A Thought Experiment

What would have happened if the Congresswoman with whom Jared Loughner apparently had been more or less obsessed since 2007 had been a Republican? Would Republicans have blamed the Tucson murders on Democrats’ “eliminationist rhetoric”? They would have had a relatively good case; to take just one of many examples, they could have pointed to Democratic Congressman Paul Kanjorski, who said that the Republican candidate for Governor of Florida should be put against a wall and shot. I am not aware of a single instance where any Republican politician has said anything so inflammatory. But no: frankly, it would not have occurred to conservatives to try to make a connection between Democrats, no matter how disreputable they may be, and the act of a deranged lunatic in Arizona.
How about the Democrats? Would they have responded to the murder of a Republican Congresswoman by calling on Democrats to tone down their rhetoric and get off the radio or television? Just kidding, obviously.
Here is what would have happened if Loughner had shot only Republicans (we should keep in mind that Judge Roll and, no doubt, others among Loughner’s victims, were Republicans). We would be hearing about nothing but gun control. Every Democrat on television who is now talking about a “climate of hate,” or “eliminationist rhetoric,” would instead be railing against our gun laws.
That is what happened when John Hinckley, a nut more or less on a par with Jared Loughner, tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan. Not a single Democratic politician or pundit linked Hinckley’s act to the vicious attacks that the Democrats had launched against Reagan for years leading up to the assassination attempt. No: their focus was exclusively on gun laws. That is exactly what would have happened if Gabrielle Giffords had happened to be a Republican.