The violence that followed a demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia Saturday handed the extreme left a significant moral victory, thanks, in large part, to another dumbfounding display of appeasement by many conservatives. Although Republican politicians and many conservative pundits took to social media in swift condemnation of David Duke and his ragtag band of neo-Nazis, one would never have noticed it, judging by the response from the left.
Amazingly, most conservatives and libertarians – including those revered intellectuals who assume they hold the moral high-ground – have yet to figure out one important truth: According to the left, we, the entire body of the right-wing, are extremists. We are all racists; we are all bigots; we are all driven by nothing more than fear and hatred. No amount of pandering to the left by publicly proclaiming our disgust for white supremacists is going to change that. We do not stand upon the moral high-ground because there is not a single patch of morality within our entire landscape, according to the left. No matter how forcefully and directly we shun the ideology of those who believe they are superior beings by virtue of their white skin, we will never separate ourselves from them with empty platitudes.
The reaction from leftists on social media, and from some Democratic politicians, has been telling. On the one hand, the left is pushing the narrative that Republican politicians – especially President Trump himself – and prominent conservatives in the media are responsible for the violence, having constantly incited hatred and racism. On the other hand, the left doesn’t want to hear condemnations of violence, bigotry, and hatred; the left wants to hear specific condemnations of right-wing violence, bigotry, and hatred. Indeed, left-wingers find it offensive that any conservative or Republican politician would dare to suggest that such awful traits of human nature are displayed by some people on both sides of the political divide.
The president condemned the violence in Virginia but was immediately panned for not aiming his criticism exclusively at the white supremacists. “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets [sic] come together as one!” The president tweeted Saturday morning. Responses from left-wingers contained no praise for Trump’s remark, however. Those responses lambasted him for not focusing his condemnation on the so-called ‘Unite the Right’ protesters. The mere inference that both sides shared blame for the violence was simply unacceptable. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, tweeted “Of course we condemn ALL that hate stands for. Until @POTUS specifically condemns alt-right action in Charlottesville, he hasnt [sic] done his job.”
We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
Of course we condemn ALL that hate stands for. Until @POTUS specifically condemns alt-right action in Charlottesville, he hasnt done his job
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 12, 2017
Democrat Mark Herring, Virginia’s Attorney General, went one step further: “The violence, chaos, and apparent loss of life in Charlottesville is not the fault of “many sides.” It is racists and white supremacists.” He wrote on Twitter. This, of course, completely disregards certain, unavoidable realities; the ‘Unite the Right’ protesters were holding a lawful protest and it is extremely unlikely that there would have been any violence, had not a host of leftist counter-protesters descended upon the normally peaceful city.
The violence, chaos, and apparent loss of life in Charlottesville is not the fault of "many sides." It is racists and white supremacists.
— Mark Herring (@MarkHerringVA) August 12, 2017
When the Black Lives Matter movement was founded, that same leftist, one-sided moral standard quickly became apparent. “Black lives matter!” was an admirable proclamation. The movement’s members, however – along with the rest of the progressive left – were horrified by the statement “all lives matter.” This is how the extreme left views the state of American society; the very notion that unstable, hateful or even dangerous people exist on both sides of the political divide is utterly rejected. Should a conservative dare to suggest such a thing – as many have done – they are portrayed as merely attempting to provide cover for the crazies on their side.
If conservatives are not quick to condemn the real extremist speech and actions of fringe lunatics, they are accused of being sympathetic to that extremism. If conservatives are quick to condemn, they are accused of being sympathetic to that extremism. There is something wrong with this picture. Should conservatives, then, not bother to call out this minority element that spews racism and xenophobia? Yes, they should, but calling them out is not enough. Extremist ideology should be fully exposed and then dissected and dismantled, point by point; it should be compared to conservative and libertarian values and, most importantly, it should be revealed as entirely incompatible with the Constitution. Conservatives and libertarians must be the ones to do this. Mere expressions of disgust are pointless gestures.
Even repugnant speech is protected by the First Amendment, and those on the right who are too quick to jump on the condemnation bandwagon need to remember this. The violence in Charlottesville will, inevitably, lead to a campaign by leftists to restrict and punish what they consider “hate speech” and, particularly, racist speech. The same conservatives and Republican politicians who were so eager to go along with the cacophony of outrage will be hard-pressed to push back against such moves, having themselves condemned it so enthusiastically.
If free speech – already under heavy assault by the left – truly dies in America, it will be because too many people on the right lacked the courage to stand in its defense.