Policemen work at the site of the gunshot at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia state, the United States, on June 14, 2017. The gunman who opened fire Wednesday morning at a U.S. congressional baseball practice field has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson, a white male in his 60s. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, June 17 (Xinhua) -- With this week's shooting of a U.S. Congressman by a man with deep hatred for President Donald Trump, it's become clear that Washington's bitter partisan rivalry has boiled over, and is sowing seeds of political violence.
Earlier this week, U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise -- a Republican -- was hit in a flurry of gunfire at a Congress baseball practice field. The shooter, who died when shots were returned by police, was reportedly an anti-Trump radical who had been allegedly extremely distraught by the brash billionaire's election in November.
Observers and experts opine that the current tumultuous political environment has created a political powder keg in the United States. Indeed, since Trump's election, there are many families in which relatives no longer speak to each other and friends have parted ways because of disagreements over the direction of the country - with Trump being the focal point of the arguments.
Supporters have high hopes for the man they elected to finally get the economy moving again after nearly a decade of economic stagnation under the previous administration. But some - not all - of Trump's critics are in a state of near hysteria after the New York businessman clinched the White House.
"While any mass shooting has a complex set of causes-many in the psyche of the gunman-if this is indeed a political attack, which is what investigators seem to be finding, it is an extreme outgrowth of a political environment that is no longer partisan, but tribal," Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, told Xinhua.
"In this environment, we no longer view our political differences through the lens of differing policy opinions, rather we see them as enemies, and even go so far as to doubt their patriotism," Mahaffee said.
Some have pointed to the role of the U.S. media for what critics call ginning up anti-Trump hatred among the population, with what critics call a plethora of irresponsible stories.
Indeed, at this point in his presidency, no president in recent memory has seen such a firestorm of criticism. Others say Trump has brought the maelstrom of criticism on himself, as he's constantly making outlandish public remarks.
"President Trump's tone is unprecedented. While it has certainly pushed the envelope in terms of what we consider to be scandalous political speech, it is also a reflection of how this tribal environment has been fertile ground for increasingly inflammatory and controversial language from politicians, pundits, and partisan media," Mahaffee said.
It remains unknown whether the shooting will be a wakeup call for Americans to dial down the political partisanship.
"Hopefully, this event has served to break some of the fever -perhaps not in terms of policy disagreements, but in terms of how we see fellow Americans who happen to have different political viewpoints," Mahaffee said.
"That said, it is also incumbent upon those who believe in civility and dialogue to support those who reach across the aisle and drown out those voices of violence and radical politics on both the far-right and far-left, who thrive in social media and highly partisan media outlets," Mahaffee said.