“I’m right and you’re evil.”
Too many arguments these days, whether at kitchen tables across America or in the well of the House of Representatives, revolve around that premise.
Early Wednesday morning, Rep. Steve Scalise, congressional staffer Zach Barth, and former staffer Matt Mika were injured when an extremist attacked congressional Republicans at a regularly-scheduled practice for the charity Congressional Baseball Game.
Thankfully, special agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner, two brave Capitol Police officers on House Majority Whip Scalise’s protective detail, took down the attacker, after suffering injuries themselves, and prevented him from doing any more damage.
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Thanks to the heroism of the Capitol Police, all those injured are expected to fully recover.
But this horrific tragedy, in which the shooter’s motive appears to have been his political beliefs, has shed light on a fact that we all know to be true: Our nation is deeply divided.
Now, we must be clear — the blame for this violence and bloodshed lies solely with the attacker. No political rhetoric in America, no matter how heated, advocates or condones violence.
But if our political arguments are based on the premise that one side is right and the other is evil, it makes it much easier for twisted minds to justify violence.
And we cannot deny that coming together to find compromise solutions to our nation’s biggest problems is much harder if we take this approach.
How can you compromise with evil?
We’ve always believed that civility is a vital element of our democracy, but in today’s heated climate, we need it more than ever. It is this belief that has motivated us as chairmen of the Congressional Civility Caucus.
You may not find two members of Congress who disagree more on issues. We represent neighboring districts in Kansas and Missouri as Republicans and Democrats, but if you ask our constituents at home about the nature of our relationship, you’ll hear that we are great friends.
We often spend our periods of district work doing joint events, promoting the idea of civility and bipartisanship.
For us, it’s the norm. For too many, it’s shocking.
In light of Wednesday’s attack, now is the time to prioritize civility and tone down our rhetoric. If people are resorting to violence, we’ve clearly gone too far.
America is at its greatest when Republicans and Democrats are working together to move our nation forward, because at the end of the day we all pledge allegiance to the same flag and sing the same national anthem before every baseball game.
And that is what we will do Thursday night at the Congressional Baseball Game. We will not be deterred by this hateful act. The game will go on, as it has every year since 1909.
The game is one of the best things we have in Congress. It’s a night where we all come together --people who may be at odds during the day in the hallways of the Capitol — and head a few blocks down the road to Washington Nationals Park to work together for a good cause.
We hope the bipartisan, unified, and civil sentiment at Thursday’s baseball game will carry into Friday’s debates. And we will continue to bring that message to Congress and the American people.
Rep. Kevin Yoder and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver are the bipartisan co-chairmen of the Congressional Civility Caucus. Kevin Yoder plays outfield for the Republican congressional baseball team.