In light of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a “Congress on Your Corner” event in Tucson, Ariz., two weeks ago, many have speculated about the nature of the political rhetoric in this country.
Though this crime currently appears to be the work of a deranged madman who had a personal vendetta for Giffords, it remains worthwhile to examine the recent national tone of political dialogue.
As a former intern and campaign scheduler for former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper, I staffed countless events and heard the very worst from voters. The discourse that dominated the last campaign cycle was unbelievable.
I never felt physically threatened during public events, but it was frustrating to hear the overtone from angry voters on both sides who had been whipped into a frenzy by misinformation.
As a fiscally conservative Democrat, Dahlkemper was a natural political threat to opposition on the right, and as Election Day came upon us, so did the onslaught of attacks.
Now don’t get me wrong. I completely welcome heated debate and political discussions of everything from basic ideology to policy. I mean, I’m a political science major — a complete nerd. I live for this stuff.
What I didn’t anticipate was the misinformation and lies that permeated the discourse surrounding the campaign, and my inability to reason with the voter calling Dahlkemper a “communist” or “baby-killer” because of her healthcare vote. While I will spare you the policy details, I can tell you both assertions are not true.
Sadly, the anger lies, and the rhetorical madness went beyond your average misinformed voter. Many around Pennsylvania’s 3rd District were subjected to huge billboards blatantly misrepresenting Kathy Dahlkemper’s votes. The most extreme was a sign on I-79 which read “Vote the Marxists Out of Washington” complete with hammer and sickle.
I ask you this: How many voters enraged by the “socialist takeover of our government” have ever even studied Marx or Lenin, or understand what communism is?
As a political science major, I didn’t even study it in a classroom setting until this term. Call me a radical, but maybe we should try to understand what it is we are upset about.
Moving forward from the Tucson tragedy, I think we as a nation need to keep in mind how far is too far.
My experience with the political discourse in the last election made a huge impression on me – I saw a constituency of voters angry with the government and upset about the direction we are headed. Those opinions are not causes for concern. The discussion of divergent opinions ultimately makes us stronger.
What does worry me is the misinformation that has dominated our political discourse.
The past two weeks have been filled with news articles, blog posts, Twitter updates and commentary about the political rhetoric that has swept the nation.
As I see it, voicing your view is a great thing; free speech is a hallmark of this nation. My concern with the political discourse dominating the airwaves these days isn’t whether or not I agree with it, it is whether or not it is grounded in facts.