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Columns

The Democrats' Rhetoric Is Just as Dangerous as Trump's

August 9, 2018 - 7:00am

This week a New York man, Carlos Bayon, was arrested after leaving threatening messages for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., promising to go after their families and "feed them lead."

When police raided his home, they found 200 rounds of ammunition as well receipts for an assault rifle and handgun and books with titles such as "How to create a foolproof new identity," "Middle Eastern Terrorist Bomb Designs" and "Silent But Deadly," instructions for making homemade silencers.

This is the same Steve Scalise who barely survived an assassination attempt last year when James Hodgkinson, a Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer, fired at least 70 rounds in his attack on Republicans practicing on an Alexandria, Va., field for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. Scalise was shot in the hip, spent weeks in the ICU, and had to undergo multiple surgeries.

It's worth keeping these incidents in mind as we listen to the rising chorus of warnings that the president's irresponsible attacks on the media will result in violence. CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta recently tweeted, "I'm very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt." And New York Times columnist Bret Stephens warned, "We are approaching a day when blood on the newsroom floor will be blood on the president's hands."

Let's pray something so awful never comes to pass. But by that standard, the blood on the Alexandria field was blood on the Democrats' hands. Before shooting Scalise, Hodgkinson joined Facebook groups such as "Join the Resistance Worldwide," "Terminate the Republican Party," and "The Road To Hell Is Paved With Republicans." He posted that "Trump is a Traitor" and "Republicans are the Taliban of the USA." Where did he get the idea to compare Republicans to terrorists? Well, just to give one example:

During the 2016 campaign, Clinton compared Republicans to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, declaring "Now, extreme views on women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don't want to live in the modern world, but it's a little hard to take from Republicans."

And Bayon, the man who threatened Scalise and McMorris Rogers, was reportedly driven to rage over Trump's border policies.

Many Americans were outraged by the horrific policy of family separation, but it is inexcusably irresponsible for those such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to compare Trump's policies with those of Nazi Germany and the detention centers along the U.S.-Mexico border to Hitler's concentration camps. It isn't difficult to imagine how an unbalanced mind could be influenced by overheated rhetoric by people in positions of authority.

Let's be clear: No individual, Democrat or Republican, is responsible for the violent actions of a deranged person. But we are all collectively responsible for creating the climate of hatred that is permeating our politics today. Those who call Republicans Nazis and terrorists, and call Trump supporters "deplorables" who "didn't like black people getting rights" are just as guilty of feeding this climate of hate as those who call journalists the "enemy of the people."

Here's an idea: If we are really concerned that the state of our political discourse is going to get someone killed, then maybe people on both sides should cut it out. I've been outspoken in my criticism of those on the right who engage in divisive rhetoric. It would be nice if voices on the left would do the same on their side. Journalists are not "the enemy of the people," and don't deserve to be called such. But while they express understandable outrage over being labeled enemies, they should also be doing a better job of calling out Democrats who compare Republicans to our actual enemies. Because demonizing our fellow Americans is not only wrong and dangerous when Republicans are the ones doing the demonizing.

Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Comments

Dedicating half your article to calling out the other side and one paragraph to "both sides cutting it out" is laughable. Mark is talking out both sides of his mouth. Simultaneously lambasting his opponents (and implicitly defending his side) while calling for an armistice. Hypocrisy. Yes, the left and right both participate in bombastic rhetoric, as does the media following them. Pursuing civil discourse across American politics is a worthy, yet lofty, goal. I totally agree we should move away from the rhetoric. That said, the president has the world's largest soapbox and spouts some of the most intense divisive rhetoric in American politics today. If we are to follow Mark's advice, we should start by demanding civility from our leader who should be setting a (positive) example for us all to follow.

Thiessen is the columnist's version of one of the rightwingnut radioheads.

I actually give Mark credit for honestly admonishing both sides... There is a lot of rhetoric on both sides. I will say that when a negative tone is set by the so called commander in chief, problems will only emulate from there. I actually voted for the nut job. My mistake, but at least I can admit it, most won't, they'll ride the sinking ship to the end... The end may be near...

This piece is such a disappointment. Trying to equate the rhetoric of Democrats and Republicans in this period of untruth is a non-starter. Where, where, where are the honorable Republicans of my youth?

I too miss the days of ideological Republicans, led by both social and fiscal conservatives. I believe the Republican party has long been dominated by Trumpsters (before there was such a term), they were just the silent majority before they had a demagogue to rally behind. The Dems are in similar disarray, now dominated by far-left socialists, fringe issues, and Hollywood spokesmen; devoid of thought leaders attempting to find viable compromises in pursuit of their ideals.

I ask myself the same question daily Barb...

Interesting Thiessen blamed democrats when there is nothing saying he was motivated by them as Dems are completely against that...…………. Fact is he sounds far more like a far right winger...…………...Nor does Thiessen mention Dems get probably 10x of these Repubs get. Why?...……….Of course we know why, he is trying to muddy the water saying everyone is doing it...……...Fact is his friend Trump says to do it in rallies for all to see yet Thiessen doesn't mention that, why?...………….How low have the republicans gone? Sad really...……… See you in November as all this comes to a head and the economy crashing...…………. And dems will again have to come in and clean up the financial, , national debt, deficit going over $1T/yr again...etc messes they leave...……

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