I was looking at our finalists in last year's Malkin Award category. The Dish collects examples of extreme rhetoric on both sides, and the simple fact of the matter is that there's far more on the right than left. More interesting is the theme on the right. Here are some finalists:
"If the [North Koreans] start anything, I say nuke ‘em. And not with just a few bombs," – Glenn Reynolds.
"I’m not filling out this [census] form. I dare them to try and come throw me in jail. I dare them to. Pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door," – CNN's Erick Erickson.
“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed," – South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, on people who receive government aid.
“[NPR executives] are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism," – Roger Ailes.
Note that these are not fringe characters. Reynolds has a hugely popular blog, Erickson is cited constantly as a key GOP activist, Bauer is a lieutenant governor of a state and Roger Ailes all but runs the Republican party and its media mouthpiece, Fox News. All of them dehumanize their opponents – animals or Nazis – and the undercurrent of the threat of violence is always there.
To point this out is not partisan. I am not horrified by the rhetoric and love of violence on the far right because I have some attachment to the Democrats. I am horrified because it is horrifying, because for years now, this kind of thing has become commonplace at the very top of the conservative political apparatus, and because the invocation of violence in a political context is inherently corrosive of democratic values. When you add to this a party committed to the use of military force as almost a first option, and to torture as a legal method of interrogation, it is irresponsible not to worry about where this is headed.
This isn't a political jab; it's a profound civil worry. Reducing this to some kind of pettiness is itself a pettiness. If this bullet through a congresswoman's skull does not cause all of us to take a breath and let go of this kind of rhetoric, what will?