I’m a 21-year-old graduate of Whitewater High School and current University of Georgia student.
Like many citizens, I’ve grown increasingly concerned with the rising frequency of political violence in the United States. The solution to this problem, however, will be not be found until the public takes a critical and honest look at the causes of this violence. The issue is not one of “both sides,” but of one party’s president who consistently stokes racial tension in the media in order to score cheap political points with his base.
To be sure, violence on the left, such as the shooting of House Republican Steve Scalise last year, is an issue Democrats must confront in due course. Until Bernie Sanders announces his bid for the presidency in a speech labeling Hispanic immigrants as “murderers and rapists,” however, we can no longer pretend that both parties are equally culpable.
President Trump meekly denounced “both sides” following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last year that ended in the murder of a left-wing protestor. Not even the mailing of pipe bombs to Trump’s favorite political targets, those he vilifies at rallies and spreads conspiracy theories about on Twitter (Obama, Soros, the Clintons, etc.), could bring our commander-in-chief to acknowledge that his rhetoric might not be helping the current state of unrest in the country.
Ironically, the leader of the party of “personal responsibility” seeks to abdicate his accountability to the people in every possible instance, refusing to ever acknowledge the role his own behavior plays in destabilizing the country. To paraphrase the Democratic nominee for governor of Florida, Andrew Gillum: it doesn’t necessarily matter if Trump himself is a racist, but the real racists in this country believe that he is, and feel emboldened to commit political violence on his behalf.
Republicans deflect the blame for this violence by citing “incivility” from Democrats as one of its key causes. They blame party leaders like Maxine Waters for encouraging supporters to harass Trump officials in public as a reason for the recent rise in political violence. Many may find these tactics distasteful, but can you blame Democrats for seeking alternative forms of protest?
The democratic will of the majority was ignored in Trump’s 2016 Electoral College victory, and a Supreme Court nominee with historic low levels of favorability, not to mention multiple credible accounts of sexual assault, was rammed down the throats of the American public with less than two weeks of deliberation. If voting is no longer a viable way to achieve public policy outcomes, what else is the silent majority to do?
The cognitive dissonance of conservatives who bemoan the end of civility while cheering on a president who labels the media “the enemy of the people” is a discrepancy that sociologists will study for decades to come. Until the public labels this hypocrisy for what it is and ends the false electoral mandate of the Republican Party, political violence will be a consistent feature, not a bug, of our fragile democracy.
B.A. Sociology, Economics
University of Georgia