After Portland, where's the GOP outrage over deadly right wing terror?

After Portland, where's the GOP outrage over deadly right wing terror?

As President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE’s reelection prospects dim, Republicans are desperately seeking to tie Joe BidenJoe BidenGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Trump outraises Biden in July, surpasses billion for the cycle Duckworth: Republican coronavirus package would 'gut' Americans With Disabilities Act MORE to the unrest sparked by far-left rioters. This is absurd.

In condemning violence in Portland, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said that attacking “anyone because of their political opinions is never acceptable.” Moreover, Biden and many leading Democrats have rejected calls to “defund” the police.

Republican hysteria over Portland – fueled by misleading media coverage over a small group of leftwing extremists attacking a building and police – is all the more egregious in light of the GOP’s muted response to rightwing terrorism.

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The numbers are striking. Many of the Republicans caterwauling about leftwing “anti-fascist” groups have largely ignored the more than 300 murders by rightwing extremists since 1994.  

But violent rightwing extremism is by no means a recent phenomenon. In 1995, an anti-government terrorist detonated a massive truck bomb outside of a federal office building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 men, women and children. The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was motivated by deadly standoffs involving federal agents in Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in the early 1990s. 

More recently, the deadliest mass shooting in American history occurred in Las Vegas. Stephen Paddock fired into a crowd, killing 58 and injuring hundreds. While Paddock’s motives remain murky, the parallels to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing are noteworthy.

Multiple witnesses overheard Paddock railing against the government, lamenting the Waco siege and referring to the 25th anniversary of the standoff at Ruby Ridge, which occurred just a few weeks before he opened fire. He also raged about FEMA “camps” – a consistent theme among far-right conspiracy theorists – and gun control.

The Las Vegas massacre occurred amid a spike in rightwing extremist attacks in the United States. The FBI noted a surge in reported hate crimes the day after Trump was elected, a trend that continued for several years, but was met largely by Republican silence.

In the face of this GOP apathy, a far-right extremist admitted to targeting Mexicans in a Texas shooting in which nearly two dozen people were murdered. Following the attack, some experts drew linkages between Trump’s political rhetoric and the post-2016 spike in hate crimes.

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But rightwing extremism is far more pervasive. In 2015, a white supremacist murdered nine African-American worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. That same year, three people were killed in an attack on a Colorado abortion clinic.

In the Trump era, a woman protesting a far-right event in Charlottesville, Virginia, was killed by a white nationalist. In 2018 and 2019, a dozen worshippers were murdered in ideologically motivated shootings at synagogues. More recently, far-right extremists killed two law enforcement officers in California.

And the list of recent right-wing violence goes on and on and on.

In stark contrast, leftwing extremists associated with antifa and other “anti-fascist” groups have not killed any Americans.

Trump administration diatribes aside, there was little evidence of antifa involvement in the nationwide riots in the weeks after George Floyd’s death, according to a Reuters analysis. Instead, law enforcement mostly blamed apolitical “opportunists” for the violence. Worse, rightwing agents and provocateurs have infiltrated some peaceful protests around the country, in some cases to further their violent goals.

This is not to deny that some leftwing extremists embrace violence. They most certainly do.

A brutal 2016 attack against police officers in Dallas, Texas, can broadly be classified as leftwing extremism. But, unlike Republicans in the wake of rightwing terrorism, President Obama delivered a powerful speech after the Dallas attacks, winning praise from some in the law enforcement community.

Much like the Las Vegas shooting, the motives of a gunman who murdered nine people in Dayton, Ohio, remain murky. Some evidence suggests a possible leftist ideological motivation, but his misogynistic views were likely a stronger motivating factor than politics.

Any way you slice it, Joe Biden is right. Regardless of motivation, ideology or target, political violence is never acceptable.

Ultimately, Republican hysteria over Portland in the face of years of deadly rightwing terrorism is patently absurd.

After all, aren’t American lives more important than buildings?

Fires can be extinguished. Windows can be replaced. Graffiti can be painted over. But the hundreds of Americans killed at the hands of rightwing terrorists are gone forever.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.