The left and the right do the public a service when they keep an eye on radical statements made on the other side. Responsible Democrats and Republicans also need to make every effort to reject the worst of the polarizing strategies when they are used by those in their respective parties. Posted below is a letter I recently mailed to U.S. Senators McCaskill and Menendez, both Democrats. In the past, I have written similar letters to Rep. Boehner (Minority Leader when Republican Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie!” at the president during a joint address of congress), to Sen. Charles Schumer (D) for using a dehumanizing term, and to Rep. Alan Grayson (D), in response to a campaign ad in which he claimed his opponent’s fundamentalist Christianity was like radical Islam in its treatment of women.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) Missouri
Sen. Robert Menendez (D) New Jersey
On December 3, the usually accurate political blog, politico.com, reported the following comments:
“…Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri suggested Americans might need to “take up pitchforks” if Congress renews tax breaks for the wealthy.”
“Menendez said, when asked whether he and other Democrats would compromise with Republicans. “It’s almost like the question of do you negotiate with terrorists.”
As a registered Democrat, I am dismayed by your poor choice of words, especially words encouraging violent action (that Americans might “take up pitchforks”) against elected representatives and the implication that other elected representatives are “terrorists”.
Political dialogue in the U.S. is being degraded by the repeated use of similar expressions by prominent political talk program hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. The last thing we voters need to see is the imitation of their trash talk by our senators or members of Congress. You are responsible for doing better. Rather than dragging us into darkness, you must find ways to enlighten the public.
It is bad enough that supposed “entertainers” are using polarizing language to divide Americans into two opposing ideological and cultural camps. That is an issue in itself. But if our elected representatives begin to speak like talk show hosts, our country will have a far more serious problem.
Please exercise true leadership and refrain from using these negative, polarizing tactics. Documented, fact-based research shows their use can facilitate the growth of radicalism and extremism. This threat to our democratic republic is one that cannot be ignored, which is why I am now speaking to League of Women Voters and other civic groups about it.