I gather from this and previous commentaries you have posted. I believe you can agree with me that we are cut from two very different clothes and two quite opposing patterns. Being a true fact that you and I share certain similarities, age range, white race, privileged status in society, college educated, fearless in pursuit of freedom. In anyone’s estimation that’s a bunch. An outsider could say we should understand each other.
    On the other hand, those areas in one’s individual personal experiential history direct formation of a world view. A particular way of seeing and evaluating the world.
    In that regard, given data drawn from your commentaries is representative of your opinion in the main. I believe in perspectives we are diametrically opposed. Which is reasonable in my estimation. My stand is as one independent, yet not unwilling for another’s insights Even so, I reserve the right to hear you out for information’s sake with equal opportunity to rebuttal, without prejudice.
    This as it should be, civil, neutral spirited, mutually respectful, and the very person described in the bio under what I assume is your picture.
    Before the advent of Trump and his MAGA influence I believed in giving others benefit of a degree of doubt. Trump coming into the office of POTUS abruptly changed how I process the greater part of outside undocumented data bombarding my mechanism separating worthy and unworthy of follow up. Soon and very soon after Trump assumed he could do anything his mind made up. My never known cynical side began with questioning all incoming regardless of source outside those closest and trusted
    Is it any wonder my perception has conflict with that which you present? For all your readers can tell, unless your are well compartmented and keep separate personalities online from real life. You are perceived as you are in PBP character, just acting playing devils advocate.
    History is what it is, unchangeable in real terms. Some can attempt revision, but the truth will seldom get thwarted.

    Reply
    • larry Horist

      Ac … thanks for your excellent description of the 1960s … and for bearing witness to the point that we are NOT in the worst of times. Were you and I a lot older, we could have attested to the era of unrest during the Great Depression … the labor wars of the early 1900s … the Civil War … the War of 1813 … as the worst of times. I did not like the Vietnam War … but I was not a protestor because those action undermined the work and the moral of the men and women fighting. It was giving aid and comfort to the other side. I was not on the side of Jane Fonda. It was also based on a hate-America subtext and subculture that still lives with us. The war was not totally devoid of justification. It was that result of Truman’s error in his so-called “Containment Policy.” That is another part of history that has been lost in the modern American mind.

      Reply
      • Ac

        Larry, thank you for your positive reply.
        At times I loose heart when people who are on different sides of issues do not appreciate each other’s humanity.
        You showed heart for fellow traveler through the 60’s and survivor into the 1970’s.

        Reply
    • frank stetson

      My turn :>) Imagine your life if born a few years later. I am a bit younger than you, much younger than Larry. Think of the song “Blinded By the Light” and there it is. Or the movie Dazed and Confused, but the Jason London viewpoint…. At 11 I told my older sister, “no way will I smoke that stuff.” By 13, I was building my own bongs, synching my light box to my HUGE stereo, and playing Ziggy Stardust at maximum volume….. School? I just coasted. We also were the driving class. We all had cars, we drove em to field parties, to parking lots, even had cruising blocks in town to show off our stuff. Decked out vans, chargers, goats, camero’s, stangs, they were our constant companions. Badge of honor was setting a record for being stopped, but no tickets. I made seven before the first fine.

      Growing up on the move, lived in much of the NE moving every five years or so. Dad had ptsd from WWII, well deserved as he lost his entire command, and he had his own code that did not allow him to work for fools. High School was in Kavanaugh country, that’s why I am pretty sure he did it because it was a partying place with a lot of rude boys doing those sorts of things. My lottery number was very high, between that and the draw down, there was little chance of being selected and we acted like it.

      And so the lost boy, living in farmland outside of DC, partied, cruised and parked a lot, went to clubs, saw many acts for the first time like Jackson Browne on the eve of Saturate Before Using, in a very small bar, where he told the story of playing poker all night with a new band, about to release their first album, you know, The Eagles….Caught a local act, Joan Jet in a tinier bar…. Spent the weekends at field parties, hoping the Hells Angels wouldn’t crash this time. And so on and so on. Each Spring, as I said, when the halters were in full bloom, we would protest whatever was fashionable — down with Nixon was very popular. The DC cops were well trained, equipped nicely at this time and it was just part of the game. Often we would just laugh with each other and have a swell time. Yeah, I got thumped pretty hard with a night stick for crossing Pennsylvania in front of the White House, but I kinda deserved it, just laughed and kept going. After all, I could claim I played Frisbee shutting down PA Blvd right in front of the White House, that’s cool but probably not what most protestors would strive for….

      Would I have gone to this war? No, not at this time. Too many friends dead for what by that time. At one point, I even had a NV friend, rich kids whose parents fled to the South and just kept going. He explained that when growing up, would be asleep and lifted from bed, dropped on floor, from a nearby bomb. He would just get up and go back to sleep. I concluded it would be very hard to beat a people who grew up like that. Very hard. And what was wrong” HCM loved Democracy, WTF were we thinking. But what I would have done I don’t know. Thought I would just stand up, not sit down, and go to jail for the cause, or because that’s what a patriot would do if he didn’t believe in his country’s war but did believe in his country.

      My hair was long, it had been rudely removed by rednecks once; my shorts showed the pockets, we were young with our freak flags flying. We volunteered for politics and other causes, I wrote news stories about abortion clinics, simple pot arrests ruining lives, and other topics of the day, some made the Baltimore Sun, pretty cool. Smoke a lot of grass, drink some wine, chase that girl, coast through school, a lot of skipping, a lot of cruising, and barely made it into college. Talked about communes, but had no initiative….

      Then the rednecks grew their hair, I cut mine and learned to study. IOW — grew up. Graduated with a strong record and no ambition and went to work in construction.

      We called it “surfing the middle class wave,” where it was all good riding the free wave, but sooner or later, you would hit the beach of reality.

      You may say I’m a dreamer, but I was not the only one…. Fact is, my older sister is probably closer to your age so, second hand, but close, I saw her friends go though what you did. Some had to go, and some did not come back. I saw the protest, violence, and the effects of the war at home. And it was war. One of her friends ended up in jail for a few years. His crime: painted a tank’s white star red while having red hair so easy id. His life forever ruined. Committed suicide a few years later. Remember the big one in DC with Dad yelling “mom, there’s boys and girls sleeping together in our living room” only to hear a male voice say: “we’re all dudes, dude.” A number of them would not make it back that night choosing a jail for a hotel instead. I worked with amputees in a sports program. Mostly black, we took them sking which is pretty funny when you think about a crew of one-legged black guys in army coats on the slopes….. But their anger was demonstrable and who could blame them. They were cast off by the government they risked all, lost a lot, protecting. So, even though a bit younger, I associated with your generation and saw the fight, the pain, and the loss as we almost tore America apart.

      I remember in 1969 when Airplane released Volunteers. I thought OMG, we are going to war at home in America. Even the music was calling for violence, no more peace, love n Woodstock, also in 69. Actually, I think 69 was the year it almost all became unglued. We were much more violent, much closer to the edge than now.

      We may not be close to that, then again you never know. Larry is a big history buff and he has to realize the Revolution’s ignition was a pretty small, perhaps totally misdirected, set of actions by just a few zealots. When there is plenty of fuel, sometimes it just takes the tiniest spark to set a huge conflagration. IMO, that’s where we are. No fire, but way too much fuel laying about. Both sides. In may not be 1969, but it could be in a flash.

      “Some silicone sister with a manager mister told me I got what it takes
      She said “I’ll turn you on, son, into something strong, play the song with the funky break”
      And go-cart Mozart was checkin’ out the weather chart to see if it was safe outside
      And little Early-Pearly came by in his curly-wurly and asked me if I needed a ride.”

      There it tis.

      Reply
  4. Mike

    Larry, while some of what you say is true-you diminish your credibility by putting out misinformation. Rand Paul was not attacked for “political” reasons by his neighbor-he was attacked because his neighbor finds him to be an asshole. Yes, little Marco says his guy was attacked because of anti-Republican bias-but that is not what the police are saying (or do you prefer to believe Marco rather than the police? I suspect Marco is just trying to get some political mileage out of this event-you too?). And you somehow conveniently forget to mention to your readers that the person who went to Kavanaugh’s home turned himself into the police before he got there. There is a lot of misinformation out there that is being gobbled up by people who are eager to be misinformed. You are not helping by lying in your post-it totally undermines your credibility with those of us that get our news from a variety of sources..

    Reply
    • Joe Gilbertson

      Wow, you have swallowed all of the democrat BS. Yes, Rand Paul’s attacker was at least partially politically motivated. Kavanaugh’s stalker only gave up after he thought he was spotted by police.

      Cut the crap.

      Reply
    • larry Horist

      Mike … accusing me lying because I have a different view of the facts is wrong and an unnecessary personal insult that reflects an arrogance of opinion. Your opinion of my analysis is NOT a fact. You seem to have come down with Stetson Syndrome. As to the issues. The person who approached the Kavanaugh home INTENDED to kill him … and had the weapons to do that. He was stopped by security, at which time he surrendered and confessed. There is sufficient information in the record to know that Paul’s neighbor hated Paul’s political positions. It was still an attack on a U.S. senator — who the attacker knew was a senator. To say it is devoid of political implications is just wrong. I find it troublesome that attacks on Republicans are always diminished. I would say that your interpretation is jaded by the left lean n your self-proclaimed independent status. I would not say your are a liar, but that you have a biased filter. That is especially true of your almost complete disregard for the attack on the Florida GOP worker. There was every indications that the attack was instigated by the political messaging. Minimally, it was “a” factor. Using your approach you use with Rubio, would you say that Nancy Pelosi is using the attack on her husband for political benefit. Come on, man.

      Reply
    • Sam

      Does someone deserve to be assaulted for being an asshole? Too many people think it’s their job to straighten people out by kicking their ass. Mike I can be an asshole but I don’t lay hands on people. But if assholes like you wanted to kick my ass you wouldn’t have to chase me down

      Reply
  5. frank stetson

    well at least it’s “at least partially politically motivated.”

    according to police: “Federal prosecutors said Boucher “had enough” after he witnessed Paul stack brush into a pile on his own lawn, but near Boucher’s property. Boucher then ran onto Paul’s property and tackled him.” The political motivation Joe is at least partially sure of, in his own mind, as an opinion, not a fact, is that the man was not a Paul Sr or Jr supporter. Of course, that’s a 50% chance for everyone. There is absolutely no evidence beyond fear mongering of anything else.

    But meanwhile, the author tells us that the Pelosi magarat Qanon bashing shouldn’t be viewed that way because of mental health. Yeah, sure. But what drove him mad? Listening to Trump perhaps?

    Reply

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