The saying goes that you learn a lot about a person when the chips are down.
In the time after the initial reports on the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise and three others by James Hodgkinson, we learned a sad truth about the Republicans' fixation on terrorism — they're willing to label anyone a terrorist except white conservative men.
A 2015 study by the New America Foundation found that since 9/11, white extremists have killed almost twice as many Americans on American soil as radical Muslims and, by and large, these attacks are committed by right-wing men.
Homegrown terrorism by an increasingly-radicalized far right is a very real threat to Americans, much more so than jihadists from overseas. Yet President Donald Trump and the GOP push forward with an ill-informed Muslim ban, claiming it will stop terrorists from hurting Americans. Terrorists are already hurting Americans, and the terrorists are other Americans.
The president himself is notoriously quick to point fingers and cry "terrorist," but only when that act of violence is committed by someone of Islamic faith. He has pushed forward with bigoted border control policies designed to keep radicalized Muslims out of America, but he does not devote the same obsessive attention to the extremists that are already living in the country, many of whom are white male members of his own political party.
The FBI has stated that it is still investigating whether or not the Virginia shooting was a terrorist attack or an assassination attempt, but the current known facts of the case place it eerily in line with other acts of terrorism in the United States committed by white men. There is a key difference though: Hodgkinson was a liberal.
The shooting of Scalise and four others may be the first time we've heard the word "terrorist" out of Republican mouths in relation to a white man's act of violence. Just hours after the incident, the right was already speculating that this was an act of domestic terrorism, a departure from their usual scapegoat as Hodgkinson was a white American, but a useful maneuver politically. He wasn't Muslim, but he was the next best thing.
Breitbart was quick to pose the question of whether this was domestic terrorism, and Fox News' "The Five" hosts debated whether the nation was grappling with a new brand of homegrown terrorism shaped by the left.
Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois told reporters that this could very well be "the first rhetorical terrorist attack," citing liberal political rhetoric as the cause and conveniently forgetting to mention the rise in hate crimes against minority groups coinciding with Trump's election.
The right is finally looking at the violence within America's borders, but only at the violence that serves their talking points.
The Republican Party has long used foreign terrorism as a political tool to stay in power, diverting the public's attention away from more urgent threats that wouldn't behoove them to fix. If they stopped putting politics over people and called "terrorism" terrorism, no matter who the violence was committed by and where it was from, they might actually be able to make America a safer place. Instead, they turn the other cheek and look far away, enabling horrendous acts of violence in their own country.
Terrorism has never been just a liberal problem, or a Muslim problem, or a Middle East problem — it's a Republican problem, too.