Only in politics could a blowtorch be seen as doing more damage than a flamethrower — depending on which partisan persuasion you identify with, of course.
After making far-left firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez nearly a household name and fluffing her pillows on the late-night talk shows, the national media finally sat up straight with raised eyebrows when the New York congresswoman and her chief of staff started attacking fellow Democrats Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas.
Good — as far as it goes. Never mind that Ocasio-Cortez’s over-the-top rhetoric calling immigrant detention centers “concentration camps” was parroted by self-described antifa adherent Willem Van Spronsen, who attacked a detention center in Tacoma, Washington, Saturday in a reported attempt to burn it down.
Never mind that Ocasio-Cortez and even moderate Democrats have issued insult after broadside against conservatives and other Americans who put Donald Trump in the White House. Deplorables. Dregs of society. And, of course, racists. In fact, the new narrative — found in a column tweeted out by Ocasio-Cortez cohort U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar — is that everyone who supports this president is a racist.
In Kansas and Missouri, at least in 2016, that was about 57% of voters. Now, that’s an indiscriminate, scorched-earth, Sherman-march-to-the-sea flamethrower, as compared to the blowtorch Ocasio-Cortez’s office has aimed at her fellow Democrats.
When Democrat Gabby Giffords and others were shot by an unhinged onlooker in a grocery store parking lot in 2011, pundits immediately blamed Republican rhetoric in general and Sarah Palin’s PAC in particular for having put bull’s-eyes on a map of congressional districts it was targeting politically. The claim was utterly absurd, baseless and debunked by the likes of Mother Jones and The New York Times — though the Times would, in 2017, restate the falsity as fact in an editorial it had to later correct. It seems even imagined Republican slights get “misremembered” and recycled.
In 2017, however, an actual left-wing zealot named James T. Hodgkinson, rabidly anti-Trump and a Bernie Sanders supporter, shot and nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise at a Republican congressional baseball practice.
If some are so eager to blame Republican rhetoric that they tie it to violent acts without a shred of proof, what about Democratic rhetoric that could actually be having an adverse impact? Where’s the outrage?
The horrified reaction to Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti’s tweet that Davids’ votes for humanitarian relief at the border “enable a racist system” is perfectly legitimate. Yet, where is the umbrage when so many on the right are accused of so much worse?
The irony isn’t lost on Kansas City-area conservatives. Angst over the attack on Davids would make more sense to them if they saw the media more consistently calling for moderation from Democrats. They also feel far worse is said about people on the right, and they wonder if Republicans are accused of racism so often that it becomes same-old, same-old.
What an extraordinarily dim view some Americans have of broad swaths of their country.
As for the media, former CBS News journalist Sharyl Attkisson plays what she calls the “Substitution Game”: asking oneself if people in the news would be treated differently if they had a different name or political affiliation. John Anderson, co-founder of the Northeast Johnson County Conservatives, played it this week.
“I can only imagine the fawning drumbeat supporting (Ocasio-Cortez) if Davids happened to be a Republican,” he says.
I love the intolerance shown the past few days for the insult that Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff aimed at Sharice Davids. Incivility and hyper-partisanship are tearing this country apart — from both ends.
I just wish the outrage meter could be set at the same level for everyone.