The video is quite good.
Whether it was domestic terrorism or the act of someone mentally ill, there is no justification for the violence today in Virginia aimed at a group of Republican legislators which resulted in at least five people seriously injured, including a Congressman.
However, it is symptomatic of the polarized political atmosphere in America these days which has produced strong feelings, accusations, and threats on both sides of the aisle.
So it is appropriate to have sympathy for the thoughts of Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, a three-term Republican Congressman caught in the melee today (but luckily uninjured), who told CNN afterward that he is at a “breaking point,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Somehow, the massacres at Sandy Hook, or Virginia Tech, or San Bernadino, or the Pulse Nightclub were all fine and dandy for Rep. Davis – but as soon as he himself was in danger, the tables suddenly turned.
Davis blamed the incident on the “hateful” tone of politics in America at present.
“I believe there is such a hatefulness in what we see in American politics and policy discussions right now,” said Davis, “on social media and the 24-hour news cycle. This has got to stop.”
“We can disagree on how to govern – that’s what makes this country great,” added Davis. “I think Republicans and Democrats need to use this day today to stand together and say, ‘Stop, let’s work together, let’s get things done We can have our differences, but let’s not let it lead to such hate.”
Worthy sentiments, but Davis’s moment of sanity isn’t likely to change things.
He has made no indication that he will suddenly be advocating for commonsense gun reform laws, or bipartisan cooperation with the Democrats in order to effect some positive change in our nation.
But the truth is that much of the violence in America these days goes well beyond the Capitol even though the root causes may have offices in Washington, D.C.
There was a time Republicans and Democrats could battle during elections but then come together once elected to do America’s business and promote what was best for everyone, and what would make all of us prosperous, safe and secure.
Senator Al Franken, the former Saturday Night Live comedian who has become an outstanding and dedicated legislator, in his thoughtful, sane new book, “Giant Of The Senate,” argues that you can trace the change toward the politics of non-stop confrontation to 1994 when Newt Gingrich led the Republican party to a new “Contract With America.”
The terms of that contract, in simple terms, were that Republicans would do what they and their wealthy backers wanted, and otherwise never do anything that could make Democrats, and certainly not a Democratic president, look good and help him get re-elected.
Gingrich today is a clownish figure who acts as a Trump surrogate, defending even the most dreadful and disastrous of the president’s regressive policies and efforts to undo a lot of the progress the U.S. has made over several generations. ‘
Gingrich set the stage for a new era of purposeful polarization but it was a group of secretive billionaires led by the Koch brothers, Robert Mercer and other pseudo-Libertarians who took it to the next level – pouring a fortune into creating the Tea Party and electing far-right politicians to local, state and federal offices, using an unprecedented outpouring of dark money in the wake of the Supreme Court’s nightmarish Citizens United ruling to drown out all other voices.
Dark money refers to the millions of dollars pumped into politics through one or more organizations, often tax-exempt fronts, that make it impossible to know where the money really came from. Read Wall Street Journal reporter Jane Mayer’s excellent book “Dark Money” for numerous examples and the complete story.
Senator Franken fingers Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as the leader of the next polarized generation of legislators. He says with a lot of facts to back him up that McConnell and his cohorts declared in 2008 even before Barack Obama officially took office that they would never work with him, never help him, never do anything for America that he might get credit for, in order to destroy his political career and elect their own cronies.
So Obama tried to be a president for all but instead suffered through eight years of being stymied by Republican and Tea Party obstructionism, even when it meant working against the best interests of the majority of the American people – especially if it was at expense of the super rich.
As Franken points out, the polarization that made our democratic system basically dysfunctional was not seen by most citizens as the work of one party or the other, but rather a sign that all polticians are corrupt and inept, and the only thing to do is kick the rascals out and start over again. So McConnell and the obstructionists were rewarded by winning, even more, House and Senate seats, and statehouses.
Riding a wave of dark money, that set the stage for the Republican conservative “alt-right” takeover of Congress and much of our political system. It also set the stage for voters to elect the least qualified, most divisive president of our lifetime.
From the start, Donald Trump campaigned proudly as an outsider, a businessman and someone who would, in his words, go to Washington and “drain the swamp.”
During his campaign, Trump gleefully escalated the polarization by attacking his opponent, Hillary Clinton, instead of just competing with a respected fellow citizen. Who can forget Trump’s close friend, Lt. General Michael Flynn, among others, leading the call to “lock her up,” for what now seem like the most minor of infractions compared to the scandals that have rocked the early days of the Trump administration.
Trump’s campaign rallies were filled with hatred for minorities, immigrants, the handicapped and anyone who was different or didn’t agree with his opinions (many of which he would quickly change once elected).
Trump gave tacit permission for white nationalist, Nazi wannabes, racists, sectarian nut jobs and all sorts of religious fanatics to go after people who were not like them, which is counter to everything the American melting pot has meant for the past hundred years.
Trump didn’t have to say go “do bad things, be violent” because his words carried the subliminal message that in his America it was O.K. to be a thug if it was a way to ensure his authoritarian order would be the rule the day – and the night.
It is not just me saying this. In February, U.S. District Court Judge David Hale ruled in favor of three peaceful protesters at a Trump rally in Kentucky were pushed, yelled at, poked, assaulted and subjected to racist and sexist slurs by some of the inflamed crowd.
Video from WLKY in Louisville shows protesters yelling at an African American protester, and a man in a red “Make America Great Again” hat shoving her and yelling, while another man in a military-style uniform continues shoving her through the angry crowd.
As the protesters were being attacked, Trump said from the stage, “Don’t hurt ’em. If I say, ‘Go get ’em,’ I get in trouble with the press,” noted the judge.
There is no point in detailing the many other time’s similar things happened at Trump rallies, often to the detriment of someone who was black, or female, or Hispanic or in at least one case, handicapped.
The tone was set from the top. Trump didn’t have to give specific orders. The fact he stood by grinning as these attacks took place was all the fuel the crowds need to pursue their passion for going after anyone not like them.
As President, Trump has pursued a policy against immigrants, Muslims, scientists, envioronmentalists, intellectuals, the media and others that carry on the tone of anger, intolerance, and (wink wink) violence established during his campaign.
On top of that, Trump’s well-documented lies, his secretive style, his flaunting of family wealth, his love of nepotism, his choice of nearly all white cabinet members who (even Steve Bannon admits) are there to destroy the government not build it, his willingness to lead with only Republican votes in the Senate and House, all contribute to the massive separation between those who love him and those who think he is a disaster and must be driven out of office.
So Rep. Davis, a lot of us would welcome a return to the time Democrats and Republicans were friendly enemies who could compete in elections, but then work to do what is best for all Americans the rest of the year, and truly make America a leader of the free world.
However, that doesn’t even seem like a possibility as long as Trump, Pence, McConnell and the gang continue their scorched earth policy of partisan politics and attacks on other political parties, races, religions, foreign-born and other nationalities who are not part of their comfortable circle.
So if you really are fed up, Rep. Davis, lead the Republicans out of the sickening twisted Trump wilderness and back to the path of working as one nation again.
I guarantee you there are a lot of Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans ready to dump Trump, dunk the Tea Party, push the alt right back into their crypt and get America back on a path where we replace income inequality for equality for all.
The gunshots today were a wake-up call, Rep. Davis. So wake up, and let’s have a time again when the words Make America Great Again are not just a late night joke.