by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Angry, in-your-face confrontations dramatically increase the chances of violence. Put people in close proximity, yelling and spitting, and public officials will rightly start to fear that they’re in physical danger. While millions of Americans don’t remember that a Bernie Sanders supporter last year tried to assassinate a significant portion of the GOP Congress, you can be assured that not a single Republican in Washington has forgotten. They can never be sure that the screaming person in front of them doesn’t mean them physical harm. …
… Politics deals with weighty matters. Thus, if you look hard enough, you can always find a pretext to inflict pain. Human life is at stake at every moment in the abortion debate. Men, women, and children live or die depending on the foreign-policy choices of every American president. Economic fortunes rise and fall. Civil liberties hang in the balance.
It’s precisely because politics is important that we have to work so hard to maintain peaceful and reasonable discourse. If history is any guide, the default human position is the scream of rage followed by the lunge for the pitchfork. We human beings have a tendency to escalate politics into civil strife and civil strife into war. Our Founders understood this reality, so they created a system that provides for political change without pitchforks. In the United States, the frequency of elections ensures regular accountability, judicial review can check abuse, and the First Amendment protects opportunities to persuade.