Let me put some caveats right up front. I do not blame Bernie Sanders or the House Democrats who stopped to pray for Rep. Scalise for what happened in Alexandria today. The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, is responsible for his own actions. With that said, it is reasonable to wonder what was going on in the shooter’s head prior to his act of violence. The truth is that it’s too early to know for certain but Hodgkinson was outspoken about his dislike of Republicans to the point that even his neighbor wonders if “Democratic rhetoric” was a factor in the shooting. From the Belleville News-Democrat:
“I knew he was a Democrat, a pretty hardcore one. I know he wasn’t happy when Trump got elected but he seemed like a nice enough guy,” recalled [neighbor Aaron] Meurer, who said the couple lived across the street for about six years.
“He seemed like he was semi-retired; he was home a lot. He used to garden a couple of years ago,” said Meurer, who runs his own trimming and removal service. “I didn’t really talk to him too much. He was a Democrat and I was a Republican so we didn’t have too much to talk about.”…
Meurer suggested that perhaps “this Democratic rhetoric made him snap. I know he was a pretty hardcore Democrat.”
There is also a hint of something else which is worth highlighting. Did Hodkinson have personal problems at home?
Aaron Meurer is a neighbor of the Hodgkinsons and said he noticed in the last two months James had been gone. The alleged shooter’s wife Suzanne told him her husband was traveling.
“She said that he went on a trip. She wasn’t real specific,” said Meurer, unclear whether the couple had split up recently.”…
In any case, Hodgkinson sent a number of letters to the editor of the local paper. The letters mostly concentrate on tax brackets and income inequality but contain plenty of jabs at Republicans. From an Aug. 2012 letter:
We need to bring our country out of today’s recession by raising the number of tax brackets from six to 20 or more and the top marginal rate of 35 percent on $380,000 to 60 percent on $20 million or more. In 1938 we had 33 brackets from 4 percent for most of the country to 79 percent for income over $79 million.
I believe anything near these rates would be fair and balanced. In rebuttal: I have never said “life sucks,” only the policies of the Republicans.
Hodkinson apparently had two Facebook pages, one belonging to “James T. Hodgkinson” and one to “James Hodgkinson.” Both have now been removed. The Belleville News-Democrat story points out that Hodkinson was focused on anti-Trump and anti-Republican groups:
Hodgkinson is a member of a number of anti-Republican groups on Facebook, including one called “Terminate the Republican Party.”
▪ “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans”
▪ “Donald Trump is not my President”
▪ “President Bernie Sanders”
▪ “Illinois Berners United to Resist Trump”
▪ “Boycott the Republican Party”
▪ “Expose Republican Fraud”
▪ “Terminate the Republican Party”
Here is a sample of the content on the two pages including a recent post calling for the destruction of “Trump & Co.”
Plenty of people on both sides of the aisle share material like this on Facebook occasionally, but Hodgkinson seems to have been focused on his anger with Republicans for several years. Given what happened this morning it seems fair to say this may be significant, though just how significant we won’t know until the FBI investigates his recent activity.
Update: I’m adding this because it dovetails with what the shooter’s neighbor said about him not being around for the last couple months.
.@FBI says the suspect was not working and had been living in a vehicle in the Alexandria area for a few months.
— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) June 14, 2017