Assembly leaders promote civility in politics

By Brenda Flanagan

“My message is tone it down. Civility should rule in a democracy,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.

Nobody sang Kumbaya, but Assembly leaders shook hands and made a direct, bipartisan call for calm.

“What we’re showing here today is about that: that we actually want to be civil and we want to be respectful,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.

The unusual State House news conference came in response to this week’s politically charged shooting in Alexandria. A disaffected voter apparently felt so inflamed by hatred of Donald Trump that he opened fire on Republicans practicing for a congressional baseball game. These political veterans believe the shooter’s rage was steeped in the toxic brew of capitol politics, which they called in a word…

“Hostile. If the public sees hostility, as opposed to a question and an answer, they start to feel they can be hostile, too. So it seems as if the rhetoric keeps getting more and more hateful, across the board. I don’t see it in our committees very often,” Bramnick said.

“We have always said Washington should behave more like Trenton,” said Prieto.

Actually, Trenton’s infamous for the incivility of its chief politician.

“Sit down and shut up,” said Chris Christie.

The governor holds no monopoly on shoot-from-the-lip polemics. The 2016 presidential election drilled down to new lows of crude.

“The racists, sexists, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it,” said Hillary Clinton.

“I watched little Marco and I watched lying Ted Cruz, lying Ted,” said Donald Trump.

After the election, disputes over health care and other issues devolved into bitter diatribes. Wednesday’s shooting shocked Washington into a momentary cessation of hostilities.

“It comes from both sides of the aisle. Enough. Enough. It’s going to cause more violence and it is, to me, an insult to democracy,” said Bramnick.

Last night’s congressional baseball game seemed to start a healing process for D.C. Members who rarely interacted with any warmth or comity found common ground, while fielding grounders.

Bramnick introduced a resolution calling for respectful discourse in 2005, but it went nowhere. Today, he and Prieto noted they have received threats from angry constituents, but rarely. They re-emphasized friendship, mutual respect and a willingness to discuss differences as key to the democratic process.

“In order to have a relationship you have to be in the same room as that other person,” Bramnick said.

“And if I may, that about trust,” added Prieto. “I do have trust in the minority leader because we speak on a regular basis and he has given me his word as I give him mine, and its been kept.”

It may not change the tone of legislative debate, but expect Bramnick to reintroduce his resolution calling for civil discourse and Prieto to post it for a vote, courteously.