Friday, March 26, 2010

Death Threats Aren't Politics as Usual

cross-posted at Dagblog

Apparently, there are some Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits who feel that the worst thing about death threats and vandalism is that the politicians being threatened might gain public sympathy. Digby and Billmon both have brilliant analyses of the victim-blaming rhetoric being used here. Instead of wading into the swamp of counter-charges, I'll just point out two logical problems with the Republican complaints here.

If conservatives are genuinely worried that the Democrats will score "points" by being threatened with violence, the easiest and most effective strategy is to calm the lunatics on your own side down. That approach makes instantly makes you look like selfless statesmen, with the bonus effect of diminishing the chance that lunatic behavior might be used against you. You don't want the other party to "score points" when they get death threats? Try to keep them from getting threatened.

And if, as Eric Cantor would have us believe, Republicans are also the targets of threats, that is also a very powerful reason to calm things down. If you actually thought you might be in danger, wouldn't you do your best to calm things down? Or would you be primarily worried about who scores points on C-SPAN? Cantor's behavior indicates that he doesn't feel threatened, because he shows no interest in increasing anybody's safety. If conservatives and Republicans genuinely felt threatened, they would be uniting with Democrats to cool everything down. Instead, they're sticking with accusations, which may not harm but cannot possibly help.

The sorriest thing about Cantor's behavior is that violence against one side of a debate does always eventually lead to violence against the other side. As I've argued before, everyone is endangered when the civil peace breaks down, so preserving that peace is in everyone's self-interest.

Why not do the simple thing, which is also the morally right and the politically advantageous thing? I have four hypotheses, but they're for the next post.

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