This should be easy.
We’re all on the same side. When a white supremacist terrorist shoots up a Walmart filled with innocents in El Paso, we should all be on the same side. We should be mourning together; we should be fighting together.
Instead, we’re fighting one another.
We’re fighting one another for one simple reason: Too many on the political left have become accustomed to castigating the character of those who disagree with the left on policy. Favor tougher border controls? This puts you on the side of the white supremacist terrorist. Believe in Second Amendment rights? You’re a vicious, violent cretin covering for those who commit acts of evil. Cite Western civilization as a source of our common values, believe that police forces across the United States are not systemically racist, favor smaller government intervention in the social sphere — in short, disagree with the program of the American left? Most of all, consider voting for Trump? You’re an accessory to murder.
Now, there are many on the political left who are too smart for this sort of specious reasoning and character assassination. But not everyone. Charles Blow of The New York Times, for example, writes in a column this week that “terrorists” and “policymakers” are the two “sides of white nationalism.” Blow clarifies: “White nationalist terrorists — young and rash — and white nationalist policymakers — older and more methodical — live on parallel planes, both aiming in the same direction, both with the same goal: To maintain and ensure white dominance and white supremacy.” Who, pray tell, are these evil white nationalist policymakers? Those who favor “border walls, anti-immigrant laws, voter suppression and packing the courts.” Never mind that many advocates of border security also advocate for broader legal immigration. Never mind that nobody actually favors voter suppression. To Blow, an R next to your name signifies merely a less militant Nazism than your neighborhood Hitler Youth.
David Leonhardt of The New York Times similarly argued this week that “American conservatism has a violence problem.” While admitting that conservative America “is mostly filled with honorable people who deplore violence and bear no responsibility for right-wing hate killings” and that “liberal America also has violent and deranged people,” Leonhardt lays the blame for an increase in political violence at the feet of “mainstream conservative politicians,” who are somehow connected to “right-wing extremists.”
There’s something in the water at The New York Times, obviously. Jamelle Bouie, another voice on The Times opinion page, suggested a “connection between white nationalism” and my personal “ideological project.” Never mind that I’ve been perhaps the loudest voice on the right decrying white nationalism for years; that I firmly fight for particular Western civilized values and small-government conservatism that foreclose and despise racism; that I’ve incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in security costs for my trouble; that I require 24/7 security to protect me from white nationalist blowback; and that just weeks ago, the FBI arrested a white nationalist threatening to murder me. Obviously, all conservatives are the same — and all are complicit in the mission of white supremacy.
There can be no unity when one side of the political aisle firmly believes that the other side is motivated by unmitigated evil. No decent conversation about fixes can be had when you assume the person sitting across from you sympathizes with monsters who go to shoot up Hispanic Americans at a Walmart. If we can’t at least assume that we’re all on the same page in condemning white supremacist terror attacks and white supremacist ideology, we may as well pack this republic in. We’re done.