Most people are familiar with the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
The incendiary rhetoric that has engulfed our political system has demonstrated that especially violent words can cause hurt, even death, to others.
The most recent example is a California man who showed up last week at the Maryland home of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Police say he had a gun, bullets, zip ties, and duct tape and was intent on assassinating Kavanaugh before calling 911 and claiming he was suicidal. He’s been charged with attempted murder.
Two years ago, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stood outside the Supreme Court and delivered these fiery words to a crowd of demonstrators opposed to the reversal of Roe v. Wade: “I want to tell you, (Justice Neil) Gorsuch; I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Schumer later said, “I shouldn’t have used the words I used.” Too late. The damage had been done.
While Republicans cannot claim purity when it comes to radical rhetoric, Democrats seem to use harsh words more often and then deny any responsibility for what comes next—from attempted and actual murder, to looting, property damage, and violent crime.
While many Democrats (and the two Republicans) on the House January 6 committee blame former president Donald Trump for inciting the Capitol riot, they are curiously unconcerned about the rhetoric of Schumer and others within their own party.
Here are a few examples of incendiary rhetoric by Democrats, compiled by The Federalist.com.
In 2018, Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California said on MSNBC that if Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller, there would be “widespread civil unrest” as people would “take to the streets.”
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper agreed that if Trump fired Mueller, it would “set off a firestorm not only on the Hill but also in the streets.”
That same year, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) urged people to answer a “call to action” to protest at the Capitol. “Please, get up in the face of some congresspeople,” Booker said at a conference.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) called for protesters to “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” should a Minnesota jury acquit former police officer Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd. On another occasion, Waters said about Trump supporters: “You get out and create a crowd. You push back on them. You tell them they are not welcomed anymore or anywhere.”
In 2018, Hillary Clinton said civility was only an option if the Democrats controlled the legislative branch. “You can’t be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for and what you care for.”
Former Attorney General Eric Holder quoted Michelle Obama and added his own thought: “Michelle … always says, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. No. When they go low, we kick them.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that, in politics, “when you’re in the arena, you have to be ready to take a punch, and you have to be ready to throw a punch … for the children.”
Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) went even lower when he encouraged people to “punch Trump in the face.”
When rhetoric gets heated, perhaps the best way to be heard is to speak in a tone Scripture attributes to God—“a still, small voice.” As noted by the writer of Proverbs: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)