The Associated Press reports that shooter James Hodgkinson took his car to a mechanic one day before the shooting. He wanted the mechanic to verify that his tires would make the trip back to his home in Illinois. But while he was there, he started venting his rage about President Trump.
“This man was just so passionate and hateful toward (President Donald) Trump,” said Crist Dauberman, recounting Hodgkinson’s profanity-laden tirade. Among other things, Hodgkinson said Trump had screwed up the country “more than anyone in the history of this country.” The Del Ray Service Center is known as a “neutral zone” of sorts when it comes to politics; lawmakers of both parties take their cars there.
“It was more than the average person who had maybe voted for Hillary. This was different. It was deeply rooted to where his whole tone and composure changed. His voice got loud and deep. There was so much anger in it.”
I’ve hesitated to draw conclusions until we hear more from the FBI, but between Hodgkinson’s social media accounts and this outburst the day before the shooting it really seems as if political rage was the one constant. Maybe that will change but right now that’s how it looks.
It’s worth noting that the exact sort of talk about Trump which Hodkinson unloaded at the garage has been flowing from politicians like Bernie Sanders and others on the left for months. In fact, listen to what Bernie Sanders was saying just a few days before Hodgkinson’s outburst at the garage:
“Today in the White House we have perhaps the worst and most dangerous president in the history of our country,” Sanders says. He continued, “And we also have, not to be forgotten, extreme right-wing leadership in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.” Sanders made the speech on Saturday, June 10th and reports about it were published on June 11th and June 12th (one day before Hodkinson’s outburst). The NY Times even noted that particular quote in the opening paragraph of a story immediately after the shooting.
I want to be very clear about what I’m suggesting here. I don’t think Bernie Sanders is responsible for the actions of James Hodgkinson. His speech was not an incitement to kill. The rhetoric strikes me as a normal and expected part of democracy, i.e. tough talk from both sides. Also, I don’t know if the shooter ever heard this speech and if he didn’t it obviously couldn’t have influenced him.
But I don’t believe Hodgkinson was coming up with his own material. He was gathering these ideas and lines from his favorite sources, which included Bernie Sanders, and venting them back out on Facebook for years. And now we know he was angrily venting in person up until the day before the attack.
We have a media that has repeatedly tried to tie acts of violence to acts of speech by the right, including once again this week. Either the “climate of hate” argument has some validity, in which case it needs to be applied in this case. Or the climate of hate argument is not valid, in which case it shouldn’t be applied ever. But we can’t have a national discussion on the tone of our political rhetoric only when Democrats are the victims of violence. That’s an intolerable and glaring double standard that must end.