With this morning’s shooting at the congressional practice field in Virginia, it is fair to say that our political discourse has finally sank too low. After watching rhetoric on both sides become more incendiary and violence slowly escalate over the past few years, someone has really gotten hurt.
Not bruises, broken bones or damaged pride either. Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) or the other people at the practice, including the security officers, could have been killed. That was apparently the aim of the attack.
The Washington Post has identified the shooter as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill. Hodgkinson was a campaign worker for Bernie Sanders whose Facebook page allegedly features a post that reads, “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”
Political violence is not new to this country. We fought a War Between the States over our political differences. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan used violence and intimidation to further their political aims. There have been assassinations, from Abraham Lincoln to Huey Long. Radical anti-war groups in the 1960s used bombings to further their political aims.
In the last half-decade, things seemed to change. We have enjoyed a relatively peaceful period. There was violence against political figures, but for the most part, it was the work of the mentally ill, not political assassins. The attempted murderers of Ronald Reagan and Gabrielle Giffords were both crazy, not trying to make a political point.
While it is still too early to say for sure, the baseball field shooting feels different. The shooter reportedly asked which team was playing, the Republicans or the Democrats, before opening fire. If the reported Facebook posts are accurate, there seems to be a clear motive for the attack.
There will be plenty of anger against the liberal media and Democrats for stoking the fires of Hodgkinson’s anger. At this point, those charges seem to be legitimate. Much of the reporting about the Trump Administration has been sensationalist and over-the-top. The problem is that the liberals aren’t the only ones to blame.
Both sides are guilty of whipping up the anger of the base with outrage-of-the-day styles of reporting that focus on the most extreme and offensive actions of the opposition. For every action, there is an equal and opposite overreaction.
Hodgkinson’s Facebook post was repeated almost verbatim on many right-wing timelines over the past eight years. Just substitute “Obama” for “Trump.”
Liberals stage a play depicting the assassination of President Trump. Conservatives circulated internet picture of President Obama with his head in a noose. Liberal protesters riot and stop traffic. Conservative protesters stage armed revolts and occupy a federal building in Oregon and engage in standoffs with law enforcement on federal land. Businesses destroyed by riots had it coming according to the leftist narrative, but so did reporters and protesters who get beat up, if you listen to those on the right. President Trump is a Russian traitor? President Obama is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, so there!
The two sides barely even talk anymore. We listen to different media, read different newspapers and websites. We focus on our differences and they become magnified.
As David French recently wrote, we seem to be headed for a national divorce. If we really love our country, we need to look at what a spouse would do to prevent a divorce. Look to find the good in our political opponents. Look for common ground instead of nitpicking. Realize that we aren’t going to get everything on our political wish lists. The alternative is likely to be more political violence and national divorce that is unlikely to come amicably.