by John Dankosky – Since Saturday, millions of words have been written about the presumed causes of the shooting rampage in Tuscon, Arizona. Many more have been used to talk about the country’s “tone” and the “heightened rhetoric” which could be at the root of such violence. At the very least, with the actual reasons still unknown, the tragedy has made us look directly at the nasty tone of politics in the country.
Our guest on today’s program, former Senator Gary Hart was one of the first Saturday to say “Words have consequences” in piece for the Huffington Post.
Those with a megaphone, whether provided by public office or a media outlet, have responsibilities. They cannot avoid the consequences of their blatant efforts to inflame, anger, and outrage. We all know that there are unstable and potentially dangerous people among us. To repeatedly appeal to their basest instincts is to invite and welcome their predictable violence.
Is the violence predictable? We have no way of knowing the motivations of Jared Loughner, but does it matter? What does is our opportunity now to address a problem that has only gotten worse in recent years. In late September, when we talked about “Incivility in Politics,” our conversation was framed by the nasty political campaigns we were in the midst of. Once ended, though, the nasty tone of campaign language continues in blogs, on right-wing talk radio, and in every-day conversations.
Congressmen like Connecticut’s own Jim Himes have had to step up security since the attack, and Chris Murphy well remembers getting threats during the health care debate. In fact, he’s faced angry constituents when he made visits to supermarkets, similar to the Giffords event, called “Congress in Your Corner.”
But remember, that health care debate had both sides fuming at each other. While Murphy and others faced screaming “tea partiers” at town hall meetings, economist Paul Krugman was arguing for the health care bill in a column that began with these words: “A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy.”
So, what do we actually do to “tone down the nastiness?” We’ve already heard from countless pundits saying – in one way or another -
that “civility” doesn’t really work in politics. I don’t agree, so let’s give it our best shot. What better place than by consulting politicians who genuinely seem like “nice” people who don’t really have a bad word to say about others – and aren’t spoken badly of themselves.
People like Congressman Joe Courtney, who’ll join us today. I have yet to meet anyone from either major party, or any other political affiliation, who doesn’t consider him a thoughtful, kind person. And, John Hickenlooper, the Governor-elect of Colorado, a seemingly non-partisan Democrat, whose genial manner cuts through the ugly talk that political hacks too often engage in. He’ll join us by phone…on the day he’s being inaugurated!
Join them today with your thoughts 860-275-7266, or email firstname.lastname@example.org 9-10 a.m. ET.