In my lifetime the nation has ever been divided as it is now. Things have become very serious and the political climate has become a volatile powder keg. When was the last time people directed such unabashed hatred at a legitimately elected U.S. President? I think you would have to go back to the days of Abraham Lincoln. People of that era took the notion of ‘not my President’ to new extremes and left the Union altogether. The only thing keeping us from an immediate full-blown Civil War now is the fact that unlike the 1860’s, the nation isn’t divided along geographic bounds. The first Civil War was based on the subject of slavery but the conflict could be divided along Northern and Southern boundaries. Slavery is the one great sin that has hung over this nation’s head since its inception. It still causes division to this day. It was ultimately ended by the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Freedom comes at a steep price, and once again its threatened.
It was only a matter of time before violence was directed at politicians. On Tuesday, June 14, 2017 tragedy finally struck. House Majority Whip Leader Steve Scalise and 4 others were wounded during practice for The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. All the details of the shooting are not yet known, but it’s safe to conclude the attack was directed specifically at Republicans. This game is held every year and it isn’t a top secret event. Members of both political parties practice at the same field (in Alexandria, Virginia) and given the importance of those participating, it’s reasonable to assume the shooter went to the field to kill as many people as possible.
While every human life holds equal value and while the tragic and violent death of any innocent person causes immeasurable pain, the ramifications of killing member(s) of Congress are enormous. Each Senator and Representative represents constituents. If that person is killed, it can temporarily or permanently silence hundreds of thousands of voices. Throughout history, bullets have changed the course of history. The very idea of someone massacring multiple members of Congress is horrifying.
The fact that this attack targeted Republicans specifically exposes some terrifying facts about the fragile state of current affairs.
At present, the party composition of Congress is as follows:
The House of Representatives: 242 Republicans, 194 Democrats
The Senate: 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and 2 Independents (both of whom lean Democrat)
Senator Rand Paul gave a chilling account of the shooting, saying if not for the presence of Scalise, who as House Majority Whip is the 3rd most powerful member of the House, a massacre would have occurred. The importance of Scalise’s leadership position dictated that Capitol Police be present. Those brave individuals were wounded in the attack, but did their job and stopped the gunman. Suppose they weren’t there? What would have happened if all present were killed?
According to The Hill there were 2 GOP Senators and 19 GOP Representatives present. Before today, the idea of Congress being massacred was limited to fictional tv shows. It’s really the kind of thing we as Americans associate with politically unstable countries. Had the would-be assassin been successful, it would have the first instance in American history of multiple high-level elected officials being killed at the same time. The last time a sitting member of the House was assassinated, was Leo Ryan (D-Ca) in 1978. Ryan was killed while investigating the Jim Jones cult. The last time a sitting member of the Senate was assassinated was Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) in 1968 (while campaigning for President). While members of Congress have died over the decades (from health issues or accidents) it’s been nearly 40 years since a member of a Congress has been forcibly removed by assassination. Today, we could very well have lost 21 members of Congress. That is a very sobering thought.
What happens if a member of a Congress dies before their term expires? It would be impossible to assess the impact of any one Congressperson being assassinated. The position will be filled, but it isn’t a matter of replacing one Republican with another Republican. A seasoned and well-respected politician has far more influence than a political neophyte. The most immediate concern is how the new occupant of the office (Republican or Democrat) affects the balance of votes. If a Senator dies, the vacancy is usually filled by the Governor of the state that person represented. The two Senators present today come from states with Republican governors. However, what would have happened if we had lost just two GOP senators who happened to serve states with Democrat Governors (and no law mandating that the position be filled by a member of the deceased’s party)? It would have changed the balance of power in the Senate to 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats and two Democratic leaning independents. In other words, it would have put the Senate in a deadlock. The spot held by Representatives who die in office are filled through special elections. Though highly unlikely, if all 19 GOP Representative present today had been replaced by Democrats, it would have cut the GOP House majority to 223-213.
Filling vacancies in Congress isn’t an instantaneous process. There would definitely be a period where constituents of the slain Congressperson would not have representation in Congress. In a day where almost every vote in Congress is of the utmost importance, we can’t afford to have such a disruption. However, a major tragedy not only seems inevitable, it’s being encouraged! Some would call it absurd, but I am beginning to see many similarities in the situations faced by Trump and Lincoln. In some respects, very little has changed over the past 150 years. For example, in the 1860’s the country’s most famous actor espoused anti-Union sentiments while performing in Northern cities. In the 2010’s virtually every entertainer insults and derides Trump. In what has to be the most obscene perversion of any Shakespearean drama, Julius Caesar is now being used to portray the assassination of Trump. A washed up comic even held up a bloody decapitated head to protest Trump. This isn’t harmless fun. Let us not forget that actor John Wilkes Booth actually killed Lincoln!
Different ideologies are vying for control of our government. Just as in 1860, one group represents freedom, the other doesn’t. I’m not going to make any modern day comparisons to the horrors of slavery. That would be absurd. However, the Leftists, who now control mainstream media, are pushing a Pro-Marxist and Anti-Christian agenda. If American history should teach us anything, it should be that Christianity and Capitalism are the best institutions for protecting freedom. It has always worked for us in the past and the present is no different. I pray for the safety of President Trump. Like Lincoln, he faces a seemingly hopeless situation. He must balance his use of power with the need to enforce the law. No easy task. Americans in 1850 couldn’t possibly imagine the carnage that would soon visit them. Are we only a mob riot away from war? Can Trump stop the carnage? Nothing less than the survival of the Republic is at stake. Heroes don’t always conform to what we expect, but if Trump is the man I believe him to be, he must not only be a great President, he must be a man for the ages.