Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sarah Palin and "Second Amendment Remedies"

Demonizing or ridiculing one's political opponents can be fun. I enjoyed calling George W. Bush an idiot and Dick Cheney an evil genius. Nixon was paranoid, Reagan a Grade B actor, and Gerald Ford played too much football without a helmet. Yes, we liberals have done some name-calling. But with the exception of the “Where is Lee Harvey Oswald Now that We Really Need Him?” buttons, which, as far as I know, never inspired anyone to try to kill Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon, we never talked about “Second Amendment remedies,” as did Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle.
We've now seen a Second Amendment remedy in action, with Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in critical condition, and six people dead, including a 9-year-old girl.

Rep. Giffords, a moderate Democrat in a Republican-leaning district, was one of those targeted for defeat by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin in the 2010 election. And I use the word “targeted” almost literally, for one of her political action committee's advertisements showed Giffords' district in what appears to be the crosshairs of a gunsight.

Palin has expressed shock and sadness at the shooting. I'm sure she never expected anyone would take her literally and try to kill one of her targets. But Palin and her supporters were having too much fun playing the political demonization game to think there might be consequences to putting their opponents in a virtual gunsight.

Palin loves the political game. So do I. In the summer of 1972 I worked on the staff of Iowa Democratic senatorial candidate Dick Clark. Four years later I knocked on doors for presidential candidate Morris Udall, and did the same for the Democrats in 1980. Since then, employment and family have kept me from devoting a great deal of time to political action, but I'm still very much a political junkie.

As we all know, the outcome of the political game has far greater consequences than the outcome of, say, the Super Bowl. While I've always been politically liberal, I know very well that many conservative Republicans want to cut Amtrak funding to zero, thus depriving me of a job. (Still, I don't plan to kill any right-wingers because of it.)

Palin seems to like the political game a lot more than she does the business of governing. Otherwise, why would she resign as governor of Alaska in order to be the Tea Party's Number One cheerleader? I'm sure Palin's advisers told her that her best strategy for winning the presidency in 2012 was to stay in the governorship, make a reputation as someone who can govern effectively, and begin full-time campaigning in 2011. But the lure of the campaign trail and the adulation of the Tea Party crowds was too great for her, and she succumbed to temptation.

And until now, it's been fun for her. Even though some of the wackiest candidates she backed, such as Angle, Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell, and Alaska's own Joe Miller, lost, she picked up enough victories to celebrate. But now she has to face the consequences of her crosshairs ad, along with the Tea Party's view of opponents as The Enemy.

I hope Palin and her Tea Party followers have realized, if they hadn't before, that their opponents are just that—opponents—loyal Americans who disagree with them on many issues, and that they are real people, with real husbands, wives, and children who love them. They aren't enemies or traitors, just as the Republicans aren't my enemies. I just happen to disagree with them.

And there are simply too many people in this country who don't understand that hyped political campaign rhetoric is not meant to be taken literally. We saw that Saturday in Tucson. Please, no more crosshairs, no more talk of “Second Amendment remedies,” and no more likening one's political opponents to traitors or enemies. From my position on the moderate left, I'll strive to do the same.


Elizabeth said...

Bravo. I've done the same on my own blog, Steve, removing a somewhat vehement post I had written earlier deriding the health insurance industry.

steve on the slow train said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. I hate to say that it's taken this dreadful event to resume blogging, but I had to write something longer than a Facebook status. I didn't read your original post, but I've occasionally done the same when I've let myself go overboard.

Charles Gramlich said...

I like this post. The rhetoric on both sides has just tired me. I think of myself as a liberal but I hated when they called George W stupid, and Reagan a Nazi. Because it was so completely obvious that what one hands out, one gets in return. I've hated many of the things Palin has said, or "suggested," and the horrific nonsense said about Obama. Over the top rhetoric is so easy to do, and apparently so hard for people to pass up. But someone, somewhere has to say enough. Let's get back to talking reasonably about issues instead of snide name calling, or vicious name calling.

SzélsőFa said...

aw, these events are so sad.
calling your political enemies stupid names is unfortunately 'in' in Hungary as well.
although i don't really follow the everyday politics, i have my stand in certain questions, and it's saddening to see how certain issues can tear sometimes families or friends apart :(

have my best belated new year wishes, may your year be filled with health and lots of thoughtful writing like this post here.

The Moody Minstrel said...

It's actually kind of refreshing to live, as I do, in a country which tends to be extremely apathetic toward politics (i.e. Japan). However, it does tend to make elections scarier, because people tend not to care who they vote for too much.

The Blind Observer said...

Thanks for writing this. Although I've only just read this, I remain saddened by the unwillingness of the major parties to even think of compromise on the one hand, and the way politics have sold out to business interests. Not just in the U.S.A. but across most of the world.