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This is the logical conclusion of our poisonous political environment

It's easy amid the nearly hourly revelations of new mail bombs being sent to prominent Democrats and others ...

Posted: Oct 26, 2018 6:47 PM
Updated: Oct 26, 2018 6:47 PM

It's easy amid the nearly hourly revelations of new mail bombs being sent to prominent Democrats and others who have been heavily criticized by President Donald Trump to lose sight of the big picture here: We are dealing with an act of political terrorism the breadth of which we haven't seen in a very long time.

Federal authorities have arrested a man in connection to the suspected explosive packages, according to multiple law enforcement sources Friday.

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While there's still lots we don't know -- who did this, when, why and how -- what we do know already makes this a major moment in the political history of our country. Ten packages containing rudimentary but initially assessed to be functional pipe bombs were sent to two former Democratic presidents, a former Democratic vice president, a California congresswoman, a former attorney general in a Democratic administration, an actor who has been an outspoken critic of the President, a prominent liberal donor and a media organization Trump has singled out for criticism.

The goal of these bombs was seemingly to kill or maim. Period. So what we can reasonably gather is that we are dealing with a coordinated attempt by a person or person(s) to inflict grievous harm on not only the most recognizable faces in the Democratic Party but also on Trump's highest-profile critics.

Even if we draw zero conclusions about why these people and organizations were specifically targeted and whether any blame can or should be doled out to Trump for weaponizing partisanship and polarization, we are still dealing with an absolutely critical moment in the history of our politics.

And while this is the broadest act of obvious political terrorism we've seen since at least the 2001 anthrax attacks, when politicians and members of the media received envelopes filled with the bacterium, (five people died and 17 were injured during those attacks), it's not the only incident in recent years.

Last summer, a man whose social media presence made clear that he was staunchly anti-Trump began shooting at a baseball practice of congressional Republicans -- nearly killing Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) in the process. In December 2016, a man stormed a local Washington, DC, restaurant and fired an assault rifle -- under the auspices of investigating the debunked "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory regarding Hillary Clinton and a pedophile ring supposedly being run out of the establishment. In Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist marchers violently protested the removal of a Confederate monument -- leading to the death of a counter-protester.

No matter who you blame -- if you blame anyone -- for these acts (and the clear increase in them), it's impossible to separate them from the political climate in which they are committed. It is beyond debate that we not only live in a time of remarkable political polarization but that we also have increasingly come to regard those who disagree with us as not just wrong or dumb, but evil.

In a 2017 Pew poll on partisanship, 44% of Democrats had a very unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party while 45% of GOPers had a very unfavorable view of Democrats. In both cases, those numbers are twice what they were in 1994 -- which no one thinks of as a golden age of bipartisanship and understanding. A 2017 PRRI poll showed that a majority of Democrats (54%) and Republicans (52%) believed the other party's policies are "so misguided they pose a threat to the country." A 2016 Pew poll showed that 62% of highly politically engaged Republicans said they were "afraid" of Democrats while 58% said the Democratic Party made them feel "angry." Among highly engaged Democrats, seven in 10 said they were afraid of the GOP and 58% said they were "angry" at Republicans.

Combine those numbers with the fact that an entire wing of media has grown up around (and profited on) not only telling viewers what they want to hear but also de-legitimizing and de-humanizing those who disagree, and you have a very potent brew. When you then have a President of the United States who declares the media the "enemy of the people" and categorizes those who disagree with him on issues as "evil," it's not at hard to understand how we got to this week.

"We are at a boiling point," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the wake of the discovery of the mail bombs on Wednesday.

He's right. And to their credit, most politicians -- including Trump -- said mostly the right things in the wake of this series of acts of political terrorism. In the immediate wake of the acts, that is. Because, by Thursday morning, Trump was blame-casting, tweeting that "a very big part of the anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News." Conservative talk radio hosts -- not to mention Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs -- were floating the idea that the whole thing had been cooked up by some "they" in an attempt to distract from the migrant caravan moving across Mexico toward the US border.

As the last 12 hours make clear, calls for unity and to put an end to the ever-increasing rhetorical excesses of our politicians -- most notably the President -- will almost certainly fail. And they will fail for a simple reason: There is no political benefit in urging angry and fearful partisans to be less so. Particularly 12 days before an election that will decide which side controls the House and Senate for the second half of Trump's first term.

Anger, fear and resentment have been the jet fuel of the Trump movement. The argument forwarded by Trump, which goes something like, the people in power -- the elites in the Democratic Party, the media, etc. -- are not only actively working to keep you down but they are sneering at you while they do it, has tremendous political potency. And when something works in politics, you see more of it, not less.

But simply because something "works" in a political context doesn't make it defensible. This is one of those cases. When politicians villainize and dehumanize the other party (or the media) for political purposes, they are opening up Pandora's box. While they may not mean to incite politically motivated violence -- it's all just to score political points and win! -- it doesn't take a genius to understand that it is easier to wish harm on a person who you have been convinced isn't even really a person.

That's the moment we have come to in American politics.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with additional reporting.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10097104
Hinds9984199
Harrison7116110
Jackson6360119
Rankin5588103
Lee509195
Madison4799106
Forrest383186
Jones357688
Lauderdale3496147
Lafayette326051
Washington3179107
Lamar291550
Oktibbeha245462
Bolivar241384
Lowndes237364
Panola222350
Neshoba2206118
Marshall217250
Leflore205590
Pontotoc199928
Monroe198177
Sunflower191655
Lincoln190865
Warren176857
Tate169851
Union167325
Copiah164140
Pike162658
Yazoo156039
Scott154829
Itawamba152935
Pearl River152167
Alcorn151328
Coahoma150543
Simpson148353
Prentiss146230
Adams141950
Grenada140945
Leake134944
Holmes130861
George125524
Tippah125230
Covington123439
Winston122224
Hancock121139
Wayne117923
Marion116646
Attala113034
Tishomingo109442
Chickasaw107632
Newton105629
Tallahatchie97027
Clay91327
Clarke90553
Jasper82822
Stone77014
Walthall76928
Calhoun75513
Montgomery74525
Carroll72415
Lawrence71814
Smith71316
Yalobusha71327
Noxubee71017
Perry67026
Tunica61019
Greene60322
Claiborne58616
Jefferson Davis57017
Amite54014
Humphreys53619
Benton49318
Quitman4927
Webster44314
Kemper43618
Wilkinson39822
Jefferson35211
Franklin3395
Choctaw3357
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1164
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
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