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Opinion newsletter: The right’s ‘murderous rage’ problem

A noose attached to a wooden beam was erected outside the U.S. Capitol as backers of President Trump stormed inside Jan. 6.
A noose attached to a wooden beam was erected outside the U.S. Capitol as supporters of President Trump stormed inside on Jan. 6.
(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. One year ago today, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency, after which then-President Trump assured Americans that it would have a “very good ending for us.” Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

It’s no secret that those of us in journalism have taken our lumps from the public during the Trump presidency, some of them more dizzying than others. The pace of aggressively disagreeable comments picked up around the Nov. 3 election and, for me at least, peaked after the Jan. 6 insurrection. Memorably, one reader assured me that I would face the same fate as those declared guilty of war crimes by the Nuremburg tribunal.

So I was, as I’m sure others in the media were, quick to click as soon as I saw this L.A. Times Op-Ed headline: “I called Arizona for Biden on Fox News. Here’s what I learned.” In the piece, recently fired Fox News election forecaster Chris Stirewalt writes of the “murderous rage” that Trump supporters directed at him after he correctly projected on election night that Joe Biden would win Arizona. He blames their refusal to accept reality on the steady diet of unbalanced, under-reported partisan entertainment fed to them as “news” over many years.

This is where I’d like to put a finer point on the problem identified by Stirewalt. As someone in opinion journalism, I’ve had disagreements with readers on all parts of the political spectrum, but the “murderous rage” that Stirewalt identifies has come from precisely one portion of it: the far right. Plenty of liberal readers were upset with me when I put together an entire page of conservative and pro-Trump letters after the election and explained why it was still important to communicate with people who make up a non-negligible portion of the electorate. Some said I was giving comfort to white supremacists and overlooking marginalized communities in Los Angeles that have never had a voice in newspapers like The Times. Not one of them wished death or poverty on me or any of my colleagues.

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So yes, there’s plenty of ideological, paper-thin content being fed to people today disguised as journalism, but it’s important to be clear that the “murderous rage” isn’t another “all sides do it” problem.

Joe Biden needs to define what “unity” means. It isn’t difficult to see that Republicans and Democrats have different ideas of what it means, and those differences will weigh heavily on how aggressively Congress address the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. Republicans bemoaned Biden’s raft of executive orders reversing some of the Trump administration’s most controversial actions, writes Jon Healey, but they’re wrong to say that they somehow undermine his appeals for unity. L.A. Times

Stop calling mainstream liberals “socialist.” Definitionally it’s plain wrong, and for Republicans the attack doesn’t work, writes Robin Abcarian. They tried it with Barack Obama, and now they’re trying desperately to encumber Biden with the label. Problem is, just about everyone recognizes that in a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, we actually need competent government: “As families suffer and Americans die because the Trump administration refused to lead during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to sell the idea that we need less government.” L.A. Times

A likely innocent man is sitting on death row in California. In 1983, four members of a white Chino Hills family were brutally murdered, and the sole survivor of that attack indicated that a group of white men was responsible. Still, sheriff’s deputies in San Bernardino County identified Kevin Cooper, a Black man, as the sole suspect. There have been many questions about Cooper’s guilt over the years; now, with new DNA analyses complete, there is more than enough evidence for Gov. Gavin Newsom to create a high-level commission to examine the evidence and make a possible clemency recommendation. New York Times

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California’s age-based vaccine policy is overlooking disabled people. Tim Jin warns that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s focus on vaccinating state residents according solely to age leaves people like him, who are under 65 but have disabilities that put them at risk, cruelly and unnecessarily vulnerable to COVID-19. He writes: “California’s vaccine policy must be altered to make us a priority. The science says people with disabilities are disproportionately dying of COVID. Why isn’t Gov. Newsom listening?” L.A. Times

Saving passenger rail in America can be a small but real step toward bipartisanship. LZ Granderson, our newest Op-Ed columnist, says he finds political discussions on funding public services lacking in one major regard: They focus too much on the bottom line and not nearly enough on the priceless value they add to our lives. The way we talk about passenger rail in this country — Amtrak in particular — reflects this fact. L.A. Times

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.


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