There was yet another one of those intermittent mass shootings again on Wednesday, this time on a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Virginia, but it was even more newsworthy than usual. This time the victims were a team of Republican politicians and their staffs practicing for the annual congressional baseball game pitting the GOP against the Democrats, the shooter was apparently motivated by his outspoken hatred of Republicans, and there was an unavoidable political angle to the human tragedy.
The last time a sitting member of congress was caught in the crossfire of one of those intermittent mass shootings she was a Democrat, Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was gravely wounded while six other people at her public meeting were killed, and a lot of people on the left were quick to blame the incident on the undeniably angry and inflammatory rhetoric that was then being hurled at President Barack Obama. This time it was the Republicans’ Majority Whip, Ohio Rep. Steve Scales, who was gravely wounded, and although good luck and efficient law enforcement prevented any deaths there was enough Republican blood spilled that some on the right were eager to blame all the undeniably angry and inflammatory rhetoric that has lately been hurled at Republican President Donald Trump.
The argument is at least as plausible as the last time around. Last time around the shooter was offended that Giffords dismissed his strange linguistic theories during a previous public meeting, which is not a cause associated with conservatism, and it was highly unlikely he’d been provoked by a little-seen pamphlet published by former Alaska Governor and failed vice-presidential candidate and reality star Sarah Palin, who had put a cross-hair graphic on a map of districts targeted for Republican challengers. Although we’ll admit some of the anti-Obama rhetoric at the time was pretty darned inflammatory, we also sensed they were also trying to get us to hold back on our more measured and reasoned criticisms of the scoundrel. This time around the shooter was on the internet record with all the usual liberal Democrat opinion and the visceral hatred that all too often goes along with it, he took care to confirm from a couple of witnesses in that the ballplayers were indeed Republicans, and it did happen after a D-list celebrity posed for a picture of herself holding an effigy of Trump’s severed head and the Shakespeare in the Park company re-imagined Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” with a Trumpian character getting the “et tu” treatment.
We don’t blame that tasteless comic or those pretentious thespians for Wednesday’s shootings, which would be almost as ridiculous as blaming Palin for the tragedy in Arizona, but that “climate of hate” does seem as hot as ever. That’s true of both sides, too, as we notice from our recent position on the political sidelines. During the campaign Trump talked about roughing up protestors and even offered to pay the legal bills of anyone who did, and when some of his supporters followed through too many on the right made excuses for that. A small army of masked thugs then inflicted worse violence on peaceable people trying to enter Trump rallies, and too many on the left tried to justify it. In constant editorials and internet videos and comments sections and barroom arguments people on both sides are describing the other side as very bad people deliberately trying to destroy America, and in a country where we have intermittent mass shootings that’s bound to eventually come into play.
The next time around might have a Republican or a Democratic victim, but in either case the arguments will be the same.
This time around most of the political and media and otherwise elite class is handling it well. Although we’ve had some pretty darned measured and reasonable criticisms of Trump, we have to say his statement on the tragedy was pretty much perfect. To offer a more back-handed compliment, we’ll note that it wasn’t at all self-referential and didn’t bite at a tempting opportunity to fire back at his critics. The shooter was an outspoken supporter of self-described socialist and failed presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but Sanders immediately issued an obviously heartfelt condemnation of the shooting and offered his prayers for the victims. All the Democratic establishment reacted the same way, and the hated-by-Republicans mainstream media frankly acknowledged the awkward political facts of the matter and did nothing we noticed to make any excuses. Pretty much everyone on the left was loathe to defend that tasteless comic or those pretentious thespians, too, just as the more reputable people on the right declined to defend Trump’s “birther” claims or the more inflammatory attacks on Obama, so that gives us hope.
Both sides have vowed to play that annual baseball game again today, too, and that’s also hopeful. The game raises money for some charity or another, and according to legend has been going on since Abner Doubleday, and it’s one of those political traditions that was established to foster a certain bi-partisan patriotism in congress. Baseball teaches that no matter how good you are you lose most at-bats, and among other profound lessons you eventually learn that the guys on the other team aren’t necessarily very bad people out to deliberately destroy America. There’s an anti-establishment mood apparent on both sides of the political divide these days, but here on the sidelines something in our old-fashioned conservative sensibility is hoping they won’t burn it all down.
There was yet another one of those intermittent mass shootings on Wednesday, too, this one in San Francisco, where someone killed three people at a United Parcel Service facility before shooting himself in the head. No connection to terrorism or Trump or Sanders or any of those other very bad people who are deliberately trying to ruin America, so far as we can tell, but it’s another human tragedy that warrants our prayers and public debate. Those debates will no doubt be contentious, and we’ll not hold back on our measured and reasoned criticisms of Obama and Trump and such kooks as Palin and Sanders and the rest of the scoundrels, and we don’t doubt our counterparts on the left will continue with their measured and reason criticisms, but we’ll take care not to incite anyone, and we’ll hope this bipartisan spirit of the moment will linger past the next cycle.
For whatever it’s worth, from our seats on the sidelines, when the big game starts we’ll be rooting for the Republicans as usual.
— Bud Norman