I’d like to make a non-political statement about political violence.
Last year a Congressional Republican baseball practice was shot to pieces and U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was lucky to survive. It was a left-wing nut.
This year it was a right-wing nut who sent around mail bombs to prominent Democrats including former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Thank God nobody got killed.
Political violence must always be denounced. It occurs in all political stripes. It is not the exclusive province of the left or right or anywhere else.
James Madison wrote of “the violence of faction” in Federalist No. 10. He said one of the potential ways to deal with political violence was to remove its causes. But, he warned, the cause was liberty itself — “liberty is to faction, what air is to fire” — and that to attempt to remove it would be worse than the political violence.
I like to think our society can deal with the heated rhetoric, but that rhetoric should never contextually be able to be construed as a call to violence. We all have a responsibility with our discourse not to cross that line. It happens more often than you might think in our current political climate.
The alternative Madison outlined to removing the causes of faction was to control its effects. He went on to outline a variety of factors: the distribution of powers geographically in the federalist system and so forth, the separation of powers between executive, legislative and judicial, that would temper factions. Recall he was making a case for the Constitution, saying doing all those things to limit government would control the effects of faction.
It is also fair to say that the Constitution did not prevent the Civil War and all the same disorders from occurring. In that sense the Constitution on its own was a failure at preventing the great calamity of the 1860s.
The acts of the violent do not represent those who still believe in a deliberative system of government. If you still believe in our political system, don’t call for violence against your political opponents.
I am fortunate enough to do that for a living every day. Gather facts that support the policy positions I favor. It saddens me to consider the very real possibility that there could be a day where that will not be the way we peacefully settle our differences.
Freedom from political violence is the only thing that keeps us from the dysfunctions and disorders that ended the Roman Republic and every other great society that once existed. We unite on this question, or civil society fails. Those are the options. Choose wisely.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.