The violent political Left
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Violence is in the air these days.
It was visible to the world on Victoria Square in Manchester and London Bridge in the days before the British general election June 8. It was visible on the baseball field in Alexandria Wednesday morning as a Trump hater and Bernie Sanders volunteer took a rifle and shot House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others as Republicans practiced for the congressional baseball game.
Violence is increasingly visible or threatened in the attacks by ski-masked, hammer-armed “antifas” — people employing fascists-style violence on those who disagree — on campuses from Berkeley to New England and in the streets of “cool cities” like Portland. Contrary to mainstream media expectations, the violence and threats come almost entirely from the political Left, not the Right.
Sanders immediately issued a strong statement denouncing violence. That’s in character. He had also called for free speech on campus when Ann Coulter was barred from Berkeley, as did fellow left-wingers Elizabeth Warren and Maxine Waters. Sanders is keeping up a longtime liberal tradition and contrary to the policies and actions of so many college and university administrators these days.
Unfortunately, it’s not hard to find left-wing tweets advocating violence against President Trump and Republicans. And the “arts” community contributes its share. Comedian Kathy Griffin posted a picture of her holding a bloody severed head of the president. In New York Shakespeare in the Park is staging “Julius Caesar” with an orange-haired Caesar being stabbed to death by political rivals.
And there have been multiple violent threats and some actual violence against Republican House members. Virginia’s Tom Garrett canceled town halls in response to a message that “we’re going to kill your wife.” The message to Upstate New York’s Claudia Tenney was, “One down, 216 to go.”
A Tucson school official was arrested for making threats that Arizona’s Martha McSally’s “days were numbered.” A woman was charged with felony reckless endangerment for trying to drive Tennessee’s David Kustoff’s car off the road.
Not all the violence has come from persons on the Left. Just before the May 25 special election, Montana Republican candidate Greg Gianforte shoved a British reporter who was questioning him persistently. He won anyway and apologized at his victory party. Charged with assault, he was sentenced to 40 hours of community service and, unprompted, contributed $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a worthy cause.
Some will say that this is a natural reaction to Trump’s offenses against propriety and the allegedly harmful policies he and congressional Republicans support. Certainly, Trump has repeatedly transgressed longstanding political etiquette, and in ways that often harm him and his party more than his opponents.
His tweet about having tapes in the White House prompted James Comey, according to his own account, to leak information to the New York Times in the hope that it would prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Which it did, even though regulations limit such appointments to criminal cases and the investigation of Russian involvement is an intelligence investigation in which, so far as is known, there is no indication that anyone committed a crime.
Trump’s violations of political protocol have also sparked a political backlash. It hasn’t resulted in a Republican defeat yet in congressional special elections — all so far in districts Trump carried handily — but it could in the Georgia 6 runoff next Tuesday.
The political process provides avenues for those opposed to Trump or Republican policies. Too many Americans have convinced themselves that they are morally entitled to use violence to #Resist, as if Trump were some reincarnation of Hitler.
As I write, the congressional baseball game is scheduled to go on Thursday night. Is there a chance we can return to normal, non-violent politics as well?
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) educational organization and does not take institutional positions on any issues. The views expressed here are those of the author.