As the nation reflected on the tragedy in Tucson, Ariz., on Monday, everyday politics remained frozen for official Washington. But on the airwaves and among left- and right-leaning activists, there was no cease-fire.
Liberals who immediately condemned hate speech and harsh anti-government rhetoric as contributing factors in the shooting that killed six people and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), came under heavy criticism from conservatives. Talk-show hosts charged Democrats with trying to exploit a national tragedy.
Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show that it’s Democrats and media outlets who are looking to politicize the violence. The conservative talk radio icon, whom many Republicans have looked to for political cues over the years, said Monday that his party does not “look to these events to move our political agenda forward.”
The Democratic Party, Limbaugh said, is “a party that seeks to profit out of murder.” He added that the political left “openly wishes for such disaster in order to profit from it.”
“The desperate hope that the losers in November of 2010 had was that they could revitalize their political fortunes because of this unfortunate shooting of a Congresswoman in Arizona,” Limbaugh said. “But the left is depraved, empty and without any political substance whatsoever.”
His nationally syndicated radio program, as aired on the Tucson station 790 KNST, included multiple spots for local gun stores. One, Black Weapons Armory, touted its line of “sound suppressors.”
The Tea Party Express began a fundraising effort Monday to ask supporters to help them fight against “liberals” who are attempting to link their movement to the events in Arizona. “Tea Party Won’t Be Silenced After Shooting,” read the fundraising e-mail issued Monday.
Other tea partyers were baffled when asked whether any of their political activity would be temporarily suspended, just as national campaign committees postponed ad campaigns and the official party structures took a breather from sending their usual barrage of e-mails.
“Everything continues on the course that it’s always been on,” Tea Party Patriots spokesman Randy Lewis told Roll Call.
Lewis said members have been offering prayers and well wishes to the victims following the shooting.
The Tea Party Patriots next month will hold a first-ever policy conference in Phoenix, and there has been no discussion about delaying the event. Lewis said it was always planned as a conference without rallies, an event helping the group transition from electoral politics into developing public policy for 2011.
Tea party groups and conservatives have rejected arguments that their revolutionary rhetoric of recent years, which has sometimes implied violent means for political ends, was in any way responsible for the shooting.