Stop Giving Democrats a Free Pass on Denouncing Extremist Violence

Last week I wrote about the speech America needs to hear from President Donald Trump, specifically, a forceful and unequivocal denunciation of extremism, including calling out those who camouflage their noxious racism behind the façade of support for the President or the GOP. It is high time the Democratic Party does the same, for its leaders to clearly, publicly, and expressly disavow extremism on the Left.

For too long, Democratic political leaders – including the many currently vying for their party’s 2020 nomination – have been allowed to address the violence infecting contemporary American society by not addressing it, and piously pointing the finger of blame at Trump.

While Trump’s signature direct and thinly varnished rhetoric makes it easy for his critics to pin blame on him for misdeeds of others, such a simplistic and deliberately biased assessment misses the point entirely. Deeply divisive and dangerous forces have been eating away at the foundations of civil discourse in our country long before January 20, 2017.

It is disingenuous in the extreme for Democrats to absolve themselves of any liability for this downward trajectory of civility. As with alcoholics seeking to recover, a willingness to admit the problem exists is the essential first step to recovery; in its absence the underlying problem – whether alcoholism or violence – simply worsens. This is the stage at which the Democrats find themselves now, as the party decides whether or not to recognize that it, too, is blameworthy for the violent wreckage that has become political discourse in America.

The New York Post described Connor Betts, the Dayton shooter, as perhaps “Antifa’s first mass killer.” Before his murder spree, Betts praised Antifa, appears to have hated Christians, and even once reached out on Twitter to a socialist gun group.  He was a radical Left extremist, even if we do not yet know the specific motive(s) for his rampage. While he may be the first Leftist mass killer in the age of Antifa, to label him the “wake up call” for Democrats, lets them off the hook for ignoring numerous other instances of Leftist violence.

In 2012, a man attempted to kill members of the Family Research Council after the Southern Poverty Law Center listed the organization on a “hate map” because of its stance on gay marriage. In 2017, a man who clearly hated Republicans opened fire on GOP members of Congress practicing for a congressional softball game, nearly killing Rep. Steve Scalise. Just last month, shortly after Antifa thugs attacked and injured journalist Andy Ngo in Portland, Oregon, a man was fatally shot trying to attack an ICE detention center with incendiary devices.

These examples but scratch the surface of politically motivated, extremist violence in cities across America. Even sporting a red “Make America Great Again” hat now prompts attacks by seething liberals.

Still, Democrats continue to ignore a problem the rest of us can plainly see. Perhaps they fear not appearing sufficiently “progressive” were they to denounce groups like Antifa; some may quietly agree with Antifa’s actions. What is clear, is that the Democratic Party has no apparent interest to genuinely address the extremism that is shaking our society by the throat. Were it otherwise – if Democratic leaders truly were interested in rehabilitating political discourse – its leaders would stop wagging their collective finger at Trump, and instead denounce all forms of violence and extremism, whether of the Left or the Right, and rein in their own Party’s rhetoric.

Every political issue is not and should not be characterized as an existential threat to America or to any particular group. Disagreement over policies to address major issues – whether health care or global warming – need not be clothed in the dire rhetoric that “people will die” if the other party’s policies are implemented. It is that extremist rhetoric, perhaps even more than the mean-spirited rants of a Maxine Waters to “get in the face” of those with whom you disagree, that raises the toxicity level of politics in this 21st Century.

When virtually every political issue is presented – even on the floor of the United States Senate – in the starkest of terms foreshadowing doom and death, is it any wonder that deranged individuals hear that message, then carry out their own extremist solution in their little corner of the world?

Bob Barr
Bob Barr is a former Congressman who represented the citizens of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. Bob heads Liberty Guard, a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting individual liberty.