I remember back when I was a Republican voter just how relieved I was when the Clinton presidency was over. Finally, someone could restore honor to the White House, which George W. Bush promised during his first campaign. (Whether he ultimately delivered? That’s not today’s discussion … although I’m not aware of any terrorist positively citing Bush in their manifesto.)
Even as I’ve moved leftward over the years — which seems to happen the more someone reads books (not ghostwritten for TV hosts), travels, and meets people from very different backgrounds — I still feel pretty comfortable about that feeling. It’s still not clear how many of Bill’s extracurricular relationships were consensual, and even those that were don’t seem 100%.
I wasn’t alone in that feeling, clearly. But, I also wasn’t as far deep down the Far Right rabbit hole as others. Take, for instance, the Militias that metastasized during the Clinton years in response to talk radio-promoted fears of gun seizures, FEMA camps, and black helicopters. It took Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 before we started treating these groups seriously … for a brief time until the Right successfully reframed reports on militias’ and other right wing extremists’ preparations for similar violence as political bias.
The mainstream right missed an opportunity there. Rather than feign outrage and inadvertently claim the militias as part of the Republican Party, they could have agreed that:
- There is no place for violence in our politics.
- Armed lunatics do not represent us.
- Law enforcement should prioritize closer surveillance of groups proven to be both arming themselves at an alarming rate and to have members who perpetrated the worst terrorist attack in the country second only to 9/11.
None of that happened, obviously. And it was one of several pushes that sent me to the Left.
Fast-forward 24 years to today and we have another president embroiled in scandal both personal and constitutional. And Right Wing Extremist-perpetrated violence is becoming more common again around the world, from Charlottesville, Virginia to Christchurch, New Zealand.
But, as similar as things seem, there’s one glaring difference. When McVeigh and company attacked ordinary Americans, including children in a daycare center, they cited Clinton administration members as potential targets for their violence, not as sources of inspiration. They likely considered Clinton Public Enemy Number 1, which I guess is a type of inspiration, but not the way terrorists are praising our current president and his vilification of religious, ethnic, and racial others through tweet and policy.
I don’t think it’s asking much to again wish for the return of dignity and honor to the White House. I’d like for evil to consider our president its enemy, not a continuing source of inspiration. Or at least to not feel like he’s earned a nod in their manifesto — indifference is good, too.