We need to separate the actual terrorist acts from the inflammatory rhetoric that inspired them. They're two different and separate issues. The one and only person responsible (thus far, as far as we know) is Cesar Sayoc. Not Donald Trump, not Fox News, not talk radio, not the rest of #Cult45. Cesar Sayoc. A lone Redcap nutjob. That's it.
The next question is whether Sayoc would have done what he did in the absence of Donald Trump's endless belligerent rhetoric and encouragement of partisan violence. Answer: We don't know. Mayhap he would, mayhap he wouldn't. He may already have been angry and unhinged, or he may have taken Trump's rally exhortations as marching orders. There's as yet no way to know.
What we *can* say is that, quite apart from Sayoc's criminal actions, Trump's unpresidential partisan demagoguery has been and is wrong precisely because it has reduced the Right and the GOP to the same gutter level as the Democrat Left. There was a time, pre-Trump, when the GOP had the moral high ground, stood for conservative principles, didn't attempt to make tribal rage and anger a philosophy unto itself, and stayed to the high road. And you know what? They were more than nationally competitive with the Dems. As recently as 2014, as a matter of fact. Pachyderms didn't have to be corrupt, lying, partisan hacks in order to have a chance of winning elections. That was seen, accurately, as the road to political ruin. And there certainly weren't right-wing domestic terrorists mailing waves of IEDs to Democrat officials (no matter what the Obamunists used to claim). Partisan violence was the purview of the Left (Remember the Weathermen? Or more recently, Antifa and James Hodgkinson?).
Is that Trump's fault? No. At least, not directly. I don't think Trump actively seeks political violence against his foes. But just as I don't think Trump is a white supremacist or a racist per se, but has no objection to and indeed welcomes the support of people who are both, I think he's utterly indifferent to the possibility of his demonization of opponents and extollation of violence against them inciting his rabid backers to pursue both in his name. He just doesn't care. All he wants is to rev up his base sufficiently to squeak out a one-seat majority in the House and keep a storm of fresh investigations off his ample backside. If that meant that even one or more of two of his Donk predecessors and their families, one of their vice presidents, a number of their Cabinet members, two sitting Democrat senators, two sitting Dem representatives, and two prominent donors got blown into chunky salsa, so be it. He'd have no regrets, because everything would have worked out for him. And that's all he cares about. You could see that Thursday when he read that prepared "unity" statement like a zombie, without passion, like he'd been drugged, and then proceeded out to the next rally and mocked it and resumed his belligerent rhetoric. He didn't mean a word of that statement. He might just mean what he spews at his rallies.
Here's another thought.
Let's go back to the Gabby Giffords shooting almost eight years ago. The Left tried to blame the Right for what turned out to be an apolitical, mentally-ill headcase (Jared Loughner) going berserk with a gun because of the gunsight-on-Democrat campaign sign gimmick Sarah Palin used in campaigning for Republicans during the 2010 midterms creating an "atmosphere of violence" that caused the shooting. The Right scoffed at and ridiculed this not-so-quasi McCarthyite reflex because conservatives believe in individual, not collective, responsibility for individual actions. Nobody was responsible for that active shooter event but Loughner - not Palin or anybody else. Now I will acknowledge that putting gun sights over the faces of Democrat faces in campaign literature is not an idea I would ever have signed off on, but as no Republican candidates were conducting any sort of ongoing, organized campaigns of demonization and extolling partisan violence, libs trying to cynically broad-brush the blame for Gabby Giffords' shooting on the entire conservative movement was still weak sauce at best.
Fast forward to the MAGAbomber today. Cesar Sayoc is, again, solely responsible for his pipe bomb mailing spree. But he was also anything but apolitical or mentally ill. His idolatrous worship of Donald Trump was unparalleled. He reportedly saw the president as the "father figure he never had". How such a thing could ever be possible would keep teams of psychiatrists employed for years to come, but that's how Sayoc saw the Manhattan slumlord. And what he has heard his "daddy" say consistently over the past three years is that the other party, in elected office and the media, is "evil" and "enemies of America" and should be "confronted" and "body-slammed" and "punched in the face", etc.
Essentially, the equivalent way the Left has depicted the Right for years as "cruel" and "enemies of women" and "pushing grannies off cliffs" and "bringing back black slavery", etc. The Left's vile hysterics, though, weren't particularly effective; Republicans were still more than nationally competitive, and the frantic, desperate "messaging" revealed more about the weakness of tired, failed liberal ideas than it did about GOP character - until three years ago, when Donald Trump changed all that and in the process breathed actual life into decades of left-wing lies and smears. The president, in other words, *has* created an "atmosphere of violence" that did indeed incite one of his hardcore followers (so far) to commit multiple acts of domestic terrorism against his political opponents.
But Trump could still be cut at least a little slack if the events of this week had been a wake-up call for him. If they had sobered and chastened him into the realization that the belligerent rhetoric he has been obliviously blithering into the ether for three years as part of his con job were actually having serious real-world consequences. If they caused him to genuinely pivot and change his ways and words and actually become presidential. That way one could conclude that he really was just an idiot who didn't know what he was doing, and wasn't knowingly inciting partisan violence.
None of that, though, has been the case. He wah-wah-wahs the official "unity" statement prepared for him to read and than bolts off to the next rally to lampoon it and resume the same belligerent rhetoric (to the depressingly deafening cheers of his zombie audiences), making it clear that he didn't mean a word of what he was forced to tonelessly regurgitate. and effortless for the media to successfully put over the "atmosphere of violence" narrative and hang it around the fleshy necks of Trump and the GOP a week and a half out from the Election Day.
First the Left tries to destroy the life of Brett Kavanaugh, and now here comes the MAGA bomber. The past three years have indeed been a race to the bottom. Both parties are garbage. Both parties deserve to lose. Maybe that's why each will control one house of Congress next year. But a viable conservative third party can't arise fast enough.