This week’s biggest political controversies exposed fault lines within the country’s major political factions, with the right fighting about civil disobedience while the left fought over the attempted murder of a Republican Congressman.
Shakespeare in the Park
On Friday night, two conservatives disrupted a New York performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that escalates the left’s campaign of imagery designed to cathartically depict the death or murder of President Donald Trump. TheRebel.tv’s Laura Loomer was arrested for running onstage during the Shakespeare in the Park production, while activist Jack Posobiec taped her demonstration and shouted at the crowd: “The blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands!”
Several authors at anti-Trump conservative publications condemned Loomer and Posobiec, arguing that the two infringed on the free speech of Shakespeare in the Park and their tactics were too close to the Occupy of Black Lives Matter movement.
Pro-Trump conservatives labeled this faction the “old right,” stating that there is no moral equivalence between this disruption and the violence of left-wing protesters in dozens of recent incidents.
Schlichter vs. Podhoretz
One archetypical exchange in the aftermath of the Julius Caesar demonstration saw Tablet editor and “Never Trump”-er John Podhoretz facing off with lawyer and author Kurt Schlichter.
Cernovich vs. Shapiro
Even more heated was the war of words between independent author and White House reporter Mike Cernovich, responding to criticism from former Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large and “Never Trump”-er Ben Shapiro.
After trading a few intense personal insults, both men reiterated their arguments — but no longer directly to each other.
At the same time, the left was infighting over a much more high-stakes topic: targeted political violence.
On Wednesday, a 66-year-old Illinois man opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and putting him in critical condition through the weekend. The attacker — James Hodgkinson, who was killed by police returning fire — also shot Two Capitol Police officers, a congressional staffer, and a lobbyist. The Daily Caller has reported that investigators found a list of GOP lawmakers’ names on Hodgkinson’s body.
Instead of universal condemnation, Hodgkinson’s attack has brought about a tone-policing feud between the establishment left and the social justice left.
Over the weekend, several Verified progressives of varying prominence — an L.A. Times blogger, the creator of #OscarsSoWhite, a rapper with 250 YouTube subscribers, an Uproxx editor, and TV actor George Takei — argued that sympathy for Rep. Scalise should not outweigh his sinful acts as a lawmaker. In most cases, more traditional liberals scolded their more radical peers for generating bad optics.
Josh Barro, an editor at Business Insider, wrote a thread on how the dehumanization of the left’s political opponents is “bad for society.” Dozens of progressives rebuked Barro in the responses, calling him misguided, “insincere,” and “white boy.”
On the other side of the argument, New Jersey Democratic strategist James Devine urged progressives to “hunt Republican Congressmen.”
Scarborough vs. Reid
On Saturday, MSNBC host Joy Reid called the situation “delicate” because, while “everybody is wishing the congressman well and hoping that he recovers” from an apparent assassination attempt, Reid lamented that “Scalise has a history that we’ve all been forced to sort of ignore on race.”
Joe Scarborough, one of Reid’s colleagues, appeared to attack this segment — without naming his target. CNN anchor Jake Tapper co-signed the condemnation.
Pelosi vs. Pelosi
Septuagenarian Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s conflicting reactions to the Scalise shooting provided the clearest example of progressive id vs. progressive super-ego.
On the day of the shooting, she said — in direct contradiction to virtually every other statement she has made about President Trump and Republicans — that she prayed for unity in the wake of the attack.
Yet the very next day, in a seemingly unscripted moment, she returned to her default position of partisan blame:
Somewhere in the 1990s, Republicans decided on the politics of personal destruction as they went after the Clintons and that is the provenance of it and is what has continued. Again, I feel as if we’re having a family moment that is very, very serious and we’re talking about things that we can say, the discussion—save the discussion for another day. When you have a president that says, “I can shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and nobody would care,” when you have people saying, “beat them up and I’ll pay their legal fees,” when you have all the assaults that are made on Hillary Clinton, for them to be so sanctimonious is something.
The New Political Landscape
Two parties — Republicans and Democrats — still essentially rule American politics, but their constituencies are becoming more tribal and divided, even against their electoral allies. Trump voters hate Republican lawmakers, such as Sens. John McCain and Ben Sasse, for publicly attacking the president and his agenda during and after the 2016 election. Democrats are still picking up the pieces from a contentious DNC leadership race, where establishment-friendly Obama ally Evan Perez narrowly defeated far-left Rep. Keith Ellison.
These same divisions play out in cultural institutions, such as the social justice warriors purging classical liberal professor Bret Weinstein from the Evergreen State College campus or Fox News’ internal fight over the future of its programming style.
The arguments taking place now are over what are appropriate means to victory over the other side: for the right, whether to be polite or ruthless — and for the left, whether to be ruthless or violent.