Liberal America Has a Political Violence Problem
Updated: Aug 19
By Albert Eisenberg / The Philadelphia Inquirer
Photo: New York Times
Hamburg, Germany, July. As world leaders gather for the G20 summit, far-left "anti-fascist" (antifa) rioters set fire to cars and property, terrorize residents and injure more than 200 police officers attempting to keep the peace. Did you miss it? CNN's initial reports referred to the "protesters" as "eclectic" and "peaceful."
But you need not cross the shining seas to experience violence, destruction of property and a general dismantling of liberal values from the political left. You could simply visit America's elite college campuses like Yale or Middlebury or Berkeley, where tomorrow's leaders attempt to shut down conservative voices with protest or riots. At Middlebury, rioting students landed liberal professor Allison Stanger in a neck brace for the crime of defending a conservative academic's right to speak. At Berkeley, mobs of students created a "war zone" ahead of a planned visit from conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, injuring Trump supporters and causing $100,000 in damages.
Or head to Portland, Ore., one of the most liberal cities in the nation in the heart of the progressive Pacific Northwest, which this month Politico labeled "America's Most Politically Violent City." The progressive paradise —where Republicans are virtually an extinct species — has witnessed millions in damages attributed to the same types of anti-fascists-in-name-only that kept Hamburg residents paralyzed in fear this month. A "counter-protest" to a planned pro-Trump rally landed 14 antifa in jail for attacking the police with explosives and bricks.
Witness the blood-soaked congressional baseball field in Alexandria, Va., site of the June attack on U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and other Republicans batting up for their annual bipartisan game. James Hodgkinson, a "fervent supporter of progressive politics," showed up to the field with a rifle, a handgun and a hit list of Republicans. As Scalise fought for his life, MSNBC host Joy Reid felt conflicted: The attempted assassination was a "delicate thing" because of Scalise's conservative views like opposition to gay marriage. "Are we required in a moral sense to put that aside in the moment?" she wondered. Yes, Joy, you are. The shooting of a mainstream, congressional Republican leader is reprehensible, and in no way justifiable.)
Now cross the Potomac and visit the halls of Congress, where Democratic lawmakers have accused Republicans of murder for supporting an overhaul to the spiraling, ruined Obamacare program, which by next year will leave dozens of counties without a single option for insurance. Reasonable people can disagree about how much our Medicaid program should grow without comparing the Republican bill to 9/11, as Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, did recently. Or saying the health care bill is paid for with "blood money" of dead Americans, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted shortly after the Scalise attack. If our sitting senators don't act more responsibly, who will?
Instead of retweeting, liberals who care about preserving our political system should be outraged that these are the standard-bearers of their party.
Nobody is directly responsible for a shooting except the shooter, and nobody throws a brick except the person who picks it up. No side has a monopoly on political violence. There are loonies at the fringes of every political movement — mentally ill, perturbed and paranoid — who can be stirred toward violence or dissuaded from it.
But when we have Democratic senators accusing political opponents of murder, when our college campuses descend into assault zones for conservative speakers (or those who defend them), when our major cities become playgrounds for far-left rioters and the news media gloss over it, we move toward a more violent and fractured society, not a safer one.
If gay people were pouring into bars and punching straight people, I as a gay man would speak out. If Jews were propagating terror in the name of our religion, I would condemn it vociferously. And when violence has come from the conservative side, I don't hesitate to stand against it. But it's not.
There have been no right-wing groups storming campuses and flinging feces at speakers we don't like; no tea party mobs destroying property, assaulting police officers, and paralyzing our major cities; and no Republican senators calling their colleagues murderers just weeks after a political assassination attempt.
From Portland to New Haven to Washington, the violence we're witnessing is largely a product of the hard left, and the reaction from mainstream liberals — mostly silence, dismissiveness, equivocation — means it will continue to flourish.
To move toward a less violent and hyper-charged society, we must be clearheaded about violence where we see it, and not avoid the subject. We must condemn it without conditions.
If you think Republicans are murderers, you're an extremist. If you're trading in that kind of rhetoric just to shut the other side up or raise a buck, you're giving cover to extremists. And if you object to political violence but fail to speak out, your weakness is causing our society to fracture.
It's time for liberal America to speak out against violence and the rhetoric that incites it.
This piece originally appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer