Democrats have long complained that when Republicans use extreme language, it fosters extremism in their followers, that those followers always take it a step further.
They’re not wrong. But they seem to be blind to the fact that they have begun doing it themselves, showing a lack of restraint in the language they use.
Recently I had occasion to make a list of the Trump-like insults Democrats, their organizations and political action committees have been throwing at Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada:
“Dishonest Dean Got ‘Bought Off’”; “Desperate Pandering”; “Heller betrayed Nevada”; “Dishonest Senator Dean Heller’s Lies, Broken Promises”; “Kick Millions off their Insurance”; “Another Day, Another Lie”; “Coward of the Day: Senator Dean Heller.”
Setting aside the juvenile quality of this sort of thing, was it, then, a surprise that a man named Richard Holley was recently arrested for threatening Heller’s life? Or that a reader then responded to the Holley arrest with a letter to the editor of a Reno newspaper?
“It’s interesting that Heller can threaten to kill Holley by canceling his health care but Holley can’t return the threat.
Heller, and those in the GOP that voted for the skinny repeal, have found a great way to ensure re-election – kill off those who can’t afford health care, leaving only the wealthy to vote.”
That was the letter. Heller did not, of course “threaten to kill Holley by canceling his health care” any more than a legislator voting for a power plant would be trying to kill someone who got electrocuted by a fallen power line.
Narrowing the broad functions of a program to a single constituent is absurd, and suggesting intent on Heller’s part against the life of Holley is worse.
The Democrats further exacerbated this kind of thing with unrestrained verbiage in the apocalyptic way they described the consequences of repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Assume that the ACA WERE repealed.
The United States would be returned to the situation that existed previously – people still got treatment, using emergency rooms and other stopgap measures. It was more expensive, to be sure, but describing the land being laid waste for lack of health care as the Democrats were doing was as idiotic as Republican talk of death panels.
Here’s another example. U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei is a Republican who represents the northern swatch of Nevada in the U.S. House.
He recently voted for a measure that, the America Wild Horse Campaign claimed, “allows for the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros that Interior Department bureaucrats deem to be surplus.
The removal of the protections would result in wild herds across the West being slaughtered on a mass scale. Captured wild horses and burros in government holding facilities would also be subject to being killed en masse.”
Note the use of the term “slaughtered.” That has a legal meaning in federal law, of butchering for market, which the measure also specifically prohibits.
When pressed by fact checker Mark Robison to explain themselves, a spokesperson for the AWHC gave a more restrained version, that a section normally included in these measures was, this time, left out. That section prohibits selling wild horses for slaughter.
But taken with all other existing language, sale of wild horses for slaughter would still be illegal. What would change is that wild horses for whom there was no adoption application could be killed. That is very different from what was charged in the original AWHC news release.
What Amodei had in mind in supporting deletion of the one section was firing a shot over the heads of wild horse advocates to start getting serious about fertility control. The advocates are split on the issue, with some calling it “forcibly drugging them with fertility control.”
Perhaps it’s too much in this day and age of unrestrained political vitriol to expect the critics of Republicans to use nuance. But if they don’t they are subject to the same criticism as Republicans receive.
Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.