Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Tea Party and Recent Shootings in Arizona

At the moment, Congresswoman Giffords remains in critical condition although doctors are optimistic about her prognosis. Meanwhile, there are other victims including a district court judge that have not received as much coverage.

At the same time, there has been a debate about whether the attack reflects on the tea party or heated rhetoric in general. I think the case for such an interpretation of the event is fairly thin. We have learned that the shooter has a hodgepodge of views, and that a former classmate thought he was left wing. The strongest interpretation to me seems that he was simply crazy and deranged.

I therefore think it’s a mistake to pin any blame for the shooting on the tea party. If the shooter himself did not hold views in line with the tea party, how can tea party rhetoric have caused the shooting? Moreover, as many conservative commentators have pointed out, there have been no shortage of violent metaphors used by liberals and Democrats.

I wonder if it’s true as well that partisan rhetoric is at its most intense or polarized. People saying so remind me of those who claim that politics is uniquely negative and personal today. But remember the 1824 election when John Quincy Adam’s supporters insinuated that Andrew Jackson’s wife was a whore and Andrew Jackson’s supporters claimed that Adams had pimped for the Czar in Russia. Or the 1800 election when supporters of John Adams claimed that Thomas Jefferson would ban the Bible.

Politics has always been heated and prone to extreme charges. The only difference now is a 24 hour media and an internet that gives such charges more publicity. I am not ready to join the school of thought that says are politics have declined (from what heights I am not sure).

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