Last week, on a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., a madman took aim at Republican members of Congress, their staff, even their children, all there that morning practicing for a bipartisan charity tournament the following day. It was a horrific act of violence in a country that’s become all too prone to these types of incidents. Immediately, voices from all sides of the political aisle spoke up to condemn this despicable act and call for civility in the wake of such senseless tragedy.
Democratic Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerHispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act To Win 2022: Go big on reconciliation and invest in Latinx voters MORE (D-N.Y.) perhaps said it best, in a speech on the Senate floor that morning: "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."
The very next day, the congressional baseball game was played on schedule, a symbol to all those who target our democracy with violence that we can come together as Americans and persevere. Instead of embracing that collective call for a better politics, Republicans in the nationally-watched race to represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District are using the tragedy to win votes for Republican candidate Karen Handel.
It began Saturday, at a get-out-the-vote rally for Handel in the district. The Washington Post quotes Brad Carver, chairman of the Republican Party in the neighboring 11th Congressional District, as saying to a group of volunteers: “I’ll tell you what: I think the shooting is going to win this election for us. Because moderates and independents in this district are tired of left-wing extremism.”
The comment went unnoticed by most and could have easily been an isolated slip of the tongue by a brazen political hack; but then, on Sunday, secret, big-money donors from outside the district began running an ad directly tying Democrats to the attack in Virginia.
The ad, funded by a Republican super PAC, opens with the sound of gunshots and footage of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) being rolled away on a stretcher. As if that wasn’t egregious enough, the ad explicitly states that Democrats, like Georgia's 6th Congressional District candidate Jon Ossoff, are the cause by “endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans.”
Even worse than these last-minute grotesque tactics is the response — or lack thereof — of Karen Handel. She offered a timid, mealy-mouthed disapproval of the ad without stepping up and demanding action, which would involve removing the ludicrous spot from the airwaves.
This is exactly the type of behavior that voters have come to know and expect from Republicans under President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE: meek expressions of disapproval about what’s happening around them, but refusing to step up and lead a fight against this infection of our democracy.
It’s profoundly disappointing that the Republican Party feels it can’t win an election based on its principles and its agenda, so, in turn, they rest their case on a hope and a prayer that a shooting tragedy leads them to victory. A day before the election, Karen Handel is letting voters know exactly who she’ll be in Washington — a yes-woman of Donald Trump who’s willing to parrot ridiculous and offensive talking points to win a few votes.
The people of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District deserve better than these deceitful and salacious politics. They deserve a member of Congress who will provide a check to the Trump administration that voters are desperately seeking. They deserve a member of Congress who has real ideas on how to prevent senseless tragedy like the one in Alexandria moving forward.
They deserve a member of Congress who recognizes that a debate on civility in our politics begins at the top, with Donald Trump, a man who has embraced the fanatical fringe and who has most-degraded reasonable discourse in our democracy. That’s what this election should be about: Who is the candidate that will work to restore basic decency in our politics?
The choice for voters in Georgia is clear: If you like what you’re seeing in Washington — the secrecy and the deceptive politics that are corroding the very foundations of our democracy — Karen Handel deserves your vote.
Matt McDermott is a pollster and associate director at Whitman Insight Strategies, a consulting firm based in New York City that advises companies and political campaigns for Democrats and Independents. He can be found on Twitter @mattmfm.
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