Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
Loughner Belongs to the Insane Party
As the Tea Party movement remained strong through the 2010 elections, the warnings continued, but a problem arose: the predicted wave of violence never materialized. The Tea Partiers turned out to be precisely what their defenders contended they were: reasonable people who sought change through peaceful and democratic means. So Krugman et. al. were waiting for cases of violence, lest they be discredited. They saw the horrific slaughter in Arizona—and leapt at the chance to vindicate themselves.
The second reason for this eagerness to blame the Tea Party Right is because many liberal commentators have believed from the beginning that they are irrational bigots inclined to anarchist violence.
Conservatives are right to respond that Democrats have used the same cross-hairs and bulls-eye imagery (Hot Air), that they have placed conservatives in the cross-hairs in campaign commercials (Intellectual Conservative), that they have burned Sarah Palin effigies and threatened Bush repeatedly with assassination, and that Obama himself spoke of the foolishness of "bringing a knife to a gun fight" (WSJ). Journalists themselves use military terms frequently to describe political battle (Howard Kurtz), and it's laughable for Krugman and Markos Moulitsas and Ezra Klein to complain about incendiary rhetoric when they indulge in so much of it themselves. The Left created its own climate of hate over the past ten years (Michelle Malkin assembles the evidence), and "former Gov. Palin and the tea party movement are more the targets than the source" of political hatred (Glenn Reynolds).
These things are true and important. Yet the additional point is this: the Left does not believe it can incite its followers to violence, because it does not believe its followers are violent people. Obama can speak of bringing a knife to a gun fight, or Krugman of "hanging Lieberman in effigy," without concern for the consequences, because liberals are rational and peaceable people. The reason they are so absolutely committed to the belief that Tea Partiers will commit violence is because they believe that Tea Partiers are unhinged and violent people. To believe otherwise would be to grant that the Tea Party movement is based on reasonable premises and deserves serious consideration.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.