As James Bond’s nemesis Auric Goldfinger famously observed, “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence. The third time is enemy action.” On Tuesday evening, three prominent Republicans — Senator John McCain, Senator Marco Rubio, and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney — endorsed the left-wing media’s preferred narrative and embraced the masked thugs of Antifa as heroes.
McCain and Romney used almost identical language, bending their knees to the media narrative that only two factions were present in Charlottesville during the awful events of last weekend: white supremacist Nazis and “Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry.”
Neither of these gentlemen can claim ignorance of Antifa; the reason both of them piped up is that President Donald Trump mentioned them in his Tuesday press conference. Left-wing politicians and media personalities responded by thundering “there is only one side” for all right-thinking Americans to be on, because there was only one squad of villains on the ground in Charlottesville.
McCain and Romney obediently bent the knee to this narrative. At the very least, they’re agreeing Antifa should be invisible, accepting the incredibly stupid idea that calling out their violence somehow dilutes criticism of the Tiki Torch Terror. Mentioning Antifa is damned under the left’s new doctrine of “Whataboutism,” which originally held that history began with the inauguration of President Trump and all prior Democrat sins were absolved, but has mutated into an unlimited free pass for the #Resistance to do whatever it takes to bring down the Trump administration without a peep of protest from tame Republicans.
Senator Marco Rubio went much, much further. He launched a brief tweetstorm that completely absolved Antifa of all responsibility for its actions in Charlottesville, blaming all violence “one hundred percent” on those who organized the events leading to the “Charlottesville terrorist attack” (the vehicular homicide perpetrated by James Alex Fields Jr.)
Most astoundingly, Rubio embraced the Crybully Creed, the left-wing fascist idea that hate speech justifies a violent response. Your speech is violence; their violence is speech. Yes, Rubio used exactly those words in his third tweet.
Rubio’s third tweet explicitly endorses violent responses to hate speech, but the last one is the money shot, as Rubio embraces the essence of Whataboutism and agrees with the media that left-wing thuggery is a fact on the Charlottesville ground that must be ignored if we are to properly condemn white nationalism.
McCain and Romney are politically irrelevant, but Rubio still has political ambitions. Imagine the priceless look of surprise on his face when he gets branded a Nazi because he favors pro-growth tax cuts, free-market reforms, or balks at allowing illegal aliens to vote. He’ll be so astounded at the way “hate speech” is expanded to cover his policy positions, and how the next wave of Antifa thugs justifies a violent response.
In the highly unlikely event that a reporter asks McCain, Romney, or Rubio “What about Antifa?” they would probably mutter some boilerplate about how of course violence is not the answer. The problem is that their position implicitly accepts (explicitly, in Rubio’s case) that violence is at least somewhat understandable when it comes from the left. The core criticism of Trump is that he wasn’t full-throated and unequivocal in condemning the Nazi wannabees, but the violence of groups like Antifa, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter never gets full-throated and unequivocal condemnation.
Democrat politicians are completely firewalled from left-wing violence. They are never expected to denounce lefty vandals, brutes, or assassins. Democrat officials routinely look the other way when left-wing thuggery is perpetrated in their precincts — it’s a nationwide epidemic, with outbreaks nearly everywhere Democrats are in charge — but somehow it’s the Republican Party that gets treated as uniquely susceptible to the contagion of extremism.
Every Republican politician jumping on the “Only One Side” bandwagon is endorsing the idea that his or her own constituents are so vulnerable to the siren song of white nationalism that allowing a little group of racist pinheads to congregate in a public place is unacceptably dangerous. Believe me, ladies and gentlemen of the GOP, your acceptance of this narrative will come back to haunt you, no matter how moderate and reasonable you imagine yourself to be.
Over at the Weekly Standard, Michael Warren argues that Trump had a duty to “denounce specifically and unequivocally the white nationalists whose demonstration last weekend in Virginia became violent,” even though Warren acknowledges “there were left-wing counter-protesters who were also violent and antagonistic in Charlottesville.”
White nationalists, neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other racist groups who marched through the University of Virginia’s campus and in Charlottesville last weekend did so because they have been empowered by the presidency of Donald Trump. Don’t take my word for it. Look at the photos of those wearing “Make America Great Again” hats in Charlottesville. Listen to the words of arch-racist David Duke, who said his goal in attending the Charlottesville event was to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” Remember that one of the rally’s organizers, chief alt-rightist Richard Spencer, once said his movement has a “psychic connection” with Trump. Scroll through the countless Twitter accounts with swastikas and racist memes posted in between or alongside statements of support for Trump’s candidacy and presidency.
Given all this, Trump has a duty—as the president of the United States, as the head of a major political party, as a decent American—to make clear that these people are mistaken, that white supremacists and neo-Nazis have nothing in common with Trump’s agenda or his vision for the country. It does no good to say, in the same breath, that “both sides” are a part of the problem. The problem is that one side, the violent, racist side, believes they have an ally in the White House. And they have increasingly good reason to think that.
I don’t know, Mr. Warren — the violent left is looking awfully “emboldened” to me at the moment, and they seem firmly convinced they have powerful political allies in Washington, too. There are a lot more of them than there are “white nationalists,” and Antifa has a unique stranglehold on higher education. Have the Nazi wannabes been able to shut down any campus speeches yet, or dictate the content of university courses?
President Barack Obama couldn’t bring himself to unequivocally condemn Islamic terrorism without bringing up the Crusades. Few Democrats can condemn Palestinian atrocities without cursing the Israeli government. It’s a staple of left-wing discourse that all parties share the blame when arguments escalate into violence, most criminals should be seen as victims of society, and even violent extremists have legitimate “grievances” that must be explored. If unequivocal condemnation is coming back in style, the list of the condemned can reasonably begin with neo-Nazis, but it shouldn’t end with them.
Also, if we’re holding Trump accountable for every unpleasant character who dons a MAGA hat, then why aren’t we holding Bernie Sanders accountable for the fervent supporter who tried to gun down half the Republican caucus at a baseball field? Democrats get to float serenely above the ugly words and deeds of their supporters, but Republicans are personally responsible for the actions of everyone who votes for them? Nuts to that. The time for double standards is over.
Double standards are one of the reasons Trump was elected. People who committed no crime are tired of being treated unfairly in the pursuit of cosmic “social justice.” Republicans are tired of watching Democrats skate for political offenses that would end any GOP career. They’re tired of watching the left manipulate opinion with ugly rhetoric and lowest-common-denominator emotional appeals — just a few weeks ago, Republicans were accused of attempted murder for trying to repeal Obamacare — while every conservative with an ounce of passion is dismissed as a “populist” huckster.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is one of the finest expressions of uncompromising principle in human history. In order to maintain that standard, we must protect speech and assembly rights for the unsavory, and then use free speech to demolish their toxic ideas. Professing allegiance to the First Amendment while authorizing vigilante gangs to shut down disapproved speech with the Heckler’s Veto — or clubs and broken bottles, when the Heckler’s Veto doesn’t get the job done — is not good enough. “The First Amendment doesn’t cover hate speech” is a much more dangerous, far more contagious fascist ideal than anything snarled over a tiki torch in Charlottesville.
Frankly, if you can’t win an argument with a handful of Nazis without resorting to violence, you suck at freedom. If you can’t damn the swastika without also cursing the hammer and sickle, you suck at history.