I have been thinking long and hard about the tragedy that occurred on Saturday. Here are a couple of thoughts.
1. Palin should not be blamed for the killings. The murderer is clearly not a Tea Party purist. In fact, he has a strange blend of progressive and libertarian views. And his libertarians views are more likely to be heard from Ron Paul than Sarah Palin.
2. Having said that, I think that the conservative movement should count this as a stark warning. Palin's "targets" were out of line. They were not the cause of the shooting, but they are still dangerous. Of course, her rhetoric is not the only cause for concern. The far right in the conservative movement have spent the past two years treating President Obama and Democrats as traitors bent on destroying America. The entire imagery of the Tea Party movement is predicated on the notion that there is an illegitimate tyrant in the White House and that an extrajudicial and coercive revolution is needed to throw the tyrant out of the government (circa 1773).
I have argued this point for the past year: President Obama and the Democrats are not our enemy. They are not socialists. They are not trying to destroy America. They don't want the terrorists to win. They are not seeking to destroy the Constitution and take away our liberties. They are well-intentioned people with a different philosophy of government. If we do not stop the heated rhetoric, then we will eventually see violence in the name of that rhetoric.
It is time for the sane voices in the Republican Party to stand up and combat those who incite hatred. Up until Saturday, I would have argued that we should do that for political posturing. Turns out that there are much more profound reasons than politics (see Christina Taylor Green).