It’s possible to have intelligence, partisanship and civility, as former Sens. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) have shown, and it wouldn’t hurt our politics or our social fabric to have a pause for a month or two from the relentless attacks. (This is a strong argument against lame-duck sessions, which continue political bickering and name-calling immediately after an election.)
Of course, while the parties and politicians bear some responsibility for the constant political attacks and growing incivility, other groups deserve a chunk of the blame.
The day after the Arizona shooting, I came across an e-mail from Michael Lerner of Tikkun, a very liberal Jewish magazine and website, titled “Shooting of Jewish Congresswoman Giffords is Not Just a ‘Tragedy’ — It’s Part of a Right-Wing Assault on Government and the Liberals & Progressives Who Support It.”
There is no point in repeating Lerner’s political rant, but he uses the shooting to further his political agenda, blaming the political right for everything and drawing conclusions that were obviously premature.
Over the past few years, groups on the political right and left have charged each other with lying, cheating, stealing and planning to destroy the American way of life. Individually, the charges aren’t a huge problem. But collectively, they are.
The Internet has become a platform for anonymous personal attacks and demonization. Cable TV, with its reliance on caricatures and faulty logic, gets ratings by playing to emotions.
We need more humility and modesty in our politics, as well as in the larger culture.
The attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others on Saturday may simply be the work of a deranged, delusional guy with a gun. But it gives us an opportunity to think about what kind of society we want. I’m not talking about health care, immigration and tax policy, but rather about how we live our lives and the part that politics should play in them.