On The Shooting Of Steve Scalise And The State of Politics In America


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On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, House Majority WhipSteve Scalise (R-LA) was shot while practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game.
The shooting took place three days ago, and I still haven’t written anything about it. Of course, any time the words “congress” and “baseball” appear in the same story, that’s pretty much entirely within our purview at Politicus Sports. If you were trying to define our wheelhouse, I would say this is a textbook example; yet, I find myself in the strange position of not particularly wanting to write about it.
I’ve been troubled by that, and I’ve been trying to figure out “why?”
While there is, to some degree, the incentive of not wanting to politicizing a tragedy, that’s not the primary reason for my reticence. The primary reason I’m having trouble writing a response is that I’m not sure there’s anything new for me to say…
I’ve lived in a country plagued by political violence and also I’ve seen firsthand the lingering effects that gun violence can have on a community and I wish neither on anyone. That’s why I want to pick my words here very carefully.
As The New York Times reported on Friday: “for the first time since it began asking the question in 1992, the Pew Research Center reported a majority of Democrats and Republicans said they held “very unfavorable” views of the opposing party”.
That is the real issue at hand and, as a political blogger, I’ve play some part in it. In the media and the political arena, we have demonized each other to get an edge. And, if this shooting is any indication, the left has become just as guilty of this as anyone else.
The man who pulled the trigger on Wednesday was not a jihadist, or a disturbed teenager, or wingnut living out of a shack in the woods: it was a politically active member of the Democratic Party who previously campaigned for Bernie Sanders.
It seems that this shooting is a direct result of the polarizing and divisive brand of politics we’ve begun to play in the United States. This is the slippery slope we throw ourselves down every time we paint with the brush of “us” and “them”.  We have created a culture war, and it is malignant and it is contagious and it is obvious. I see it daily in the hateful comments and the paranoid emails I receive from people on both ends of the spectrum; yet we tend to excuse those who land closer to our particular belief system.
Sure, it’s easy enough to point out the irony in Scalise’s pro-gun agenda. It’s easy to grab headlines with the fact that the police officer who protected Scalise, a man who pushed anti-gay legislation, voted to limited women’s access to healthcare and spoke at a conference for White Supremacists, was a gay, black female. These are obvious points, but to me the only truly meaningful part is that Officer Crystal Griner most likely saw none of those labels when she rushed to the Congressman’s aid.

In April, I spoke about the feedback loops that have infected American politics. “It seems like this is our modality now,” I said. “Each side has their talking points and neither’s allowed to stray, lest they end up in the land of RINOs and DINOs. We now operate in a binary where our only choice is futilely berating each other or desperate silence… At a certain point, you’ve repeated the same words so many times that they cease to have meaning. We find ourselves trapped in an ongoing dialogue where no one’s listening, but they don’t want to lose, so we make sound but say nothing.”

Well here we are with more sounds that say nothing; sounds like gunshots and screams. And what is that value of all this? There was nothing righteous in this shooter’s actions. That bullet didn’t bring back your healthcare or recount the votes. If anything, the shooting showed how equal all ideologies can be when it comes to perpetrating evil.
It is time we took responsibility for the part we all play in this tragedy. It’s time we began to look at our hot takes (headlines like “Bigoted Homophobe Steve Scalise’s Life Was Saved by a Queer Black Woman” or “New York Times Lies About Gun Laws To Excuse Leftist Violence“) and realize that maybe we started this fire.
As of earlier today, doctors say Rep. Scalise has a good chance of recovery. Also, if anyone cares, the Democrats won the annual congressional baseball game on Thursday. The final score was 11 to 2.

[Photo via Flickr user Zennie Abraham]

2 Responses to "On The Shooting Of Steve Scalise And The State of Politics In America"

  1. GEORGE Redmon   Saturday, June 17th, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    For Travis Track:
    I always enjoy your posts. I want to add something to your post about the state of Politics in America. It was a letter that I sent to my Rep Rob Portman titled: Why is this country so divided?
    Dear Representative Portman,
    So very sorry to hear about the shooting and the injuries to Rep Scalise and others. My prayers are with everyone. Rep Doyle made an excellent statement about uniting our country and treating each other with respect. Our country is seriously divided and we need to incorporate compassion, kindness and empathy in our personal and business lives and actions and ask ourselves, “Why is this country so divided?”

    Our country is divided because of the ever-widening gap of income equality that continues to widen due to the increasing concentration of political power among the corporate and financial elite that has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs. After World War II, our country experienced unprecedented economic growth, the middle class swelled, as did GDP and productivity. This growth was distributed fairly evenly across the economic classes unlike today. The middle class, with money to spend and time to shop, created our golden era of American capitalism.

    The fundamental law of capitalism is: When workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers—not rich businesspeople—the true job creators. A thriving middle class isn’t a consequence of growth—which is what the trickle-down advocates would tell you. A thriving middle class is the source of growth and prosperity in capitalist economies. Nick Hanauer posted Sep 09, 2014

    While there has always been some income equality, the ruinous stratagem in the US that created the present deep divide, started in the early ‘80s with Regean’s promotion of trickle-down economics (tax cuts for the wealthy to stimulate economic growth) and a brilliant plan by Reagan’s wealthy backers to tout trickle-down economics in major universities so it would become an accepted ideology. Yes, the economy grew but the benefits went to the wealthy and that trend continues, fed by inveigle and misinformation about trickle-down economics. We are now faced with more tax cuts for the wealthy paid for by the undeserving poor.

    Perhaps, we might need to examine the origins of beliefs, feelings and attitudes that influence our thinking and acceptance of policies and laws that are cruel, inhumane and target the “undeserving” poor. The public image of the poor has become almost demonized and this portrayal of a large segment of the poor population as “unworthy” is the result of very effective “spin-doctoring”. Dr. Michael B. Katz in his 1989 book, “The Undeserving Poor” states the following:
    “The redefinition of poverty as a moral condition accompanied the transition to capitalism and democracy in early nineteenth-century America. It served to justify the mean-spirited treatment of the poor, which in turn checked expenses for poor relief . . .

    Many Republican representatives and senators have avoided town hall meetings because they fear the strong feelings expressed by their constituents that do not agree with their world view and the GOP agenda to gut health care and services for the poor to give tax breaks to the wealthy. Our politicians seem to be blaming these strong feelings on constituents that are unreasonable or paid for by Democrats. Sooner or later, Republican’s will have to face that the majority of their constituents do not want to suffer and die to give tax breaks to the wealthy under the guise of a stronger economy and more jobs.

    I think most Americans are good people and want to do the right thing and that includes Republican senators and representatives that have justified in their own minds the idea that government should not help the people-People should help themselves. We are the only civilized nation with this view. Republican’s, too, have been misled and have become unwitting puppets. I am ashamed for us and I fear for the future of our Republic.

    American citizens are experiencing strong feelings and fear. Many of us with chronic conditions fear for our lives if the ACA is repealed. We fear for our parents in nursing homes, we fear for family members with pre-existing conditions, we fear for our disabled children and we fear for the future. Could we plead for a more open, fair and humane way to develop a health plan for America? Could we plead for a plan that benefits the poor as well as the wealthy and reduces income equality? Could we make tax cuts for the wealthy a separate issue and try to reevaluate this approach with integrity? Could we have the courage to do what is right? Could we not ask the poor to suffer and die? We are all Americans. The political divide is about more than just policy or politics; it is about life and death.

    Please have the courage and integrity to question your views and actions as you vote on health care. Please care about this life and death choice you are making for me. Please let me know how you intend to vote. Thank you, George Redmon

    Reply
  2. Deborah Prager   Saturday, June 17th, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Travis;

    While I am upset by the polarization that has taken place, I have to admit to adding to it, when I say things like, “They want to take away my health care; I don’t want to die.” I don’t find any “common ground” with people who day in and day out choose to continue to do harmful things. I understand that they think they are protecting something that is precious to them, I just can’t agree with their definition of precious, when it doesn’t include Clothe the Naked, Feed the Hungry, and Take Care of the Widows and Orphans . I would add the Veterans. I know that the above can be seen as Christian, but it actually quotes what is termed the Old Testament, but I call the Bible. I am so angry about all of this. Many are saying that now that one of their own has been affected, that they will see themselves clear to enacting common-sense gun laws, but I do not believe it.

    Reply

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