“I fear that there's going to be an assassination,” Rand Paul told a Kentucky radio show this week. “I really worry that somebody is going to be killed and that those who are ratcheting up the conversation ... they have to realize they bear some responsibility if this elevates to violence.”
I don’t always agree with Senator Paul, but I think that he’s absolutely correct here. It really isn’t a stretch to think that the current powder keg-like political climate could spark an act of violence that could result in bloodshed. It isn’t farfetched at all because it has already happened.
It was only last year that a crazed Bernie Sanders supporter attacked the congressional Republican baseball team as they practiced at a Virginia ballpark. The attack left Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise badly wounded but alive.
Even before the baseball attack, the leftist Antifa movement held violent protests in several cities around the country. During the 2016 campaign, Trump campaign rallies were the scene of leftist mob violence.
Not all the violence is on the left, however. In August 2017, an alt-right militant drove his car into a group of counter-protesters during a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, murdering 32-year-old Heather Heyer. In August, a Trump supporter from California was charged with threatening to shoot Boston Globe employees because the newspaper was an “enemy of the people.” In 2016, supporters of Ammon Bundy took up arms against the federal government when they seized a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. The incident could easily have become a bloodbath, but Republicans cheered when the conspirators were acquitted.
Rand Paul has even had personal experience with violence. When a neighbor attacked Paul in January 2018, fracturing five of the senator’s ribs, there was speculation that the assault might have been politically motivated. In a plea deal, the neighbor admitted to the attack but said that he was motivated by Paul dumping brush on his property rather than by politics.
If we haven’t experienced a political assassination in recent times, it isn’t for lack of desire. Even before a leftist called for the assassination of Brett Kavanaugh, a British man in the US illegally tried to pull a police officer’s gun at a June 2016 rally to kill Donald Trump. Barack Obama was the target of no less than four assassination attempts at the hands of everyone from white supremacists to ISIS to someone who thought he was the antichrist. Sooner or later, a would-be assassin is going to get it right and the odds are about 50-50 as to which side of the political spectrum will be at fault.
Paul went on to blame inflammatory rhetoric for planting the seeds of violence. “When people like Cory Booker say get up in their face … What he doesn’t realize is that for every 1,000 persons who want to get up in your face, one of them is going to be unstable enough to commit violence,” Paul said.
Recalling previous attacks, Paul said, “When I was at the ball field and Steve Scalise was nearly killed, the guy shooting up the ballfield, and shooting I think five or six people, he was yelling, ‘This is for health care. When I was attacked in my yard and had six of my ribs broken, and pneumonia, lung contusion, all that — these are people that are unstable, we don’t want to encourage them.”
Paul is correct that mentally unstable people don’t need to be encouraged to commit violence but stopped short of criticizing his own side’s words. There is a direct link between President Trump’s rhetorical attacks on the press and the threats against the Boston Globe. When people on the right say that liberals and Democrats are traitors who are trying to destroy America, no one should be surprised when someone commits a violent act against them. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how little violence there has been so far given the heat of rhetoric from both sides.
It’s easy for those of us on the right to criticize people like Corey Booker and Maxine Waters when they call for confrontation. It is much more difficult to call out those on our own side who incite or commit violence. The problem is with radicals on both sides, however, and both sides should police their own.
Originally published on The Resurgent