Liquid Media

Arizona shooting: a perfect storm for the conservatives?

By Adrian Bono

Buenos Aires Herald

Six days after the terrible tragedy that afflicted the town of Tucson, Arizona, in which Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was severely wounded by a shot in the head and several others were killed by a mentally unstable man during a political rally, every new detail about the assassination attempt that comes to light seems to add up into a situation that’s best described as a conservative’s worst nightmare and that has right-wing politicians and pundits on the defensive and running scared.

Only minutes after news about the shooting broke, the reaction from liberals across the US was almost unanimous: from former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin to Fox News commentator Glenn Beck and the Tea Party, they were “all to be blamed” for what had happened since many considered this a direct result of the violent rhetoric that, despite being present on both sides of the aisle, was much more virulent on the right.

From suggesting that Obama is a terrorist to accusing Democratic officials of wanting to “destroy the United States,” inflammatory comments from right-wing politicians and pundits have increased ever since Barack Obama came into office. And while liberals also began fighting dirty, accusing them of “bigotry” or “ignorance”, many on the opposite side were “urged to go grab their guns and get ready to defend their freedom” from the “evil clutches of the un-American” Democratic party.

True, even though some details regarding the shooter are still unclear, it seems that his actions were more due to his mental instability than politically motivated.

Still, should conservatives be scared about the recent uproar? All signs point to yes. As many have already set their eyes on the 2012 presidential race, things are not looking good for the Republicans, especially since this latest event has been filled with powerful symbolism that plays in favor of Democratic dogma.

The setting of this tragic incident was Arizona, no less, a state featured until recently on the cover of every newspaper in the world after passing a stringent anti immigration law that would consider the failure to carry immigration documents unlawful and grant the police with the right to detain and question anyone under suspicion of entering the country illegally.

Besides calling it a “Nazi” move, detractors said the bill was a direct discrimination to the Hispanic community regardless of where its members had been born. After condemnation from liberals in the US and abroad, and a series of boycotts against Arizona, the controversy was such that it managed to bring back the immigration debate across the nation once more and ignited random acts of violence against the Hispanic community.

So when it became known that the first person to assist congresswoman Giffords after being shot, increasing her chances of survival, was her 20-year old staffer Daniel Hernandez, the irony was hard to miss. Not only that, but Hernandez – now branded a national hero by the media, although he rejects such term – is gay.

Less than a month ago, conservatives across the US, led by former presidential candidate John McCain, were struggling to maintain Don’t ask, don’t tell, a Clinton era policy that forbid homosexual soldiers, no matter whether they were analysts, translators or even doctors capable of saving the lives of wounded combatants, from serving openly in the military. Eventually, the Democrats finally managed to repeal DADT, which helped Obama score several political points and left McCain scrambling.

Again, ironically enough, John McCain is a senator for Arizona.

But it is his former running mate, Sarah Palin and the ultra right-wing Tea Party movement who have been taking most of the heat since Saturday. Only weeks before the November legislative elections, on Sarah Palin’s Political Action Committee’s website, a map was posted showing cross hairs over the districts of Democrats (Gabrielle Giffords among them) who voted for health care reform. “Don’t retreat, reload!” tweeted Palin as she urged her followers to visit her site. At the same time, Tea Party-favorite Sharron Angle, a Republican candidate running for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s seat in Nevada, talked about “Second Amendment remedies” in case of a Democratic victory (meaning the use of weapons in order to remove an elected official from office).

So it was understandable that after the shooting, such remarks were to be blamed for their incitement to violence as a loud “I told you so!” was heard from liberals across the country who had been warning of the dangers of such a poisonous rhetoric.

And as if all these facts weren’t enough to seriously damage the conservative mindset (or at least prove several liberal points), Obama’s landmark Health Care reform, which was to be repealed symbolically by Republicans in the Lower House on Wednesday, contains significant assistance and options for people suffering from mental illnesses aimed at preventing incidents such as last Saturday’s shooting.

The repeal has now been postponed until next week.

It is highly unlikely that such a tragic incident will make certain people change their views towards the Hispanic or gay communities, gun control or the dangers of using hate or violence to fire up a political base, but the powerful symbolism present in many of the details that continue to come to light since congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot is a force to be reckoned with and a perfect storm for the most hard-lined Tea Party members.

The death of nine-year old Christina Taylor Green, killed during the shooting is tragic, but the fact that she was born on September 11th, 2001 makes it feel even more tragic.

That is how powerful a symbol is.

“I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it,” stated President Barack Obama last Wednesday during a televised memorial service in Tucson, referring to the young girl while making clear his intentions of putting an end to the raw debate that has divided the political world in a way that hadn’t been seen in decades.

Or, as Daniel Hernandez said in his speech during the ceremony, that this tragic shooting will bring “glimmers of hope” to the American people, no matter what their ideology.

Hopefully conservatives were listening that night.