Calm down and be civil before someone gets killed

I’m worried someone is going to get killed.

While that may sound like hyperbole, it is not intended to be. It seems we are reaching a political moment where the American melting pot is in danger of boiling over. It leaves us with one of two options: either the steam builds up and violently erupts, or we turn the temperature down and let some of the heat dissipate.

The Kavanaugh confirmation saga has brought out the worst in politics. Professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school, had sent a letter privately and in confidence to her elected representatives. Someone, most likely a partisan operative, breached her trust to leak it in an effort to upend the nomination. This not only robbed Ford of the choice to make the accusation public on her own terms, but also resulted in death threats against Ford and her family.

As part of the stop Kavanaugh effort, a 20-something former Democratic congressional staffer allegedly “doxed” — sending out personal information like phone numbers and home addresses — several Republican senators. After Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, Sen. Susan Collins was accused of being a “gender traitor.” Women in her office have been told they “don’t deserve a uterus” and had rape wished upon them. And in both Maine and Washington, protesters have lined up outside Collins’ homes.

Protesters march at a rally outside Sen. Susan Collins’ office in Portland on Sept. 28. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Defense Secretary James Mattis was recently sent a ricin-laced letter. Sen. Ted Cruz was recently accosted at a restaurant while trying to have a private dinner with his family. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, was refused service over political differences several months ago.

Obviously death threats, ricin, and doxing are much more serious than not being able to enjoy a meal or peacefully spend time in your private residence. However, it only takes one disturbed individual to take things too far in the latter scenarios, resulting in tragedy. Which is exactly what happened last year, when the congressional Republican softball team found themselves under fire on a Capitol-area practice field, placing Rep. Steve Scalise in the hospital for over three months.

The unbridled, untethered, sometimes unhinged passion exhibited by officials in Washington is stoking the flames. President Donald Trump is certainly part of that problem. His “grab ‘em” remarks, which came to light during the campaign, is one example, while mocking Ford is another.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t fare any better. Calling Americans she disagreed with a “basket of deplorables” was asinine. Declaring Republicans her “proudest enemy” was petty.  And, now, she is doubling down on those comments, exhorting Democrats to be “tougher” on Republicans, returning to civility only upon their return to power.

She’s wrong. The Kavanaugh nomination shows why.

Long before any accusations about assault came to light, Democrats and left-wing groups vehemently opposed now-Justice Kavanaugh within hours of his nomination.  “The Women’s March” forgot to update their pre-written fundraising emails, exhorting their contacts to donate to oppose the nomination of “XX,” later identifying him as Brett “Cavenaugh.” It’s hard to see how you can be much “tougher” than that.

The reality is Republicans treated Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, poorly — being “tougher” — and Democrats were mad. It was a long-simmering GOP “tat” for the “tit” of Democrats’ political opposition to Judge Robert Bork.

End it. If you can only be magnanimous in victory, then defeat will lead to nothing but demons. And neither “victory” nor “defeat” are perpetual; change is always ahead. So constant “one-upmanship” is a circular road leading the nation nowhere.

Contrary to Clinton’s comments, “civility” isn’t a bad word. And it shouldn’t be confused with “nicey-nice.” Attacking the ideas, policies, and positions of opponents is appropriate; steel sharpens steel. Questioning the qualifications of would-be officials should be done, such as Susan Rice trying to take on the mantle of “Mainer” for sake of a Senate seat because she has summered here.

It should go without saying, but Americans are not “enemies” to each other. Or “traitors” — either to their gender or their countrymen — for voting a certain way. And no one — no one — should ever have violence wished upon them.

Hyperbole has run amok. With luck, the oncoming winter will help cooler heads to prevail. Because the other possibility isn’t pretty.

Michael Cianchette

About Michael Cianchette

Michael Cianchette was the chief counsel to Gov. Paul LePage from 2012-2013 and deputy counsel from 2011-2012. A Navy reservist, he was deployed to Afghanistan from 2013-2014 as a trainer and adviser to the Afghan National Police. He is an alumnus of the Leadership Maine program and holds a BA in economics and political science from Boston College along with a JD and an MBA from Suffolk University. He works as in-house counsel and financial manager for a number of affiliated companies in southern Maine.