Personal Responsibility and Incitement to Riot

Andrew McCarthy had an op-ed in Saturday’s National Review in which he talked about the impeachment of Richard Nixon and the impending impeachment of President Donald Trump. In his discussion of Trump, McCarthy had this:

I do think the president has committed an impeachable offense, making a reckless speech that incited a throng on the mall….

He made that claim while offering no evidence. In particular, he chose not to quote Trump or to walk us through his logic in getting from what Trump said to that conclusion. He did offer this:

The president was utterly irresponsible in his demagoguery. He plainly intended for thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol to create political pressure on Vice President Pence and congressional Republicans—i.e., to induce them to take what would have been lawless procedural steps to invalidate electoral votes that states had cast for President-elect Biden.

Demagoguery: a carefully inflammatory—and wholly unsupported—characterization, the nature of which is quite unlike McCarthy’s normal bent.

But beyond that, Trump did, indeed, encourage his supporters to “create political pressure”—that’s what protests are intended to do; they’re not pleasant, sun-blessed strolls with parasols on ladies’ shoulders. As to the “lawless” procedural steps, there were plenty of Congressmen—lawmakers—in both Houses who disagree with the purported lawless nature of the steps being advocated. However zealously.

But there’s a far larger point here, and that’s personal agency, or it’s apparently assumed lack.

Conservatives emphasize the importance of individual—personal—responsibility. That would include the rioters being responsible for their own actions; no one else was then or is now. No one put guns to the rioters, or forced them in any other way, to invade the Capital Building. They did that from their own, deliberately chosen, decisions. Full stop.

What happened to McCarthy’s conservatism? Does he really believe adult human beings are not personally responsible, instead holding that their Betters control those lesser ones’ actions?

I expect that from Progressive-Democrats; that’s at the heart of their “incitement” impeachment claim. And the claim is as insulting to Americans with our individual responsibilities as it is purely political and an act of satisfying pent up grudges.

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