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Don't Scapegoat Trump and the GOP for Violence and Incivility in Politics


Donald Trump plays a role in debasing and coarsening our political process, but he's far from being a solo act. Don't forget the "deafening silence" from President Barack Obama.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks with his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, left, after speaking at a news conference, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in Dubuque, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

There’s no overlooking the violence that has coincided with Donald Trump’s rise in politics.

The latest incident is the treatment of reporter Michelle Fields by Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, which has half the nation pouring over a dozen frames of video to see if they fit the definition of simple battery.

Beyond this are the various incidents at Trump rallies and the things that Trump says – “maybe he should have been roughed up;” “there used to be consequences” for protesters but “there are none anymore” – that bluntly or implicitly condone violence.

Just two weeks ago, Trump said he would “look into” paying the legal fees for John McGraw, the Trump supporter who punched anti-Trump protester Rakeem Jones as Jones was being escorted out of a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks with his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, left, after speaking at a news conference, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in Dubuque, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

After all, Trump said, Jones was taunting his supporters and being disrespectful, and McGraw was upset about what's happening to the country. Not that Trump condones violence, but he seems to think that Jones “brought it on himself.”

Mabye the rest of us – those non-Trump supporters who also don’t like what’s happening to the country – maybe we should take up a collection to cover the legal costs if someone winds up punching Donald Trump out of frustration at his provocative and disrespectful behavior (just in case Donald Trump does something provocative and disrespectful at some point).

Not that I’m condoning violence. I’m just suggesting that, if someone does resort to violence, we should relieve them of the financial burden resulting from their bad and illegal behavior. See the difference?

How did our electoral process get to the point where we need to form 501(c)(3)s so that the politically active can make bail? It's not as if we’re seeing 1960s levels of violence, or senators being beaten with a cane on Capitol Hill. But what’s going on is worryingly physical and visceral.

Let's not make the mistake, however, of accepting the claim that this is all a natural extension of years of misbehavior by the GOP, in which some Republicans resorted to belligerent rhetoric while other Republicans have stood quietly by, doing nothing to defy invective that incites the worst in us. That’s the tale being told by the likes of Jon Favreau, Ezra Klein, and President Barack Obama, who confidently insists that he, personally, has not contributed to the unfortunate tone of our politics.

Oh, if it were only that simple.

Trump and the GOP are certainly at fault, but there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to inciting the worst in our politics, or standing by as allies do it. (Note: when lamenting the “us versus them” mentality, it’s important not to repeat it with the mistaken notion that they resort to acrimony, but we don’t.)

Recall, as the Tea Party movement gathered steam in 2011, Jimmy Hoffa declared the Teamsters to be an “army” that would fight for President Obama and “take these son of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.” Obama, speaking after Hoffa at the very same rally, said nothing to condemn Hoffa’s violent (and nativist?) rhetoric.

Rather, our president responded with silence. You could even call it, "deafening silence."

And, despite being pressed to criticize Hoffa’s remarks, Obama’s administration steadfastly refused to act as the own-party “speech police” that Obama repeatedly insists needs to be inaugurated among Republicans.

This is hardly a one-off: Obama and fellow Democrats have routinely described their Republican and conservative opponents as people who you’d think should be opposed with violence. After all, wouldn’t you raise your fists to stop people trying to “literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws”?

Even before becoming president, Obama often characterized Republicans and conservatives as people who think we shouldn't help those in need. This might not be the vulgar name-calling that Trump indulges in, but it's still a horribly derogatory – and, in this case, demonstrably false – thing to say about another person.

To summarize, there's an awful lot of fury in American politics, much of it caused by the infuriating behavior of our politicos. If we’re going to turn that fury into calm, we should start by taking off the selective lenses that highlight all the flaws in our opponents while blinding us to the very same defects on our own side.

Such double standards can be pretty darn infuriating.

Alasdair Denvil runs The Civil Debate Page at:

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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