Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much, but they agree that sometimes, individual freedom must yield to the imperatives of public safety. They also agree that sometimes, efforts to save lives come at too high a price in liberty. Trouble is, they can’t agree on when.
The aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre illustrates how either party employs a different calculus depending on the problem at hand. Each has blind spots that become apparent in moments of crisis.
Consider the GOP pronouncements after the 2015 San Bernardino shootings in which Islamic extremists killed 14 people. Nothing was going to get in the way of a ferocious assault on terrorists.
Chris Christie blamed Barack Obama for failing to grasp “that the most basic responsibility of an administration is to protect the safety and security of the American people.” Marco Rubio defended mass electronic surveillance, arguing that after the next attack, “the first thing people are going to want to know is, why didn’t we know about it and why didn’t we stop it?”
And the Las Vegas massacre? Christie said it “leaves us grasping for answers.” Rubio said he was praying for the victims. No one blamed the president. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said that people caught in such attacks should, “you know, try to stay safe. As somebody said, get small.”
After mass shootings, Democrats demand legislation to ban certain weapons or accessories and restrict access to guns. In these situations, unlike the case with terrorist incidents, Republicans put all their emphasis on personal rights.
Their attitude parallels the Democratic stance on other dangers. Democrats faulted Donald Trump’s travel order for stranding a lot of innocent travelers and refugees on the off chance of keeping out terrorists. Some praised Edward…