Not surprisingly there was a lot of talk about the recent violence - pipe bombs sent to critics of the president, none of which detonated, and the horrible shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh in which 11 people were killed and several more wounded.
Dickerson engaged all of his guests on the issues of partisanship, political rhetoric, and tribalism, and the answers were about what you would suspect from two of his guests, Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Senator James Lankford; the two are co-chairs of a weekly prayer breakfast in the Senate.
Coons, for example, thought that it would be helpful when leaders appreciate that some of their arguments may have "inspired or encouraged deranged individuals to take actions" not supported by the politicians themselves to denounce hatred and to step away from the type of arguments that inspire bad acts.
It is important for us to recognize that there's more work that we can and should do to lower the temperature and tone in our national politics.Coons noted that the president had denounced anti-Semitism recently. Lankford echoed that, noting that the Pittsburgh shooter condemned Trump for being a 'globalist - both Lankford and the shooter must have missed Trump's declaration of being a 'nationalist' which many have said is coded language for being anti-Semitic and supportive of the White Nationalist movement, they of "Jew will not replace us" fame in Charlottesville. That argument may or may not be true, it's being made in an accusatory fashion from the left, and in a congratulatory one from the right. Go figure.
There is no disputing Lankford's description of the shooters, whether at Mother Emmanuel or the Tree of Life synagogue or the Republican baseball practice as being done by "hate-filled individuals that are very deranged."
I'll have more from these Senators, and several other people, in an upcoming post on equivalence, or the lack thereof, in rhetoric.
Dickerson also played an interview from a couple of weeks ago with outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan on the lack of bipartisanship in the media. Ryan basically says that it doesn't sell, so the media doesn't cover it. He referenced bills passed in the House, including some aimed at reducing human trafficking, and the opioid crisis as examples, and I would agree with him those are subjects that should be party-blind. He also referenced rebuilding the military, which is significantly less bipartisan, because historically that build up comes at the expense of much-needed safety net programs, education, the environment and others.
It-- it doesn't sell. So I, honestly, think, John, it's the hits and the clicks and it's the ratings chased that's on display in America today that says when they're fighting each other, that's when you cover it.Dickerson went along, asking if the media accepts some portion of responsibility for it, what about the president, his rallies and
Do those rallies accentuate things that unite us - the bipartisan achievements, or are they, do they do something very successful in politics -- wildly successful - which is so division in the country?Ryan noted that "sometimes" Trump hits the right bipartisan tone, but no always. And then pretended that tribal politics was "sort of a left wing, Alinsky thing." And
Unfortunately, the right practices identity politics now as well. It's the day and age, it's technology and everything else - identify politics, which is now being practiced on both sides of the aisle, is, unfortunately, working.And then he pretended that Trump, when speaking about economic growth, tax reform, the military and veterans, is being "inclusive" - which is literally laughable. No one takes even the most benign bipartisan policy and turns it into a partisan war cry like Ryan's leader.
Ryan went on to say
So to me the best way to combat tribalism is to starve it of its oxygen, which is anxiety: economic anxiety, security anxiety. And if we can pass policies that help improve people's lives, make them more confident about the future, then they'll be less prone to be - to be swayed by the kind of tribalism identity politics we see these days.
Turning to the panel discussion, here are a few highlights.
Jeffrey Goldberg (The Atlantic) on the Pittsburgh shooting, noted that while it was
...not to say that Donald Trump is responsible for the shooting. The shooter is responsible for the shooting. But we live in a climate right now in which the president himself abets or creates a climate in the air in which this - this sort of incident, this sort of tragedy, becomes more imaginable.Lanhee Chen (Hoover Institution), on whether the politicians "lack the ability or they are just the wrong people" to talk about cultural issues:
I think they are the wrong people. But I think they also have to realize that they have been put into a position that requires them to accept additional responsibility... politicians need to start taking this more seriously, that they are public officials whom people will look to as moral leaders as well. I know we often say we don't elect politicians to be more leaders. Well, maybe we should take that a little more seriously. Maybe they should take that role a little more seriously.
Susan Page (USA Today), on the same topic:
...in particular, we like Presidents to step up at times of great national trauma to bring us together. That is one of the things that Presidents are in a unique position to do and that this president has declined to do, by and large. ...president Trump didn't create -- didn't begin it, but he has certainly increased it.Goldberg again, on Trump's attempts at projecting the right tone:
Bat as we see in his rallies, he quickly veers from those statements (denouncing anti-Semitism) and goes right back to division. So it, it really is remarkable to me to see how quickly he pivots away from the message he understands or someone has told him he should be delivering, back to division.Page, on the Senate prayer breakfast chaired by Coons and Lankford:
You know, I think that's great. I am glad they are co-chairing a prayer group. But think of how small our politics are that they are not coming to a reasonable agreement on immigration that could help de-escalate that issue, or on some other big issue that we expect Congress to deal with.And finally, we'll leave it with Jamelle Bouie (Slate), on the difference in rhetoric or in the type of rhetoric of a Maxine Waters or Mitch McConnell and of a Donald Trump:
I think distinctions are really important. I think there's a qualitative difference, especially in the society that has a history of racialized violence, in a society that is driven by racial division, I think there's a qualitative difference between sort of getting angry and apocalyptic about policy issues and getting angry and apocalyptic about identity issues... I think we have - I think it's important that we don't conflate those two - these two different kinds of incivility. One of them is unfortunate, makes compromise difficult. One of them is an existential issue for people, for people living in the society.Thoughts on any parts of the discussion? Chime in.
See you around campus.