06.12.16

After Orlando, the right points to radical Islam, while the left points to guns, hate (Washington Post)

What happened in Orlando early Sunday morning, which already ranks as the deadliest mass shooting in American history, quickly raised big political questions about terrorism, guns and hate crimes.

And answers to those questions are still unfolding at this very early hour, with details about how the tragedy came about slowly trickling out.

The combination of all of those things makes the tragedy a particularly combustible combination of some of the most passion-infused issues in American politics, with people on both sides quickly zeroing in on one particular aspect of it to make their political point.

 

Those on the right were quick to blame radical Islamic terrorism; the suspected gunman had "declared his allegiance to ISIS," according to the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Meanwhile, those on the left were more apt to a frame this as a hate crime against gay people — the shooting happened at an LGBT nightclub on the opening weekend of Pride Month — or to talk about Orlando in the context of mass shootings more broadly, especially given this was the deadliest ever.

 

From a purely political perspective, that split is entirely predictable. But this is the rare mass shooting that quickly led to both sides to push their political priorities. When the perpetrator of such shootings has been a Muslim, Republicans have pounced. When the shootings appear to be a hate crime, Democrats have been quicker to invoke politics. While details are still scarce, Orlando quickly gave both sides reason to shout.

 

We'll quickly note that that law enforcement officials said this was an act of terrorism (whether international or domestic isn't clear) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), like Schiff, said the shooter appeared to have connections to radical Islam.

 

But we'll also point out what actually happened is still very, very unclear.

The political conversation will no doubt take a firmer shape as we learn more about what happened in Orlando. But it's telling that as our nation reels from the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, it quickly became about politics for both sides -- with much different focuses.