Opinion

Opinion

After baseball attack, the hate in politics has got to go

Posted June 14

Shortly after Wednesday morning's attack on Republican members of Congress practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, Congressman Rodney Davis, still in his baseball clothes, spoke to CNN's Brianna Keilar.

In addition to describing the events he witnessed, he spoke from the heart.

"This hatefulness that we see in this country today over policy differences has got to stop ... Republicans and Democrats need to use this day today to stand together and say 'stop.' Let's work together. Let's get things done," he said. "We can have our differences, but let's not let it lead to such hate."

We should all heed Congressman Davis' call, including our President. Since his announcement to run for office, Donald Trump has consistently yelled fire in a crowded political theater by castigating various segments of our population and encouraging his supporters to "knock the crap" out of protesters. And on and on.

Many Donald Trump supporters have followed his lead, escalating the rhetoric against political opponents and the media. A reporter was choke-slammed in Montana. And before Trump, too many Republicans engaged in awful and, let's face it, racist attacks on President Obama. Perhaps even worse, too many Republicans watched this happen and remained silent.

Meanwhile, town halls, opportunities that should allow for a respectful dialogue between elected officials and voters, have become opposition events where silencing and jeering the politician has become the norm.

President Trump holds the world's largest microphone and therefore can do the most to quell much of the angry rhetoric we've seen.

But it doesn't end with our President. Since he was elected, many Democrats have continually upped the ante to out-resist each other in opposition to President Trump. Their behavior has created an environment where Democratic lawmakers routinely stoop to foul language in public events. It's also a climate where a comedian and a theater company feel it's somehow acceptable to post gruesome pictures of a decapitated president or stage a Shakespeare classic to envision the assassination of a politician who bears a strong resemblance to Donald Trump.

And in this case, where the shooter appears to have been a volunteer for Bernie Sanders, Democrats too have some soul-searching to do. Senator Sanders has strongly condemned the suspect, and he is right that "violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society."

These things accumulate, which means they inevitably escalate. And whether the targets are Republican members of Congress, like today, or Democratic politicians or members of the media, it was perhaps inescapable that something tragic was coming in an environment like this.

Politics is a business with a lot of tough talk where contrasts and distinctions are constantly drawn. Negative ads have become an artform. But what we've seen in recent years is different. Increasingly, we question not just the judgment of those we disagree with, but each others' motives and legitimacy.

On the far ends of the political spectrum, invective and hate -- or a blind "us versus them" tribal mentality -- stand above reason and debate. Those voices gain prominence and followers as the media incentivize them to go further by giving them airtime and clicks.

Our nation faces many challenges, but healing our divisions may be our biggest one. More than Obamacare, tax reform, ISIS or our national debt, this rhetoric, and the divisions it causes, directly constrains our ability to tackle other issues.

We know what we will do today. We will pray and we will come together. But what we do tomorrow is even more important. A successful, bi-partisan Congressional Baseball Game sounds like a perfect way to start.

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