No, Folks, It Isn’t ‘Both’ Sides

The current environment of political violence is untenable.  It is destroying us, destroying the democratic foundations of our republic, turning even the most mild-mannered among us into something we don’t want to be.  If it continues … well, let’s just say it cannot continue.  I turn to Max Boot, writing for The Washington Post, to assess and analyze where this incitement is coming from, and to destroy those false equivalences that are being so glibly put forth.

Don’t blame ‘both sides.’ The right is driving political violence.

By Max Boot

30 October 2022

It should not be controversial to say that America has a major problem with right-wing political violence. The evidence continues to accumulate — yet the GOP continues to deny responsibility for this horrifying trend.

On Friday, a man enflamed by right-wing conspiracy theories (including QAnon) entered the San Francisco home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and attacked her 82-year-old husband with a hammer, fracturing Paul Pelosi’s skull. “Where is Nancy?” he reportedly shouted, echoing the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, at President Donald Trump’s instigation. This comes after years of Republican demonization of the House speaker, a figure of hatred for the right rivaled only by Hillary Clinton.

The same day as the Pelosi attack, a man pleaded guilty to making death threats against Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). Two days earlier, three men who were motivated by right-wing, anti-lockdown hysteria after covid-19 hit were convicted of aiding a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). In August, another man died after attacking an FBI office because he was so upset about the bureau’s search of Mar-a-Lago. “We must respond with force,” he wrote on Trump’s Truth Social website.

Then there are all the terrible hate crimes, in cities including Pittsburgh, El Paso and Buffalo, where gunmen were motivated by the kind of racist rhetoric — especially the “great replacement theory” — now openly espoused on Fox “News.”

This is where any fair-minded journalist has to offer an obligatory “to be sure” paragraph: To be sure, political violence is not confined to the right. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot in 2017 by a gunman with leftist beliefs, and in June, a man was arrested for allegedly plotting to assassinate Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh after becoming incensed about court rulings on abortion and guns.

Republican leaders cite those attacks to exonerate themselves of any responsibility for political violence. “Violence is up across the board,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said on Sunday, arguing that it’s “unfair” to blame anti-Pelosi rhetoric for the assault on Pelosi’s husband.

Violence is unacceptable whether from the left or right, period. But we can’t allow GOP leaders to get away with this false moral equivalency. They are evading their responsibility for their extremist rhetoric that all too often motivates extremist actions.

The New America think tank found last year that, since Sept. 11, 2001, far-right terrorists had killed 122 people in the United States, compared with only one killed by far-leftists. A study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies last year found that, since 2015, right-wing extremists had been involved in 267 plots or attacks, compared with 66 for left-wing extremists. A Washington Post-University of Maryland survey released in January found that 40 percent of Republicans said violence against the government can be justified, compared with only 23 percent of Democrats.

There is little doubt about what is driving political violence: the ascendance of Trump. The former president and his followers use violent rhetoric of extremes: Trump calls President Biden an “enemy of the state,” attacks the FBI as “monsters,” refers to the “now Communist USA” and even wrote that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has a “DEATH WISH” for disagreeing with him. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has expressed support for executing Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.) has tweeted that “the America Last Marxists … are radically and systematically DESTROYING our country.”

That type of extremist rhetoric used to be confined to fringe organizations such as the John Birch Society. Now it’s the GOP mainstream, with predictable consequences. The U.S. Capitol Police report that threats against members of Congress have risen more than tenfold since Trump’s election in 2016, up to 9,625 last year.

The sickness on the right was on display after news broke about the attack on Paul Pelosi. While leading Republicans condemned the horrific assault, the MAGA base seethed with sick jokes making light of the violence and insane conspiracy theories. (Filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza suggested that the attack was “a romantic tryst that went awry.”)

There was, alas, no sign of the GOP taking responsibility for fomenting hatred. Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor of Arizona, blamed “leftist elected officials who have not enforced the laws.” Naturally, Republicans accuse Democrats of being “divisive” for citing Republican rhetoric as a contributing factor to political violence.

It’s true that, by calling out GOP extremism, Democrats do risk exacerbating the polarization of politics. But they can’t simply ignore this dangerous trend. And it’s not Democrats who are pushing our country to the brink: A New York Times study found that MAGA members of Congress who refused to accept the results of the 2020 election used polarizing language at nearly triple the rate of Democrats.

So please don’t accept the GOP framing of the assault on Paul Pelosi as evidence of a problem plaguing “both sides of the aisle.” Political violence in America is being driven primarily by the far right, not the far left, and the far right is much closer to the mainstream of the Republican Party than the far left is to the Democratic Party.

Note to Readers:  Typically, I include links that are a part of any post I reblog or copy, but the number of links in this piece would have required an extra hour that I didn’t have to format, so if you’re interested in seeing some of Mr. Boots’ links, you can do so on his original OpEd. 

14 thoughts on “No, Folks, It Isn’t ‘Both’ Sides

  1. A day (or 2) late and a dollar short:
    The Repughs are not “evading responsibility” as much as reveling in it. They enjoy that crankpots go and attack non-Repughs with violence. They have what is called “plausible deniability” because of the way laws are written, but what they truly want is chaos. Chaos can either become a stepping stone to chaos, or a step towards dictatorship. They want doctatorship.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: No, Folks, It Isn’t ‘Both’ Sides. | | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  3. Pingback: A Jill Reblog | NANMYKEL.COM

  4. Glen greenwald, a liberal journalist, has some interesting questions about this whole thing and I think his inquiries are worth considering. what do you say?
    Please don’t dismiss the source, I admit that this publication isn’t one i look at or consider a lot, but remember, sometimes information worth considering can come from sources that we wouldn’t often expect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have not drawn firm conclusions. However, I did not find that Glenn Greenwald piece very convincing. Thus far the information that has turned up has been consistent with the story told by the mainstream media.

      Greenwald says there was no alarm. But many people do not install alarms, so I’m not sure of the point there. He says there was no sign of a breakin, but a comment on his post says that there was broken glass which does seem like a sign of a breakin. According to the latest reports, the alleged attacker has said that he intended to break Nancy Pelosi’s kneecaps. That might not have been truthful, but it does seem consistent with what has been reported.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, now that you’ve had some time to decompress, do you have a response to the link I posted on this topic yesterday/ Just curious.


    • Not tonight, Scott. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to view the link objectively and respond in kind, but for tonight, I am maxxed out. I’ll set this aside and try again tomorrow.


  5. Jill, like many issues, while both sides are guilty of something, it is not a normal distribution, being more weighted on the right. There are many more on the right who are known for incendiary remarks including the former president. The G names make up a well known list by themselves. It seems to be part of some persona that people feel makes them look tough. They are wrong – it makes them look like thugs.

    With that said, there are examples on the left like the baseball practice shooting of the Republican team which injured Steve Scalise. That was not right either. We need to not lose sight that the idiot fringe exists on both sides, even the tail on the right is bigger. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • My brain may be a bit muddled tonight … but I have to ask … the “G names”? But yes, my friend, the conspiracy theories, the QAnon crowd … those belong exclusively to the Republicans. I am so disgusted over the denigrating and demeaning theories around the assault on Paul Pelosi … these people are not even HUMAN!!! Sigh. Sorry … I’m really in a rabbit hole tonight and should probably just go to bed.


    • I will check this out further. IF it is true, then Germany will be in violation of the Paris Climate Accords. I cannot imagine that they would do such a thing, and under Chancellor Merkel, it would definitely NOT have happened! I’ll check it out and let you know if it’s true or not.

      Liked by 1 person

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