Republicans can disavow responsibility for Jared Loughner all they want, but he was wearing Christine O’Donnell’s “man-pants,” he did exercise Susan Angle’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, and he did use conservative radio host Joyce Kaufman’s bullets when the ballots didn’t work. Oh, and he did get a Democrat in Sarah Palin’s bull’s eye crosshairs.
Most folks are tiptoeing around the partisan nature of the shooting of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, but count me among the uncouth. There is blood on conservative hands and they should be called out. Another homicidal nut-job has brought their irresponsible rhetoric to fruition and they should answer for it.
I don’t want to hear Republicans saying there’s no place for this kind of violence in this country or condemning Loughner as an isolated, incidental mad man. Especially as if it’s something new or unexpected. Conservative rhetoric has been cranked up way past the “stun” setting ever since the Bush Administration was on its last crooked legs. And the target audience for their hate-speak has clearly been compelled.
Lest we forget, it was a conservative who walked into his former church in Knoxville, Tennessee on July 28, 2008 and shot eight people (killing two) because liberals “were ruining the country” (and his church had gotten too liberal). It was conservatives who were brandishing firearms at political events in the 2008 presidential campaign. It was a conservative evangelical Christian who shot abortion doctor George Tiller at his church in Kansas on May 31, 2009. It was a conservative white supremacist who shot security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns at the Holocaust Museum on June 10, 2009. And it was arguably an anti-government conservative that flew his plane into the IRS office in Austin, Texas on February 10, 2010.
There is no reason to mince words. Violence is implicit in conservative rhetoric because its audience honestly believes dissenters should be vilified and punished, and it thrills the Republicans’ conservative base to see its philosophical opponents squirm. Threatening language is necessary for their cause because fear and hatred are presently the load-bearing joists in their political platform. And what’s more, deep down, they’re not even ashamed of it.
Rush Limbaugh once blamed John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter on Elizabeth Edwards, now deceased. He said that John Edwards sought companionship with Hunter because, unlike his wife, Rielle “did something with her mouth other than talk.” It was callous and repugnant, but it wasn’t scripted, and it didn’t diminish Limbaugh’s ratings one iota. The comment was telling about who Limbaugh is and how he thinks, but also about who his audience is and how they think. The truth is, it’s not hard to imagine Limbaugh serving up something equally asinine about Congresswoman Giffords. Right now, he wouldn’t dare because there’s too much heat. But just because he isn’t saying it doesn’t mean he’s not thinking it.
And this is why Limbaugh is the voice for so many conservatives in this country. He touches a nerve with his listeners; he teases a brutish, authoritarian strain in them that reveres clichés like “my country right or wrong,” “ love it or leave it,” etc. And these folks take comfort in implied threats for people who disagree with them. That’s why they can rationalize the notion that the ends justifies the means.
Deep down, they’re not really bothered by the combustible letter that was sent to Janet Napolitano; she’s from the wrong side of the aisle. And somewhere inside they’re not terribly upset by what happened to Giffords, because she’s the ideological enemy. They can’t help themselves. It’s just who they are.
But one of these days a sharp contrarian will finally expose it. It will be like that showdown scene from “A Few Good Men.” The contrarian will get a Limbaugh or a Beck or a Palin or an Allen West on a “stand” and challenge their methods and their authority and their warped world view and badger them and demand the truth; and that Limbaugh, Beck, Palin or West will say the rest of us can’t handle the truth and launch into a blustery diatribe explaining that heathens like Tiller and liberals like Giffords got what they had coming to them and the country is a better place with every less one them around.
And everyone will be shocked and offended except those in gun-toting red states who, deep down, can see what Limbaugh, Beck, Palin and West were really trying to say, before they were misquoted or misinterpreted.