I was at CNN during the August recess town hall meetings of 2009. I remember one Virginia Democratic congressman discovered someone had tampered with a propane tank for a grill at his home. CNN gave it extraordinary attention. They showed a graphic on screen of all the Democratic members of Congress that had been harassed or received death threats. They noted that Eric Cantor, then one of the leading Republicans in Congress, had also gotten harassed, but downplayed it. One Republican got a bullet through his campaign office window, but it appeared to be unrelated to Obamacare they reported. Democrats nationwide, however, were routinely being harassed and targeted.
Never mind that of all the arrests during that August period but one, were union activists trying to incite conservatives to violence. It was the conservative disruption that got all the attention. It got lots of attention. When Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot, I remember distinctly the conversations at CNN turned to war rhetoric in politics and how it needed to change. At one point, I was on air with John King and he used the word “targeting” before stopping and rephrasing. In the aftermath of the Giffords situation, he didn’t think it appropriate. Given tensions at the time, he was right.
I bring that all up because I can’t help but note how times have changed. Harassment of Democrats got extraordinary, multi-day coverage on multiple news networks in 2009. Now? A Republican congressman was driven off the road by a Democrat and some media outlets, BuzzFeed included, have written about how the Republican congressman had ignored his constituents. He was not the victim, the woman who ran him off the road was.
Democrats at town halls who are disrupting Republicans are treated as heroes. It is democracy in action. Mock a congressman whose daughter died? It’s acceptable. The media barely covers it. Now, Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina has collapsed and Democratic partisans are openly hoping he dies because he opposes Obamacare.
I can’t help but think if Republicans were doing this to Democrats, CNN and other networks would again give multiple days of coverage to it. But it has become so commonplace for Democrats to do this that it does not get covered, or the media is sympathetic to their acting out.
Democrats and much of the media have become convinced that not supporting Obamacare means Republicans want to deny people health care and let them die. They truly believe it. The truth is that the GOP does not want people to die, but believes there are better ways of providing people affordable health care. These are policy differences. Both sides still want roughly the same outcome, but they still disagree philosophically on how to do it.
But Democrats are now openly cheering on the deaths of Republicans because of public policy differences. It is sick, and if the shoe was on the other foot, the media would be giving extraordinary coverage to it.
Something else is at play here too. Around the nation, we have lost a sense of civility. Our neighbors are now unknown and our friends online we have never met have become the people we care about. Everyone around us thinks like us and believes like us because no one is around us except ourselves and our self-selected social media platforms.
All of us need to do a better job of remembering that the other side is just the opposition, not the enemy. If we don’t, we will find ourselves in dire straits as a nation.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.