Violence and vitriol must be rooted out of the country’s public discourse. Politics needs civility not causticity; kindness, not violence.
On Wednesday a shooter opened fire on a baseball team consisting of Republican lawmakers who were practicing for a charity game. We condemn this horrific attack carried out on politicians playing one of the nation’s great uniting pastimes.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured in the shooting, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and the director of government relations for Tyson Foods, Matt Mika, both of whom remain in critical condition. Congressional aid Zack Barth and two Capitol Hill police agents, Crystal Griner and David Bailey, were also injured but all are in “good condition.” The suspected gunman was shot and killed.
Sen. Jeff Flake, along with others, heroically attempted to pull Rep. Saclise to safety during the attack and later phoned his wife to inform her of the incident.
Violence against these lawmakers, which appears to have been politically motivated, represents an assault on the American system. In the U.S., political power isn’t gained through guns and bullets but consensus and cooperation.
And yet, there’s no denying that politics is increasingly a zero-sum struggle where colleagues from across the aisle are villainized more than they are valued.
This shooting appears to be the act of a single deranged soul, and, as reprehensible as this shooting is, we’re cautious not to draw sweeping conclusions. However, beyond yesterday’s events, America most certainly needs to mend its political culture which has become motivated in some instances by malice.
This week, sponsors withdrew from New York’s Public Theater when they discovered that the theater’s production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” depicts the assassination of a Donald Trump-like figure.
A few weeks earlier, Kathy Griffin participated in a photo-shoot in which she foisted up the fake severed head of President Trump. Late last month, congressman-elect Greg Gianforte, a Republican, body slammed a reporter for asking questions.
Such behavior is inexcusable.
Politicos on both sides of the aisle may dismiss these events as anomalies, but data also shows that partisan animosity is on the rise. According to a 2016 pew survey, more than half of Republicans and Democrats hold “very unfavorable views” of the opposing party.
In 2008, those numbers were closer to 30 percent.
To be clear, politicians did nothing to deserve or provoke the reprehensible violence yesterday, and contention and conflict have always been part of the human experience.
However, it’s particularly troubling to see calculated, and often successful, efforts to turn political hate into fundraising or other financial gain. The internet and social media have, in unprecedented ways, aided enterprising, and sometimes unscrupulous, individuals in exploiting and exacerbating extreme human emotion.
How citizens treat each other matters. Rhetoric matters. In order to heal the nation and continue to strengthen America’s great experiment, individual citizens must recommit to civility and adopt the kind of political discourse that constructs rather than corrodes the country.