That didn’t take long.
Love, an Osceola Republican, was upset that someone had defaced a Confederate memorial in Springfield. “This is totally against the law,” he wrote. “I hope they are found & hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”
He apologized Thursday for an “extremely poor choice of words.”
But words have consequences. And the comment alluded to a disturbing image — lynching, an abhorrent and shameful part of America’s past.
Any evocation of vigilantism is scary and unacceptable. Love should resign his office.
Missourians must hold him to the same standard many have applied to Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat who said she hoped President Donald Trump would be assassinated. If she must go — and let the record show that she must — Love should go, too.
Lawmakers should not take it upon themselves to expel either colleague. Trying to force them from office would likely devolve into partisan maneuvering and would set a troubling precedent.
Both should have the good sense to quit.
Then, the rest of us should use both controversies to reflect on the out-of-control nature of our political rhetoric and the damage it’s doing to our country.
Yes, violent words and expressions have long been an unfortunate part of our politics. And velvet rhetoric is no guarantee of rational political discourse: Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton insulted each other with exquisite taste until one shot the other to death.
But hateful political invective was once largely a private matter. The world lacked the tools to broadcast corrosive stupidity to others who might share their views.
No more. It isn’t a coincidence that Chappelle-Nadal’s and Love’s downfalls came in posts on Facebook, which often provides a platform for ignorance. In the 21st century, even the most hateful, ill-considered thoughts apparently get an audience.
Ugly bigotry and threats of violence are abundant on social media. It’s heartbreaking and deeply disturbing.
Putting technology back in the bottle isn’t an option, of course. Digital wizards can’t extract us from an increasingly coarse culture. And the First Amendment protects speech, even speech we hate.
Only common sense and restraint can rescue our politics. Chappelle-Nadal and Love lacked both, to their disgrace.
They should resign. And the rest of us should use this moment to renew our own commitments to reasonable, intelligent and fact-based public debate.