On a day when Donald Trump’s violent rhetoric and vicious lies resulted in one of his own biggest supporters being arrested for trying to murder fourteen prominent Democrats, one might expect to hear pundits saying the obvious: Trump is the problem here. It couldn’t be any more clear. There are very few days with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but when one side is trying to blow the other up, it’s indeed one of those rare days. Yet we’ve spent the past 24 hours hearing a staggering amount of false equivalency in bad faith.
The false equivalency argument comes in two parts. The first premise is that liberals annoying Republican politicians in restaurants is somehow the same thing as Trump supporters trying to murder Democratic politicians. The second premise is that the Trump supporter sending these bombs is the same thing as the Bernie Sanders supporter who shot Republican Congressman Steve Scalise. These are both absurd, for different reasons.
The first one is obvious. If you chant unpleasant things at a Republican politician who’s trying to eat dinner, that’s a First Amendment matter. You have a right to do it, and the restaurant owner has a right to kick you out for it. No one’s safety is in danger. At worst, some might consider it to be in bad taste – but that’s at worst. So what does this have to do with a guy trying to blow up the Obamas and Clintons? Nothing, of course.
The second one requires a bit more thought. It’s true that a Bernie Sanders supporter tried to assassinate Steve Scalise. But here’s the thing: Bernie Sanders had nothing to do with it. Bernie never once falsely accused Scalise of being a criminal, or suggested to his followers that violence was the way to settle these kinds of disagreements. The shooter decided entirely on his own that Scalise was somehow Bernie’s enemy, and that violence was the solution. Thank God that Scalise survived – but the whole thing had nothing to do with Bernie Sanders or his support base. This was just one crazed guy who completely failed to understand what Bernie was even talking about, and acted on something that only existed in his depraved mind.
Contrast that with the fact that Donald Trump has falsely accused Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Brennan, Maxine Waters, and James Clapper of various felonies – and he did this while encouraging violence toward the left in general. When this Trump supporter decided to try to blow up the people Trump had been viciously and falsely accusing of crimes, he understood exactly what Trump was saying.
So enough with the false equivalence already. The correlation simply isn’t there. For one thing, there are no prominent political figures like Donald Trump on the left, and if there were, I’d be the first to denounce them. Just like the left uniformly denounced the guy who shot Steve Scalise. Meanwhile, even after someone attempted to act on Donald Trump’s rhetoric like an instruction manual, Trump was still at it during his rally last night.
We’re in the midst of a national crisis, and we don’t have time for those who are only interested in making themselves look judicious by dishonestly pretending both sides are the same. These people are harming the public discourse by purposely misrepresenting it for their own gain.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report