Republicans, Democrats do not hold the patent on political hatred

The timing of the Tennessee Democratic Party’s statement was . . . weird.

The party’s chairman, Mary Mancini, issued a statement Monday calling Republicans to the carpet for “rhetoric inciting violence.”

The statement opened with a shot at U.S. Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn — “Marsha Blackburn’s record in Congress shocks and terrifies people, and for good reason: it is appalling. Tennesseans have every right to stand up and say ‘this isn’t who we want to be,'” Mancini started.

Then it turned to Republicans in general.

“Further, language matters and Republicans and their mouthpieces who denigrate anyone who expresses disagreement with them reinforces the dangerous hate speech coming from President Trump. Their reckless language imposes on the freedoms of those who, say, are simply trying to pray for peace on a Saturday morning. Attempts to smear non-violent protesters are dangerous, especially at a time when multiple violent attacks from far-right domestic terrorists have been carried out in recent weeks.”

The statement goes on to specifically denigrate Trump and Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who appeared at a rally on Blackburn’s behalf on Sunday.

The timing was weird because it came one day after protestors interrupted a moment of silence for the Pittsburgh synagogue victims during Blackburn’s rally. As soon as the silence began, a protestor screamed, “Marsha Blackburn is a white supremacist!” She and several other protestors were removed — some forcibly — from the rally.

The timing was weird because it came one day after we were provided a perfect example, here in Tennessee, of the incivility that exists on both sides of the political spectrum.

Except, when you pay closer attention to Mancini’s words, it wasn’t weird at all.

Read it again. “Tennesseans have every right to stand up and say ‘this isn’t who we want to be.'”

Exactly whom was Mancini referring to? The protestor who screamed about Blackburn’s supposed white supremacism during the moment of silence, of course.

It’s astounding, really. In the same breath as she condemns Trump and Republicans in general for divisive rhetoric, the face of the Tennessee Democratic Party praises the same sort of divisive nonsense from one of her own.

I’ve been preaching about political intolerance for years, and I’m going to repeat the same thing I’ve said all along: the only way out of this gutter is for both sides to condemn the divisive approach, equally and totally, and stop engaging in those tactics.

Tying Trump or any other Republican to the so-called MAGAbomber is as illogical as those who claim the protestors at the Blackburn rally were sent there by her Democratic opponent, Phil Bredesen. Trump didn’t mail any bombs, any more than he walked into that Jewish synagogue and started gunning people down. But what we do know is that presidents have a  responsibility to sooth the nation, not fan the flames. From Day 1 of his administration and well before that as a candidate, Trump has beat the drums of divisiveness. I’ve said over and over that Barack Obama was the most divisive president of my lifetime, only to have Trump come along and make his tactics look like child’s play. Through his inflammatory rhetoric to his narcissistic penchant for attempting to pick a fight with anyone who disagrees with him by attacking them with sophomoric insults, Trump has driven a wedge. And with every Twitter tirade, every campaign rally that goes off the rails, he swings the hammer again, driving the wedge ever deeper.

When presidents talk as though words don’t matter, there are consequences. Divisiveness leads to hatred and hatred to violence, and Trump has sewn the seeds of divisiveness. His insistence on continuing with the “enemy of the people” rhetoric towards the news media, despite a recent spate of violence that includes a pipe bomb being mailed to CNN and the murder of journalists, is astounding. As I wrote last week, Trump acted presidential when he said, “We have to unify. We have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.” Then he turned around, just hours later, and tweeted, “A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News.” Trump might as well have pointed the finger at CNN, a recipient of the MAGAbomber’s craftsmanship, and said, “It’s your own fault.”

Here’s the problem, though: there’s plenty of hatred to go around, and Trump doesn’t have a patent on it.

Mancini’s statement is as reckless as she accuses Republicans’ rhetoric of being because she attempts to broad-brush an entire political party while ignoring the shortcomings of her own. Her attempt to tie Trump, who despite his other shortcomings is far from anti-Semitic, to the Pittsburgh shooting is astoundingly misguided. In fact, we now know that the Pittsburgh shooter actually had disdain for Trump. Likely as not, he would’ve shot the president as quickly as he shot the Jewish worshipers, if he’d been given half a chance.

When presidents talk as though words don’t matter, there are consequences. But the same holds true for public figures of every sort — particularly those in the political arena, and it doesn’t matter whether they have an “R” or a “D” after their name.

Hillary Clinton is a former first lady and head of state, only two years removed from her own candidacy for the presidency, and she recklessly quipped just weeks ago that Republicans aren’t deserving of civility.

Eric Holder is a former attorney general, and he said this of  Republicans during a campaign event in Georgia last month: “Michelle (Obama) always says ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. No. When they go low, we kick them.”

Holder later said that his words weren’t meant to incite, and that Republican outrage over his statement was faux. That sounds much like an excuse Republicans make for Trump — his words aren’t meant to encourage violence; they’re just tough talk.

And, doubtlessly, Holder is just as right about his statement as Trump’s defenders are about the president’s. But words do have consequences and that’s something that both sides seem to have forgotten.

When Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., encouraged liberal activists to harass Republicans in public places, leading Democrats offered a token rebuke, but didn’t get serious about muzzling her. What has followed has been a series of high-profile harassments of GOP targets in public places.

Words have consequences, regardless of whether they’re spoken by Republicans or Democrats. And as long as we’re calling spades, spades, I daresay that Trump, for all his fiery and nonsensical rhetoric, has never openly called for incivility towards Democrats as Clinton has towards Republicans.

Mancini’s attempt to tie recent violence to Republicans ignores the fact that a far-left gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball game two years ago, and it ignores the politically-themed violence that has been carried out by other far-left perpetrators in recent years, as well. If Republicans bear responsibility for the MAGAbomber and the synagogue shooter, Democrats must man up and bear their responsibility, as well.

To attempt to lay the blame at the foot of one party or the other is an exercise in foolishness. And for a party leader like Mancini to actually encourage uncivil, disruptive protests at political events while accusing the opposition of stoking the fire is despicable and shameful.

The only way this ends is for both sides to admit fault, take a step back, and get back to the business of attempting to lead this nation instead of dividing it. Otherwise, we’ll see the violence continue to increase as we teeter closer to the brink of a new-age civil war.

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