OPINION: Sorry Newt, the right must tone down the vitriol too
© Getty Images

In the aftermath of the shooting at the Republican congressional baseball practice, there have been some pretty blatant expressions by Republicans of blaming the left for the crazed actions of a gun-toting lunatic. 

This needs to stop. We all need to take a breath and check ourselves — on the left and the right. 

Newt Gingrich stated yesterday, "You've had a series of things which send signals that tell people that it's OK to hate Trump, it's OK to think of Trump in violent terms, it's OK to consider assassinating Trump," Gingrich said. "And then, suddenly, we're supposed to rise above it until next time?"

"It's part of a pattern," Gingrich said. "You've had an increasing intensity of hostility on the left."

ADVERTISEMENT
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) piled on, saying, “I don’t know anything about the perpetrator. But I do know that America is divided ... And the violence is appearing in the streets. And it’s coming from the left.’’

 

Not be outdone, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) blamed the tone of the political climate, as well as the anger Americans feel toward Trump, on Democrats. 

"I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric," Collins told a news reporter. "The rhetoric has been outrageous ... the finger-pointing, just the tone and the angst and the anger directed at Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE (and) his supporters." 

Let me repeat: This needs to stop. We all need a time out to realize all that has contributed to the current political hate speech that has seemingly lead to a nut job taking matters into his own hands. Let me be first to say that there have been actions from liberals that have been uncalled for, inappropriate and grotesque, as they seek to freely express their deep anger and disdain for the president. 

Kathy Griffin’s recent stunt showing a severed and bloody Trump head was beyond the pale of decency and humanity. She apologized for it as she should have and was fired from her CNN gig. Protesters who turn to violence as they protest conservative speakers are equally out of bounds, and that behavior should not be tolerated. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSchumer: Franken should resign Franken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (I-Vt.) was quick to unequivocally condemn the actions of the gunman — rightly so — who had reportedly volunteered on his presidential campaign. 

But it is rich, hypocritical and frankly dangerous when Republicans simply point the finger at the left for a one-off crazed act from a crazed man, while refusing to take any blame or even acknowledge that their side, including the president, has contributed robustly to the vitriol, hatred and division in our politics and has at times even called for violence against those who oppose him. 

Did they forget that Trump offered to pay the legal bills for anyone who would sucker punch a protester at one of his rallies? 

At an event the day of the Iowa caucuses during the Republican primary season, Trump said to the crowd that there may be folks with tomatoes in the audience who may be protesting him: “So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of 'em, would you?," he said. "Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell ... I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise."

Later that same month, a protester was being removed from another one of Trump’s rallies. Trump noticed and quipped, “I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya."

And who can forget the time that Trump lamented the possibility that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE would be president and get to choose Supreme Court judges that, in his opinion, would abolish the Second Amendment. Trump said that if that was the case, there was nothing anyone could do about it, except for maybe the “Second Amendment folks.” 

Many took that to mean he was referring to gun-owners who could take matters into their own hands if Clinton won the White House. Moreover, when a leading presidential candidate says he could stand on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any votes, it is not a joke. It is seen as a wink and a nod. 

These few examples — and there are many more — are clearly indicative of a presidential candidate-turned-president who has done more than his share to poison the rhetoric surrounding our politics and to make it seem acceptable to use violence against those who oppose you or don’t like you.

Couple that with the hostility, disrespect and disdain that Trump has used in speaking about women, African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, people with disabilities, nursing mothers, POWs and countless other Americans, and you definitely have a recipe for disaster brewing in the cauldron of putrid, poisonous political discourse. 

While none of this should be an excuse to use violence against anyone, ever, I underscore it to make the point that Trump’s hands — and those of other Republicans — are by no means clean, and they absolutely do not escape blame in what we have become. None of us do.

It is ok to oppose Trump. In fact, I think it is our duty — and most Americans agree — to do so. It is even ok to hate him.  It is not ok to use violence to express any of these feelings. That is what democracy, civics, political forums and elections are for. That is where our power to change things lies. But we also have to change course by example. 

I commend Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for showing leadership in the aftermath of the tragedy this week. They spoke eloquently and from the heart. They spoke as Americans and not partisans. Trump hit the right notes as well in speaking after the tragedy. 

Sadly, that civility did not last, as Trump is engaged in his most recent Twitter tirade. But we know we cannot look to him as an example of how to lead on the issue of civility. So let’s do it without him. Let’s engage in passionate political discourse focused on ideas, not ideologues. Let’s discuss policy and politics without engaging in political fanaticism. 

That is what we deserve. That is what America demands. Let’s get to it. 

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.