After the shooting at the Republican baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, we asked members of the Democratic and Republican baseball teams to weigh in on the attack. The opinions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of the authors.
Pete Aguilar: This was a violent attempt to disrupt our democracy, and it failed
For the past 2½ years, one of my favorite traditions in Washington has been participating in the Congressional Baseball Game. I usually play in the outfield.
For those who aren’t familiar with this annual event, it’s when congressional Democrats and Republicans get together to play each other in an exhibition game that raises money for different D.C. charities. Besides letting some of us relive our younger and more athletic days, it also gives us a rare opportunity to connect with our colleagues across party and state lines.
The vicious and horrific attack we saw Wednesday in Alexandria at the Republican team’s practice was nothing short of a direct assault on the institution we all serve and a deranged attempt to disrupt our democracy through violence. But it failed. When the Democratic team learned about what happened, our coach – Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania – gathered us in the dugout for safety and led us all in prayer. As I sat in the dugout, I was horrified as I thought about Whip Scalise, the heroic Capitol Police officers, and the young former and current Capitol Hill staffers who were injured. It could have been any one of us. This wasn’t just an attack on Republicans; it was an attack on our democracy.
The Congressional Baseball Game has never been about Republicans against Democrats. It’s about Republicans and Democrats. It’s about Americans coming together to support a good cause. The game is going ahead Thursday night. We will not give in to fear, violence or hate. We will play for those affected by these despicable and cowardly actions, to support local charities (including the Washington Literacy Center, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, and, as was announced Wednesday, the Capitol Police Memorial Fund), and to remind the American people that this violence will not define or divide us.
Pete Aguilar represents the 31st Congressional District of California. He was re-elected in 2016 and serves on the House Appropriations Committee. In the 115th Congress, Aguilar holds the leadership positions of whip of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and is an assistant whip in the House Democratic Caucus. He plays outfield for the Democratic congressional baseball team.
Tim Ryan: We must recommit ourselves to having and showing empathy
Since 1909, the Congressional Baseball Game has been a bipartisan tradition, which has come to define summer in Washington for members of Congress, their families and staff. As a member of the Democratic baseball team since 2004, I always look forward to the season when baseball practice begins and members enjoy good-natured jokes on who will win the game.
It’s one of those rare instances when divisive rhetoric is set aside, and we can come together – not just as teams, but as a community.
And so, early Wednesday morning, I jumped in my car and drove to baseball practice in northeast D.C.. On the other side of town, in Alexandria, Virginia, my Republican colleagues were doing the same, getting ready for Thursday’s big charity game.
Tragically, Wednesday’s morning routine ended with a vicious act of hate and violence designed to divide us.
Shortly after 7 a.m., a man consumed by hate opened fire on Republican members of Congress as they practiced. Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. Roger Williams’ staffer Zachary Barth, Matt Mika and Capitol Police Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner were all wounded in the torrent of gunfire, but not before Bailey and Griner, along with the Alexandria Police Department, fought back.
Meanwhile, other members who were not injured rushed to the sides of those hit to offer medical assistance until help arrived. This bravery is commendable.
Together, they prevented what likely would have been a massacre. And my thoughts and prayers are with all those injured and their families.
There is no doubt that this morning shook many of my colleagues and me to the core. Several of my closest friends in Congress are Republicans, and we share stories of our families, children and sports teams after votes and throughout the day. When my wife saw the news, the first thing she did was text her friend whose husband plays on the Republican team. When I saw my friend Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pennsylvania, in the Capitol building this morning, the first thing I did was give him a hug.
While members of Congress may disagree on policy and politics, we still respect each other as human beings. But that doesn’t mean we and the public don’t sometimes fall short in how we treat those we disagree with politically. As a nation, we must recommit ourselves to having and showing empathy toward each other.
I am proud to live in a country where expressing a strong opinion is a right, and one that I exercise regularly. And while we may disagree on the direction of the country, we all agree that violence is never the answer. It is an honor and a privilege to be a member of Congress, one that I know my colleagues on both sides of the aisle do not take for granted.
My hope is that in response to this horrific event, we begin to tone down the partisan language that has come to occupy our political dialogue and get back to the issues at hand. While Wednesday gave us all a pause, on Thursday we get back to work both on the House Floor – and on the baseball field.
Tim Ryan is the US representative for Ohio’s 13th District. He plays shortstop for the Democratic congressional baseball team.
Kevin Yoder and Emanuel Cleaver: We will remain unified in Thursday’s baseball game and in Friday’s debates
“I’m right and you’re evil.”
Too many arguments these days, whether at kitchen tables across America or in the well of the House of Representatives, revolve around that premise.
Early Wednesday morning, Rep. Steve Scalise, congressional staffer Zach Barth, and former staffer Matt Mika were injured when an extremist attacked congressional Republicans at a regularly scheduled practice for the charity Congressional Baseball Game.
Thankfully, special agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner, two brave Capitol Police officers on House Majority Whip Scalise’s protective detail, took down the attacker, after suffering injuries themselves, and prevented him from doing any more damage.
Thanks to the heroism of the Capitol Police, all those injured are expected to fully recover.
But this horrific tragedy, in which the shooter’s motive appears to have been his political beliefs, has shed light on a fact that we all know to be true: Our nation is deeply divided.
Now, we must be clear – the blame for this violence and bloodshed lies solely with the attacker. No political rhetoric in America, no matter how heated, advocates or condones violence.
But if our political arguments are based on the premise that one side is right and the other is evil, it makes it much easier for twisted minds to justify violence.
And we cannot deny that coming together to find compromise solutions to our nation’s biggest problems is much harder if we take this approach
How can you compromise with evil?
We’ve always believed that civility is a vital element of our democracy, but in today’s heated climate, we need it more than ever. It is this belief that has motivated us as chairmen of the Congressional Civility Caucus.
You may not find two members of Congress who disagree more on issues. We represent neighboring districts in Kansas and Missouri as Republicans and Democrats, but if you ask our constituents at home about the nature of our relationship, you’ll hear that we are great friends.
We often spend our periods of district work doing joint events, promoting the idea of civility and bipartisanship.
For us, it’s the norm. For too many, it’s shocking.
In light of Wednesday’s attack, now is the time to prioritize civility and tone down our rhetoric. If people are resorting to violence, we’ve clearly gone too far.
America is at its greatest when Republicans and Democrats are working together to move our nation forward, because at the end of the day we all pledge allegiance to the same flag and sing the same national anthem before every baseball game.
And that is what we will do Thursday night at the Congressional Baseball Game. We will not be deterred by this hateful act. The game will go on, as it has every year since 1909.
The game is one of the best things we have in Congress. It’s a night where we all come together –people who may be at odds during the day in the hallways of the Capitol – and head a few blocks down the road to Washington Nationals Park to work together for a good cause.
We hope the bipartisan, unified, and civil sentiment at Thursday’s baseball game will carry into Friday’s debates. And we will continue to bring that message to Congress and the American people.
Rep. Kevin Yoder and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver are the bipartisan co-chairmen of the Congressional Civility Caucus. Kevin Yoder plays outfield for the Republican congressional baseball team.
Dan Kildee: We can’t change the past but we can put our best foot forward today
Like many Americans, I am still jarred by Wednesday’s horrific shooting at the Republican baseball practice in Virginia. We continue to pray for the victims of this attack, including Congressman Steve Scalise, US Capitol Police Officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey, congressional staffer Zack Barth and Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika. There is absolutely no place for violence in our political system.
I learned about the shooting as Democrats were practicing on a different field for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. When our team got the news, we gathered in the dugout, put our arms around each other, and prayed. After I checked in with my family, my next instinct was to call my friend and fellow Michigander, John Moolenaar. John plays on the Republican baseball team and was at the site of the shooting.
If you just watch cable television, you might have the impression that Democrats and Republicans are in constant battle. We certainly don’t agree on every policy. But the truth is, we often work closely with one another, often behind the scenes, on issues important to our constituents. I consider many of my Republican colleagues, including John, good friends.
My hope is that this terrible tragedy serves as a call to action, and spurs a new resolve, not just for members of Congress, but all Americans, to recognize that we all have a responsibility to promote more civility in our politics, even when we disagree.
When Kathy Griffin holds up violent images of the president and Eric Trump says Democrats are “not even people,” we must acknowledge that the tone of our rhetoric has risen far outside the norm. Both parties are at fault, as are outside groups that spend millions of dollars villainizing and attacking political opponents.
We can’t change the past—but we can put our best foot forward today and act to tone down our political speech.
Some will say that the current tone of political dialogue had nothing to do with this shooting. We may never know. But there is one thing we know for sure: all of us can do better. All of us can bring a more civil tone to our political speech. We have a moral responsibility to do that. To not just demonize opponents, but rather to treat our differences as something that strengthens our democratic society, not something to exploit. That is my hope.
This doesn’t mean we cannot have real differences about policy. Indeed, our Founding Fathers envisioned and designed a system of government that encourages robust debate amongst elected officials. We are a diverse nation, and there are often divergent viewpoints on the many complex issues we face.
But despite the polarization in our politics today, there is still more that unites us as Americans than divides us. Yes, we may still have differences, but above all, there are common bonds that bring us together. We love our country. We are patriotic citizens. We want to leave a better world for our children.
Let’s remember those uniting principles, even when we disagree on the issues. Speaker Ryan said it best: We are being tested right now. But we can come together, lift each other up, and show the country that we are better than the despicable act of violence we saw yesterday.
Rep. Dan Kildee represents Michigan’s 5th congressional district and has been a member of the Democratic congressional baseball team since coming to Congress in 2013.