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The real ‘threat to democracy’? Pols who polarize us with their opinions

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, listens as his attorney, Mark Richards, give his closing argument on November 15, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

For the past few years we’ve heard a lot of accusations coming from Democrats about “threats to democracy.” Of course, Donald Trump tops the list of their villains, but he’s hardly alone. As far as his critics are concerned, Republicans in general are a threat to democracy. 

Here’s a headline from a piece in The Atlantic magazine this past April: “The GOP Is a Grave Threat to American Democracy.”

In June, this headline ran over a story from Business Insider: “The GOP has proven to be an even ‘greater threat’ to US democracy than Trump in 2021, experts warn.”

And on the Letters to the Editor page of the Chicago Sun Times in July, this headline: “There’s no doubt — Republicans are a grave threat to our democracy.” 

But now that Kyle Rittenhouse has been found not guilty on all five charges — including first-degree murder — in his Wisconsin trial, we see that the people who have been yelling the loudest about “threats to democracy” arguably are threats to democracy themselves.

Here’s a sampling of reactions posted on Twitter by prominent members of the Democratic Party:

From New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Twitter: “This verdict is disgusting and it sends a horrible message to this country. Where is the justice in this? We can’t let this go.”

From the former governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, also in a tweet: “Today’s verdict is a stain on the soul of America, & sends a dangerous message about who & what values our justice system was designed to protect We must stand unified in rejecting supremacist vigilantism & with one voice say: this is not who we are.”

From Congresswoman Cori Bush of Missouri: “The judge. The jury. The defendant. It’s white supremacy in action. This system isn’t built to hold white supremacists accountable.” 

From Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus: “Lock up Kyle Rittenhouse and throw away the key.” (He said this, not after the verdict was in, but at the outset of the trial, before he heard any of the arguments in the case.) 

From Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee: “This heartbreaking verdict is a miscarriage of justice and sets a dangerous precedent which justifies federal review by DOJ.”

And President Biden, who last year smeared Rittenhouse as a “white supremacist,” issued a statement that began with an admission — undoubtedly to please the loudest voices in his party’s left wing — that he counts himself among Americans who are “feeling angry and concerned,” but continued, “we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.”

Really? What exactly was it about the verdict that made our president “angry and concerned”? Could it be that the jury found Rittenhouse not guilty?

Apparently it doesn’t occur to Biden, or the other Democrats, that when you say former President Trump is a “threat to democracy” for, among other things, casting doubt on the outcome of a legitimate election, you reasonably might be accused of being threats to democracy yourselves for casting doubt on the outcome of a legitimate trial. 

We have enough polarization in our country — more than enough, actually. What we don’t need now is prominent politicians (and their media allies) trying to delegitimize the verdict of a jury composed of ordinary Americans. 

Just between us, I’m pretty sure our democracy is strong enough to withstand over-the-top rhetoric — from both sides. But what left-wing pols don’t seem to understand is that even they can’t repeat Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which essentially says that “for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” It’s true in the physical world — and it’s also true in the political world.

Democrats who cavalierly toss rhetorical hand grenades around the political arena shouldn’t be shocked when the other side does the same.

Still, this is not good for America. It’s bad enough when angry slugs on social media post the kind of nasty messages that divide us, but when influential members of a major political party do so, it’s just plain disgraceful. 

Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Bill de Blasio Cori Bush Democrats Donald Trump Hakeem Jeffries Jerrold Nadler Joe Biden Kenosha, Wisconsin polarizing rhetoric Rittenhouse verdict threat to democracy

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