Published in partnership with Shadowproof.
A vibrant movement for economic and social justice in the United States exists among people, who largely supported Senator Bernie Sanders for president in the 2016 election. It is making gains electorally and socially, as more and more politicians become open to the idea of enacting a living wage and establishing a Medicare For All system.
But in the aftermath of a shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, media are crawling the social media accounts of the alleged shooter, James Hodgkinson, who is reportedly dead. They have uncovered the fact that Hodgkinson was a Sanders supporter and campaign volunteer.
The Belleville News Democrat, a daily newspaper in Belleville, Illinois, published letters to the editor that Hodgkinson wrote in 2012. He railed against the lowering of taxes for the top one percent. He was distraught over worsening income inequality. He favored the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana and higher tax brackets for the wealthy
Hodgkinson’s political support for Sanders will be used by the GOP and its supporters to blame the shooting on the Democratic socialist senator. His rhetoric and advocacy for the 99 percent will be cited as if it was a factor in Hodgkinson’s decision to shoot members of Congress.
It also appears Hodgkinson still believed Sanders was far more deserving of the nomination after Hillary Clinton became the Democratic presidential nominee. He did not want to vote for Clinton and encouraged support for Jill Stein, who was the Green Party presidential nominee.
Those working for economic, social, racial, and environmental justice will be treated to calls for civility. They will be told in the aftermath of tragedy there is more of a need than ever for bipartisanship, to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans. Democratic Party leaders will likely suggest if there was not so much tension this would not have happened, and likewise, Republicans will point fingers at Democrats for their intense attacks on President Donald Trump.
But neither of these movements, which have managed to grow in strength in the past months, advocate violence as a tool for achieving their goals. Sanders has never suggested political assassinations are a means to lifting up the working class.
Corporations and wealthy backers of politicians may be at war with the poor, but poor and working class people were never urged to arm themselves and seize power through violence in 2016.
That may be beyond obvious, but as politicians, pundits, and prominent GOP supporters make performative statements, there will be a level of crassness that has to be shut down.
For example, Representative Chris Collins, a Republican from New York. He said on a local New York radio station, “I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric. The rhetoric has been outrageous, the finger pointing, just the tone and the angst and the anger directed at Donald Trump, his supporters. Really, then some people react to that. They get angry as well, and then you fuel the fires.”
He described the shooting as a wake-up call and suggested people not do things like “what they did at my office a couple weeks ago. They had a die-in. It’s gone too far.”
The die-in was a protest against Collins’ support for health care legislation that will result in the loss of insurance coverage for millions of Americans. It is not the cause of violence. The cause of violence was the alleged shooter, and the public may never really know why he opened fire because he is dead.
Angry protest, absent incitements to violence, is not a precursor to political assassinations. Voting third party or refusing to support the two-party system is not a precursor to violence. Social movements for economic, social, racial, and environmental justice are not precursors to targeted killings of Congress members. None of these are markers on a path toward violent radicalization.
However, the United States is a society dominated by a culture of violence. There are countless right-wing extremists, who have picked up arms, in order to kill people for political reasons, whether it be to murder Muslims they do not want in the country or to send a message to undocumented immigrants that they are unwelcome.
This may be violence born out of a dark political moment, where the Senate was about to pass a health care bill that will hurt and possibly result in the deaths of many citizens.
Additionally, parts of the left consistently engage in defeatism and act as if Trump has the country on the march toward fascism and there is little citizens can do. Even though mobilizations give some Americans reason for hope, it is possible Hodgkinson believed the country was descending into fascism and he had to do something about it because Democrats are not going to stop it.
That is not to excuse the political assassination attempts that occurred. Representative Steve Scalise may be whatever people say he is, from a white supremacist to a climate change denier to a pawn bankrolled by Charles and David Koch to advance their insidious corporate agenda. It should not be contentious on the left to state that Republicans do not deserve political assassination.
The People’s Summit in Chicago was a demonstration of what movements throughout the U.S. are accomplishing as they mobilize against neoliberalism from Democrats and Trumpism from Republicans. They, and other grassroots efforts, will keep achieving wins without violence because citizens are waking up to the morally bankrupt agendas of both of the country’s two most dominant political parties.
In coverage of the shooting from one of the liberal establishment’s favorite news publications, The New York Times obscenely suggested Sanders supporters have a “belligerent reputation for their criticism of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, and others who they believed disagreed with their ideas.”
“Sanders fans, sometimes referred to derogatorily as ‘Bernie Bros’ or ‘Bernie Bots,’ at times harassed reporters covering Mr. Sanders and flooded social media with angry posts directed at the “corporate media,” a term often used by the senator,” reporter Yamiche Alcindor added.
“The suspect in the shooting in Virginia put a new spotlight on the rage buried in some corners of the progressive left.”
This excerpt from the Times shows why it was necessary in the immediate hours after the attack to make it clear that Sanders and his supporters bear no responsibility for the shooting.
There is not one iota of evidence in this paragraph of belligerence. It seems to be wholly based on rumor, gossip, and vitriol found on social media and likely promoted by Clinton Democrats.
The Times essentially reinforced right-wing reactionary views of Sanders and his supporters by publishing this piece. They helped make this perception a part of a bipartisan consensus—that Sanders supporters have a “reputation” for violence, and that is false.