The national tension and devolving rhetoric has been an issue since the presidency of George W. Bush, when opposing him was en vogue and it was fashionable to raise the bar of rhetoric in protest of a Republican commander-in-chief. The tension simmering finally materialized at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City at the end of Bush’s second term, but quickly fizzled out as Barack Obama assumed office. The rhetoric was still ugly and mean spirited through the first 6 years of Obama’s presidency, but there was a feeling that it had plateaued and the nastiness, especially towards conservatives, was the new normal. However, Americans learned that was not the case in August of 2014 when the protest in Ferguson, Missouri was a snap-back to reality and that reality was, and still is, that America is divided along the lines of partisan identity politics and our rhetoric seems to force that chasm to grow deeper and wider day-by-day.
Since the events of Ferguson, America feels as if it is careening into a place the country has not been in a long time. That careening felt like it started picking up speed on November 9th, 2016 to the point by the time the inauguration rolled around on January 20th, 2017 it was perfectly acceptable to punch a neo-nazi in the face — some even encouraged the violent activity. Which brings the timeline to Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia where an “angry little man” who was fanatically ant-Trump tried to kill Republican lawmakers who were playing baseball.
The attack was hard enough to wrap one’s head around, but the way anti-Trump Americans were spiteful in the denunciation of a radical from their ranks was breathtaking and heart breaking to behold. Many conservatives were stupefied that this attack was blamed on their portion of a rhetorical arms race in the war of words. It was easy to see how Americans were seriously beginning to thinking their country was past some unknown “point of no return” and that there was no honest opposition on the progressive American left still around to engage. Chris Hayes spoke up for what conservatives were saying, he reach over the partisan chasm and tried to comfort and engage his fellow Americans who were shocked and deeply insulted.
Chris Hayes is a formidable media advisory for American conservatives. He unflinchingly defended the Obama administration’s ideas and gives as good as he gets in a modern media setting. But, through it all, the guy seems sincere and sincerity matters when Republican leaders are a target for assassination, simply for being Republicans, at a charity baseball game by a man rabidly opposed to Donald Trump.
I'm surprised and I know Hayes isn't well-regarded on the right, but this isn't atypical for him pic.twitter.com/BbYNcO1ypq
— John Ekdahl (@JohnEkdahl) June 15, 2017
He is not well-regarded on the right, but Chris Hayes consistently calls a fair game. After the tense summer of 2014 when Michael Brown was shot to death the following year was about the “National Conversation” America had to have on race and policing. The Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson had just been released in March of 2015 and former RedState Editor Leon Wolf took an honest look at the report. He told his own party how they were ignoring their conservative values and Hayes gave him larger a platform that allowed progressive voters to see conservatives were ideologically behind them on the case against the system in Ferguson.
Hayes allowed Wolf to state both truths, which were: 1) the media narrative of what happened was a complete falsehood and 2) the Ferguson police department was using taxation through citation to prop up an economically failing St. Louis County municipality. Both are facts and Hayes had given his platform to a conservative who was asking to have the honest conversation. What else can be asked of one’s honest opposition?
Wolf pointed out two years ago that both sides of the ideological spectrum were talking past each other refusing to see the big picture and it was negatively affecting our national dialogue. Then the very next month Baltimore burned in riots protesting the murder of Freddie Gray. Though cities won’t burn, today’s tragedy was a gut-check for all and it reminded us how divided we are on some issues like guns and how the media frames a tragedy. Hayes affirmed that conservatives are not inventing this bias in the media it actually occurring.
His honesty should grant him good will among conservatives and his gesture of honest dialogue should be reciprocated if for no other reason than the benefit of national dialogue.
The right should also have hope that because he shared his platform to allow a conservative to speak honestly about conservative values that he would also use his platform to speak honestly to progressives. Of course, Hayes will meet conservatives on the battlefield of ideas again but even he would agree the only battlefield Americans should be in hurry to rush towards is the battlefield of ideas.