This is going to be the most surprising column you’ll read all day.
As I write this, news is breaking out that a suspect is in custody, accused of sending pipe bombs to a former Democratic president, a Democratic presidential candidate, several Democrats in Congress and several people who served in a Democratic administration. News outlets have shown the suspect in question wore a MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat, had no shortage of pro-Trump and anti-Democratic candidate stickers on his van, voted Republican in primaries, had a criminal history, and a history of threatening the opposition party.
Democrats are going to be sorely tempted to point to this as a case of Trump indirectly inspiring someone to hateful actions. There could be a political advantage to be made out of this sad episode of domestic terrorism. Some will want this to be an “October Surprise” issue for Democrats in the upcoming election. They shouldn’t.
In fact, this would be a really good time to engage in one of those great moments in American history, where political opponents stand shoulder-to-shoulder to block an attack on who we are. We’ve stood together to face foreign threats, came together after a bloody Civil War, and now it’s time to work together to bury one of the most insidious threats to face this country: domestic terrorism. And it will take members of both parties and independents to do it.
Since the KKK, America has faced groups and individuals who sought to terrify and even kill political opponents. They use heated political rhetoric to justify their assassinations, bombings and crimes, often masking good old fashioned hate and personal failings under the guise of some “noble cause.” It’s cooler to be the rebel instead of the loser.
Turning the heat up on the opposing party is more likely to do just that, leading to more domestic hate, shootings at Congressional baseball games, or killings at Kroger (the shooter in that Kentucky case this week had been blocked from carrying out a Charleston-like church massacre). It will give the tiny percentage of those Americans who want a Civil War all the ammo and justification they need. And there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that foreign entities like Russia are exploiting any division they can in America, to destroy us.
It’s important to note that this is a criminal case, and a law enforcement solution is where we start. Let’s figure out how to determine if this suspect is really the guilty one, rather than have an investigation and trial in the court of public opinion, an inferior judicial body to the real thing.
Even if this suspect is indeed responsible, and all the stuff about his politics is true, let’s see if we can do better, as a country. Seek out someone who you disagree with politically, but find a way to connect with that person. You can agree to disagree with the policies they support, or even find a grudging compromise with someone who believes differently than you. My students from both political sides actually tend to be pretty good at doing this. Seek out groups that unify, like our local Racial Trustbuilding Group, our civic organizations, our community-based clubs, or start your own if you can’t find one. That’s one way terrorists lose.
It’s important to not let this moment, which is a chance at unification, go to waste. Terrorists don’t just want to scare people; they want copycats as well. But if we use their attacks for political advantage, such domestic terrorism will become part of our politics. It’s the only way the hate groups, and our foreign adversaries, have any chance of beating us, and U.S.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.