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Civility, consideration urged in wake of political violence, vitriol


By Karen Kidd | Jun 28, 2017

The nation needs to call for civility in political discourse before more violence is committed against politicians, such as the shooting of a congressman in Alexandria, Virginia, earlier this month, a radio show producer said recently.

"If we're going to say that we care about civility since this has happened, let's care about civility before people get shot," Illinois Policy Institute writer and "Illinois Rising" producer Joe Kaiser said on the show.

Kaiser recalled the shooting of then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) by a gunman at a Tucson supermarket in 2011, saying that President Barack Obama had called for civility then. 

Illinois Rising Producer Joe Kaiser

"It's kind of a deja vu thing there," he said.

"Illinois Rising" is co-hosted by Illinois Opportunity Project co-founder Dan Proft, a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.

James Hodgkinson of Belleville fired more than 60 shots at Republican representatives, staffers and others during a baseball practice on June 14 in advance of the annual Congressional Baseball Game. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was injured, as were three others, and released on June 23 from the intensive care unit of MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

An FBI spokesman later said Hodgkinson, who was killed by police shortly after the incident, wasn't not apparently targeting any specific individual and that his attack in Alexandria appeared to have been spontaneous.

Laments about the decline of civility in political discourse were reported across the nation, and congressional representatives publicly committed themselves to a return to that civility

"We would all be wise to reflect on the importance of civility in our nation’s politics this morning," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said at a press conference with other lawmakers the following day. "We disagree vehemently at times here in Congress, and folks out in the country do, too. But the level of nastiness, vitriol and hate that has seeped into our politics must be excised."

Not everyone seems to have agreed. Phil Montag, volunteer co-chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party's Technology Committee, lost his state party position after expletive-laced audio of him saying he was glad Scalise was shot and wished the Louisiana Republican was dead surfaced on YouTube.

Angry discourse is nothing new in politics. In February 2015, State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) compared Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to "an ISIS warrior fighting a battle, not against the state of Illinois but against the people of Illinois." A couple of years prior, Trotter apologized for likening a Holocaust survivor and cabinet member of former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to a Nazi.

In April 2016, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told the City Club of Chicago that "Rauner is the new ISIS recruit."

"Those Isis comparisons are two of the worst things that Gov. Rauner has been called," Kaiser said during the "Illinois Rising" broadcast. "It's absurd, but even beneath that, you hear it all the time. Just last week, a man who is kind of running for governor, he called Gov. Rauner -- blatantly and over and over again -- called him a racist. That's not the level of ISIS, but when you use this kind of rhetoric to intensify your supporters ... and it's always this outlandish attack: Throw it against the wall and see what sticks. If we're calling for civility, these don't muster up to that standard."

The examples didn't include physical violence, but Kaiser said they shouldn't have to raise the call for civility in political discourse. 

"Let's talk about those now," Kaiser said. "Just because no one got shot doesn't mean we shouldn't have the conversation about civility -- if we actually care about civility."

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