Port: What if Republicans just acknowledged that we have an extremism problem and took responsibility for it?

Decency should be its own reward.

Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
Bloomberg photo by Yuri Gripas
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Minot, N.D. — I wrote my weekend column about the recent debates between North Dakota's U.S. Senate candidates. Those events featured Republican incumbent John Hoeven's angry challengers — former Republican Rick Becker and Democratic-NPL candidate Katrina Christiansen — laying their campaign strategies bare.

They hope to create enough hate for Hoeven that one of them can win in November. "We don't need more angry people in Washington," I argued, in response.

I wrote that column before Paul Pelosi, husband to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, was horrifically assaulted in his home by a hammer-wielding psychotic who may have had more targets on his list .

Now I stand by my point.

We don't need more angry people in Washington.


The reaction to the terrible incident at the Pelosi home, if you haven't been paying attention, has been about as depressing as you'd expect. Democrats all but indicted for the assault every Republican who has ever suggested that maybe Nancy Pelosi shouldn't be in Congress, let alone the Speaker's chair. That includes Christiansen, by the way, who took to Twitter (where she does the bulk of her campaigning) to pour partisan gas on the fire:

Republicans, meanwhile, refused to accept that at least some of their rhetoric about Pelosi has crossed the line. The attacker himself was an aficionado of QAnon election conspiracies and has used some of the same antisemitic rhetoric that newly minted right-wing darling Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) has in recent weeks.

Republicans don't get to pretend like that sort of stuff hasn't become staples of the rhetoric their political base uses every day. Heck, some high-profile Republicans (and people Republicans have an affinity for these days) were busy spreading conspiracy theories about the attack on Pelosi.

"It's going to be painful, but Republicans can't just turn away from Trump. Republicans have to lead their people away from Trumpism and the morass of conspiracy-addled grievance and unvarnished racism it has become," Rob Port writes.
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Elon Musk, who now owns Twitter, was one of the most egregious offenders.

And right here in North Dakota, a messaging group that included several Republican candidates, officeholders, and activists (including Becker's campaign manager) routinely featured bigoted slurs, white supremacist tropes and antisemitic conspiracy theories while those members looked on and did nothing .

In a better sort of world, Republicans would display some accountability. They'd acknowledge that things have gotten out of hand. They'd condemn antisemitism and election conspiracies and call for a more respectful sort of opposition to Democratic leadership. They'd make it clear that Democrats are opponents, not enemies, and from that moral high ground, they might then have the authority to condemn Democrats who have looked the other way while left-wing extremists attacked legally permitted pipeline projects , burned down police stations , and damaged a federal courthouse .

But Republicans can't claim that moral high ground because they're so afraid of their base they can barely find the gumption to condemn the January 6 attack on the U.S. capitol without equivocation. Worse, many Republicans will argue that they shouldn't take responsibility for over-the-top rhetoric because Democrats won't do the same.

My answer is . . . so what?


Decency should be its own reward, not some arms reduction treaty.

Some of you, at this point, may want to accuse me of engaging in the very sort of whataboutism I'm trying to condemn. "You can't just say that both sides are bad," you might want to argue.

Except that I can.

Political extremism is an American problem, and to the extent that there are two sides to it, it should be the extremists who want violence and mayhem and fear versus the rest of us who just want a vigorous debate.

Whatboutism is something different. Whataboutism is suggesting that only the people you disagree with are a part of the problem, and that nobody on your side is.

There isn't a single person in American who can say that right now.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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