Via Legal Insurrection, I’m bothered less by the underlying point about Trump’s crankish tendencies and winking at political violence than by the naked opportunism in trying to score that particular political point today. It’s little different from hyperventilating about the Palin “crosshairs” map after the Giffords shooting. Thinking that it’s crass and incendiary to use a crosshairs to signal that a politician should be “targeted” for defeat on Election Day is defensible. Focusing on that in the aftermath of a shooting with no evidence that it had anything to do with the incident isn’t. It’s an attempt to shift blame from a less politically convenient villain to a more politically convenient one. If James Hodgkinson was a far-left crank revved up by progressive “resistance” and his own demons, that’s not very interesting to Morning Joe. If Hodgkinson is part of a “climate of hate” engineered by their public enemy number one, Donald Trump, that’s much more useful.
This is, in fact, a mirror image of the batsh*t argument favored by some liberals that it wasn’t so much Lee Harvey Oswald who murdered JFK, it was the city of Dallas. (Extreme examples of this genre will omit Oswald entirely from their discussion of the assassination.) Dallas was a right-wing city with a strong Bircher presence; Oswald, famously, was a man of the far left who’d lived in the USSR. If you’re a liberal who’s uncomfortable with the idea of a communist assassinating a Democratic president, how do you ease your discomfort? Easy — insist that the local right-wing “climate of hate” somehow infiltrated Oswald’s brain and turned him renegade. That’s essentially Mika’s game here, with Trump as a stand-in for Dallas: Sure, we can’t blame the president “squarely” for what happened yesterday, but in the end he helped make the conditions for Hodgkinson’s rampage possible. And how do we know that? Well, we don’t. Hodgkinson was an ardent disciple of Bernie Sanders, a guy whom even Sean Hannity holds blameless for inciting violence. How could Hodgkinson have been immune from the influence of Sanders, a man he admired, but somehow in thrall to Trump? Makes no sense, but don’t think too hard. The point is simply to blame the main villain.
Here’s an idea: If we’re going to police for a “climate of hate” on the day after a shooting with a seemingly highly partisan motive, maybe we should pay a little extra attention to … the party the shooter belonged to? Maybe?
California’s political leaders did almost nothing in response to the violence at Berkeley, but when the Trump administration threatened to sanction California, they leapt to action. Nancy Pelosi claimed, with no evidence, that the violence in Berkeley was the result of peaceful protests being “infiltrated,” and insisted “the protesters have a right to free speech as well.” But what greeted Yiannopoulos in Berkeley was not free speech: It was political violence organized to suppress free speech. Representative Barbara Lee complained that the Trump administration’s insistence that Berkeley protect the safety and civil rights of its students and visitors was an attempt to “bully our university into silence” — but it was Yiannopoulos who had literally been bullied into silence — with firebombs and truncheons — along with Charles Murray, Ann Coulter, and others. A Middlebury professor had to be briefly hospitalized after being physically attacked for having invited Charles Murray to campus. That is not free speech. That is violence, and Democrats, judging by their non-response to these episodes, have more or less made their peace with it.
That’s the anarcho part. The tyranny part is that while the Left’s blackshirts are permitted to inflict actual physical violence on people who have political opinions they don’t like, the Left’s whiteshirts — respectable Democratic officeholders and media figures — are working feverishly to inflict civil and criminal penalties on individuals and institutions that hold and communicate unpopular political opinions: “Arrest climate deniers!” Adam Weinstein and Robert Kennedy Jr. demanded, and, soon enough, Democrats were cooking up fraud cases against oil companies that had criticized climate-change proposals, and then used subpoenas and other measures to harass conservative and free-market political groups affiliated with them. Every Democrat in the Senate voted with Harry Reid to repeal the First Amendment and allow Congress to regulate political speech. The Obama administration saw to it that no one in the IRS ever faced any real punishment for that agency’s targeting of conservative groups for persecution and harassment.
Did campus fascism, specifically the idea that the right is so vile that it deserves to be met with force to silence it, influence Hodgkinson? I have as much reason to believe it did as Brzezinski does to believe Trump influenced him. Whether Trump’s political success is more a cause of gross political incivility or a reaction to it is a worthy topic, but you don’t need to lay an attempted murder on him, without evidence, to address it. At the risk of blowing Mika’s mind, let me gently suggest that straining to make Trump an accomplice to the shooting of members of his own party while people are grieving for them has itself a corrosive effect on partisan civility.
Here she is followed by an anti-Trumper from the right, Mark Sanford, who also tries to connect the shooting to a broader Trump-driven coarseness in America’s political culture. With a story this big, everyone’s going to use it to ride their hobbyhorse.