Following the attempted murder of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul, Republican congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy privately extended their condolences to the Speaker. That’s not good enough. They need to express their full-throated sense of disgust and horror at the attempted murder and all forms of violence even remotely connected with politics. And Democratic leaders and their allies in the mainstream media need to do the same.
The attempted murder of Paul Pelosi—like the murder or attempted murder of anyone–is horrific enough as a stand-alone crime. But it’s also one of a seemingly growing series of crimes with at least some sort of connection to the politically prominent. It would not have received the attention it’s getting had the victim not been so closely related to one of America’s most powerful political figures.
McCarthy and McDonnell have privately expressed their regret and sympathy to Speaker Pelosi, but they’ve been criticized for not yet doing so publicly. Of course, the Speaker is widely reviled within the GOP. Perhaps McCarthy and McDonnell fear backlash from their followers.
What neither McCarthy nor McConnell yet seems to grasp is that the violence against the Pelosis is also violence against the political system itself, in which not only Nancy Pelosi but both Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy occupy positions of power and leadership. An assault on one could well be replicated by assaults on others. The best way McConnell and McCarthy can forestall further attacks is to present a united front against the violence that has victimized the Pelosis. Condemning that violence and taking positive steps to reduce it will protect everyone, Democrat and Republican alike. Of course, expressions public sympathy for the Pelosis may cost McCarthy and McDonnell some popularity. But that’s a risk they should take to protect the system. Otherwise, McCarthy and McDonnell could well find themselves the victims of violence themselves in the not-so-distant future.
Democrats and their media allies must likewise join forces with the GOP to condemn violence no matter frown which quarter it comes or which cause its perpetrators are attempting to advance. For example, Democrats and other advocates of abortion rights have been perfectly correct to vigorously condemn violent assaults on clinics and personnel providing abortion services. But they’ve been much more restrained in commenting on violence or threats of violence against pro-life pregnancy care services or those members of the Supreme Court who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. They must be made to understand that either one supports violence as a tool to advance one’s views on abortion, or opposes violence. To oppose acts of violence by only one side—whether it be pro-choice or pro-life—will only beget more violence. Those whose violence is excused will no doubt commit more, while those whose violence is condemned will no doubt retaliate in kind.
But in the condemnation of violence one must in fairness use the same standards no matter what particular incidents are being condemned. When a deranged leftist attempted to murder Republican congressmen in 2017, the mainstream media were quick to condemn the attempt while also reporting—rightly and accurately—that while the would-be assassin was a former Bernie Sanders campaign worker, Sanders himself—who forthrightly condemned the attack–was blameless. Would that the same benefit of the doubt have been extended to Sarah Palin following the attempted murder of former Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Gifford and the actual murder of others in an audience before which Gifford was speaking. Instead, the New York Times ran an editorial, since retracted, that attempted to link the assault on Gifford to campaign literature put out by Palin. No link between Palin and the murderer, who was apparently an apolitical nutjob, has ever been found. She should have been given the same benefit of the doubt as Sanders. To judge politicians by a different standard depending on whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, or conservative or liberal or socialist, is simply dishonest and will undermine the credibility of those who try to pass judgement or otherwise take a stand against (some) violence.
In short, as public acts of violence become more common, the responsibility of Republican leaders, Democratic leaders, and the media to condemn the perpetrators becomes greater as well. Our political system is an interconnected network of people, institutions, and activities. An assault on any part endangers the entirety. To stand up to the violence and to aid its victims is the decent and humane thing to do, and may produce a more civilized politics in the future.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.