We’re now getting an overall view of the range of targets who were sent explosive devices. We also have a list of false alarms. (John Light has a quick rundown here.) The gist is the Clintons, Obamas, George Soros, Eric Holder, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Maxine Waters and John Brennan. Brennan’s was actually the name on the device sent to CNN’s offices in New York. The common denominator here is pretty clear. These are not only Democrats or people generally on the left. In Brennan’s case he’s not really clearly either. These are all high profile targets of President Trump and relatedly nemeses of your standard Trumpite media outlets like Breitbart and The Daily Caller.
We shouldn’t forget that there have been violent incidents fueled by hostility to Republicans or President Trump. The horrific shooting last year which grievously wounded Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) is the clearest example. Society contains a certain percentage of unbalanced people. A charged and angry political environment will push a thin slice of that population over the edge. But we also shouldn’t pretend that this is an issue with tribalism or polarization or extremism in general.
One side has a President repeatedly ramping up racist incitement, attacking the press as the “enemy of the people.” One side has a President who routinely leads cheers about imprisoning political opponents. His congressional supporters accept his rhetoric and now increasingly ape it. One side has a President who routinely fabricates outlandish falsehoods intended to generate outrage, fear and hate. One side has a group of rightist paramilitaries operating in various parts of the country. One side has mass ownership of high capacity firearms as a central part of its political ideology. The same side frequently focuses on private weapons ownership as a hedge against “tyranny”. In other words, they focus on the need to stock firearms for the potential need to use them against government officials and civil servants.
Adam Smith famously said there’s a lot of ruin in a nation. Violence is not actually rare but endemic in American life. But what we are seeing today has little precedent in our history. We don’t just have civil division and a rise of political violence. We have the ring leader and chief inciter holding the executive power of the state. The calls are coming from inside the house. It is not surprising that it has an effect, effects like we see today.
The scope and depth of damage that President Trump is doing to the country every day is hard to calculate.