Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Giffords Shooting and Its Aftermath

Just a few points here. Had I been around a computer when the shooting happened, I would have had about 10 posts on it, but I was at a conference. Now so much has been said. But a few points.

1. While Jared Loughner it seems was not a right-winger in any normal sense, it is still entirely appropriate to point fingers at the violent right-wing rhetoric dominating the nation. Not only because such language can embolden the crazy, but because that rhetoric is wrapped up in the very real policies loosening gun laws so that people can have enormous clips of ammunition.

2. On top of that, the right, going back to Reagan, have decimated funding for mental health institutions. Loughner clearly needed a lot of mental help. And while his crazy behavior got some attention from the people who ran into him, there was nothing they could do get him real help. William Galston argues for a return to involuntary commitment, something that civil libertarians have opposed. While such laws can be and have been abused, we do clearly need to take a more active role in committing people with violent tendencies, if just for observation. But Galston puts the cart before the horse, because who are the officials who are going to put people like this away and where are the beds coming from? With an ever-shrinking tax base for social services, institutions like mental health facilities lose funding and there's no money to hire the government workers you'd need to find the mentally unstable and process them through the system.

3. From a political perspective, the big loser is Sarah Palin. Truthfully, the whole Tea Party movement loses here because a lot of Americans are flinching in the face of the violent rhetoric that propelled them to power. Many Republicans are defending themselves vociferously. Some, such as Rush Limbaugh, claim that Loughner was a liberal and a Democrat, but this just alienates most people at this time. But no one lost more than Palin.

Perhaps she was right to be irritated that people connected her with the shooting, but then again, she's the one who had a target over Giffords' district. Her aide claiming that it was actually surveyor symbols just insulted our intelligence. But then the "blood libel" comment earlier today was just stupid. Not only does she not know what the term means, but it's an anti-Semitic reference used in discussing the attempted assassination of a Jewish congresswoman. Palin is of course getting slammed and rightfully show.

This also demonstrates how hopeless Palin's presidential candidacy is. How many Republicans slapped their palm against their forehead when they heard that? Some at least. And probably a lot of independents and almost all Democrats. What a joke.

Of course, she's the master at generating attention over the politics of resentment. But there's a big difference between Sarah Palin and, say, Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan. Nixon and Reagan were successful because they could effectively tap into this anger while also fooling other voters into believing they stood for more. Palin completely fails at being anything but a mouthpiece of resentment.

As Ezra Klein states:

So that's Palin's substantive response: Politics has never been reliably civil, her critics are unfair to her and at least she's not shot anybody. All that is true. But you won't find "stop bothering me, this tragedy isn't my fault" in the chapter headings of any books on leadership. Palin could've taken this opportunity to look very big, and instead she now looks very small. And that's not the fault of her detractors or her map. It's her fault, and her fault alone.

3. Farley responds to this CBS poll question asking whether violence against the government is ever justified:

Do you think it is ever justified for citizens to take violent action against the government, or is it never justified?

Republican 28% yes, 64% no
Democrat 11% yes, 81% no
Independent 11% yes, 81% no
Kos is outraged, Farley not so much. And like Rob, I agree that certainly it can be justified to take violent action against the government. I can think of lots of reasons that might happen. But while that's a good theory, it's quite telling that at this point and time, you have 28% of Republicans who say this versus 11% of Democrats and independents.  It says that a whole lot of people would be more than happy to see violence against Democrats like Gabrielle Giffords, even if they aren't going to instigate it themselves. And that's really screwed up.