The right wing isn’t going to stop violent rhetoric
In light of the attempted murder of Representative Giffords, in which others did die, many on the left have been saying that Republicans need to stop violent rhetoric, because some people take it seriously. Crazies in some cases. (Note that it’s not clear that Loughner was necessarily one of them, mind you.)
But let’s assume the constant atmosphere of violent rhetoric did have some effect. Why would the right stop it? The press I’m reading and seeing is mostly of the “pox on both sides violent rhetoric” variety. Yes, Palin is running from her crosshairs, but at the end of the day she was never viable and the people who support her, which is to say, give her money, aren’t going to stop doing so. They’ll believe he was “just a crazy” or that Jared Loughner was really a left winger, of whatever it takes to believe it had nothing to do with her: or with them. Two months from now this won’t be shown to have moved the needle on the polls, and it won’t have destroyed the career of anyone who mattered.
Moreover, the fact is that violence often does work. For example, when Doctor Tiller, one of only three late term abortion providers in the entire country, was killed, his family chose to shut down his clinic. His assassin got what he wanted, and said he was perfectly happy to go to jail. And why not? If you believe that Dr. Tiller was a mass murderer, then killing him is just.
As long as politicians who aren’t Republicans (I won’t say left wingers, Giffords isn’t particularly left wing) are constantly called traitors, some people will take that seriously. And if they are traitors, well, they deserve death, don’t they?
Right wing talk of violence is acceptable in American society. And it will continue because violence and the threat of violence works in American society.
Now let’s be clear, one reason it works is because politicians have, in fact, repeatedly and consistently, as a class, acted against the interests of Americans. Americans have spent the past 35 odd years with a stagnant or declining standard of living. The life expectancy of Americans recently dropped (which should tell you that all the numbers that say Americans aren’t getting slagged are BS), something which happened in Russia not long before their collapse.
Ordinary Americans work longer and harder and get a smaller proportion of the societies benefits every year.
Of course, right wing solutions aren’t, they’ll just make things worse. But Americans live in a complete propaganda state, and don’t know up from down. The right controls every major media organ, and is able to get pluralities or majorities of Americans to believe things which simply aren’t true, like that Iraq had something to do with 9/11 (70% of Americans believed that. That didn’t happen by mistake, since there’s no evidence of it.)
Confused, lied to, living in a world which doesn’t make any sense, because it isn’t intended to make sense, and in a situation where even if they aren’t personally in financial trouble, they are only one bad bounce away from winding up on the street, being bankrupted by health care bills and then dying anyway, what is amazing about American political violence isn’t that there is so much of it, but that there is as little as there is.
The pattern is clear enough. Major corporate interests have bled the country white. Whether these are financial interests, the military industrial complex, the telecom companies or the various medical interests, the result is the same: the rich are filthy rich, corporations making record profits and ordinary people taking it in the neck. They have then bought up the major media, which they use for propaganda purposes. Fox is the major offender, but no major outlet is immune.
The political class works for the corporate class, not the other way around. It doesn’t have to be that way, all the levers are available to crush the corporate class any time the political class wants to, but the fact remains that the corporate class calls the shots, not the other way around. During the debate over TARP calls against ran from 100:1 against to 1200:1 against. It still passed. The public option was more popular than the health care bill that passed by a huge margin, but it was traded away early and never seriously considered.
It is useful to the corporate class for the political class to live in fear, however. What I am hearing is that many politicians and their staff do draw a line between violent right wing rhetoric and what happened to Giffords.
But most members at the very top of the corporate class, like the Koch brothers, live in such rarified circumstances that they hardly ever see an ordinary person. They fly in private jets, they stay in $50,000/night hotel rooms or private estates and so on. Politicians, on the other hand, have to glad hand. It is their job to handle ordinary people. They are, and always will be, exposed to violence.
If that violence is inspired by the right, if the right are the people showing up with guns, well, what’s the problem, exactly, for the corporate class? If politicians are scared to do anything non-right wing, how does that hurt the very rich? Oh sure, violence might get out of control, but it’s pretty clear they don’t really believe that, or they wouldn’t have spent hundreds of millions on the Republican side of the last election, would they have?
No, Giffords is a sign post on the road. That sign post may say stop, but this intersection will at most be a slight pause in the trip.