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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The slippery slope of violent rhetoric

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other individuals many commentators have noted the sinister background of violent rhetoric that emerged after the Democratic victory of 2008. This sinister background ranges from Sharron Angle’s hints of “second amendment remedies” and Sarah Palin’s bull’s-eye rifle targets on Democratic congressional candidates to the implicit threats of violence by people carrying guns at political rallies and displaying signs extolling violent resistance to laws they oppose.
The defenders of the rhetoric of violence excuse their statements and implicit threats of violence by saying it is an understandable reaction to encroachments on their liberty since Obama’s election. Had Democrats not overreached, they argue, conservatives would not have overreacted.
This argument has no basis in fact. Violent rhetoric and literal threats of murder against Democrats, liberals and progressives have been a gradually increasing feature of American politics since the 1990’s. They are arrayed along a slippery slope of increasingly direct threats and incitement to murder.
Here are a number of clear examples from the time of the Clinton and Bush administrations, clearly predating the supposed “provocations” that right-wing conservative spokesmen are pointing to as the justification for their violent rhetoric.
1. Disturbing “Jokes” About Killing Liberals

Rush Limbaugh: “I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we
can have two on every campus–living fossils–so we we’ll never forget what
these people stood for.”
Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Tim McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building”

2. Implied Threats:

Bill O’Reilly: “Americans who work against our military once the [Iraq] war is
underway will be considered Enemies of the State by me. Just fair warning to
you, Barbara Streisand, and others who see the world as you do. I don’t want
to demonize anyone, but anyone who hurts this country in a time like this,
well, let’s just say you will be spotlighted.”

3. Overt Threats of Violence against Liberals:

Glen Beck: “Hang on, let me just tell you what I’m thinking. I’m thinking
about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or
if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could.”
Eric Erickson (Redstate.com): “At what point do [people] get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?”
Michael Savage: “I say round liberals up and hang em’ high. When I hear someone’s in the civil rights business, I oil up my AR-25.”

4. Specific Incitements to Violence against Law Enforcement Officers

Dick Morris: “Those crazies in Montana who say ‘we’re going to kill ATF
agents because the UN’s going to take over.’ Well, they’re beginning to have
a case.”
G . Gorden Liddy (broadcasting advice on how to kill law enforcement officers): “…head-shots, they are wearing body armor, head shots… or shoot for the groin.”

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