After the first round of finger-pointing yesterday, in which partisans on both sides of the duopoly divide sought to capitalize upon the tragic shooting to score cheap partisan political points, we can conclude that the next round of discourse will likely result in the de-politicization of this act of violence, also in the interest of scoring cheap partisan political points. Democrats and Republicans began by each blaming the other for supplying the assassin with his political motivation. They will end, as always, by agreeing that neither is culpable though both share the blame. This is their mode of operation. Like Pontious Pilate, they wash their hands of the affair, but like Lady Macbeth they can't seem to remove the "damn'd spot."
It is perhaps only to be expected that Dupnik's denunciation of partisan "vitriol" has resonated with the public, the media and elected officials alike. The focus on rhetoric ensures that we need not confront any of the deeper political issues that might be brought into focus by the tragedy. Howard Kurtz writes:
Let's be honest: Journalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns. We talk about the air war, the bombshells, targeting politicians, knocking them off, candidates returning fire or being out of ammunition. So we shouldn't act shocked when politicians do the same thing.He effectively concludes, however, that this tragedy is not about the political context of political violence, but rather that "it's about a lone nutjob who doesn't value human life." One might say the same of Pilate and Macbeth, yet that would not do justice to the tragedy of the New Testament or Shakespeare.
It is no new discovery that the language of Democratic-Republican party politics and government is the language of armed warfare. The converse of Clausewitz's classic military maxim is their operating principle: politics is the continuation of war by other means. The desire for political enemies among Democrats and Republicans is so great, they are rarely content when their only adversaries are on the other side of the duopoly divide. The Democratic and Republican parties are always effectively in a state of civil war, as the mindless drones of the corporate media never tire of telling us. Republicans are not only at war with Democrats, they are also at war with Republicans-in-name-only. Democrats are not only at war with Republicans, they are at war with Democrats-in-name-only as well.
In most cases, however, the real violence that results from the politics of the reigning two-party state does not reign down upon the agents of that politics. Rather, it is displaced from the two-party antagonism onto others, whether legitimately or not. In either case, it is undeniable that Democratic-Republican party politics often amounts to nothing more than the base glorification of violence. People complain that Democrats and Republicans cannot come together to solve problems for the good of the country. But Democrats and Republicans do not solve problems, they just declare wars on them: the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the culture wars, the war on terror, the war on obesity, the war on common sense and decency, the war on religion, the war on science, the war on healthcare, the war on business, the war on rights, liberties and the rule of law and so on.
We should not be surprised if our nation's political leaders were to declare a war on violence this week, blinded to the irony of the act by their display of bipartisan showmanship itself. Arguably, political violence is just the logical and tragic conclusion of Democratic-Republican party politics and government. In this way, it spirals back toward its point of origin. It is no coincidence that the Democratic-Republican two-party state was born of the nation's First Civil War. Hopefully that will remain its last. It is long past time to declare our independence from the failed politics of the two-party state.
Update: It appears the war on violence has already begun, and the first target is the first amendment. From CNN:
Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pennsylvania, said he will introduce legislation making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official. [Emphasis added.]Apparently, the legislation is also aimed at pacifying the hysterical spouses lobby, a highly influential special interest group. The article continues:
Brady said he is hearing that the spouses of some of his congressional colleagues, specifically the newly elected members, are terrified and questioning whether they should remain in Congress. . . . "The spouses are in an uproar," he said. "They are panicking."