Time to Stop Exploiting Criminal Violence for Political Gain
Five police officers are murdered by racially motivated black extremist Micah Xavier Johnson in Dallas. Ideologues on the right see an opportunity to seize the moral high ground, work up their base, and use the crime to smear people on the left. Nine people are murdered by racially motivated white supremacist Dylan Roof in a Charleston Church. Ideologues on the left see an opportunity to seize the moral high ground, work up their base, and use the crime to smear conservatives. A leftist assassin attempts to murder as many Republican congressmen as possible, gravely wounding GOP House whip Steve Scalise. Ideologues on the right seize the moral high ground, work up their base, and use the crime to smear the left. A white supremacist uses a car to murder people during a “white unity” rally in Charlottesville. Ideologues on the left seize the moral high ground, work up their base, and use the crime to smear everyone on the right…
Does this cycle need to keep going on and on? Everyone across the spectrum should denounce all of these crimes and not treat them as opportunities for energizing their base and smearing their adversaries. The vast majority of people on the left are not violent Antifa activists. The vast majority of people on the right are not racists, much less murderous racists. People on the right and on the left need to recognize that about each other, despite their disagreements. Those disagreements are, to be sure, profound and concern fundamental issues of justice and injustice, right and wrong; but if our republican democracy is to survive, and if we are to avoid descending into civil strife, we need to engage each other in robust civil debate rather than trying to tar our opponents as bigots, haters, and violent extremists.
Robert George is Chairman at United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, McCormick Professor of Juriprudence at Princeton University, Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, and author of Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism.