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: 319511

Reported Deaths: 7368
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22267267
Hinds20657421
Harrison18401317
Rankin13868282
Jackson13681248
Madison10239224
Lee10052176
Jones8458167
Forrest7824153
Lauderdale7257242
Lowndes6501150
Lamar634088
Lafayette6303121
Washington5419136
Bolivar4836133
Panola4665110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4600147
Marshall4572105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425073
Union415677
Monroe4155135
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386487
Leflore3515125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3368111
Alcorn324272
Scott319774
Yazoo314171
Adams305886
Itawamba305078
Copiah299666
Coahoma298484
Simpson298189
Tippah291868
Prentiss283661
Leake271774
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George252051
Newton248663
Tishomingo231268
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Clay187754
Stone187433
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174032
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135347
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry126738
Amite126242
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108033
Tunica108027
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman81916
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69432
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548323

Reported Deaths: 11288
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809531565
Mobile42066826
Madison35663525
Tuscaloosa26162458
Shelby25595254
Montgomery25081612
Baldwin21839313
Lee16265176
Calhoun14718325
Morgan14626285
Etowah14171363
Marshall12449230
Houston10764288
Elmore10295213
Limestone10182157
St. Clair10160251
Cullman9941201
Lauderdale9596249
DeKalb8967189
Talladega8458184
Walker7335280
Autauga7230113
Blount6944139
Jackson6922113
Colbert6414140
Coffee5627127
Dale4929114
Russell454941
Chilton4472116
Franklin431083
Covington4273122
Tallapoosa4136155
Escambia401780
Chambers3726124
Dallas3607156
Clarke352961
Marion3242106
Pike314078
Lawrence3129100
Winston283572
Bibb268464
Geneva257581
Marengo250665
Pickens236862
Barbour234659
Hale226878
Butler224071
Fayette218162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph187044
Monroe179341
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155657
Cleburne153244
Lamar146537
Lowndes142054
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113430
Coosa111429
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93534
Choctaw62025
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The relative lack of humidity has been a welcome change from the summertime stuffiness we’ve had lately. That lack of humidity will once again ensure that temperatures get down into the mid 60s for early morning Thursday. While Friday morning will remain comfortable as well, rain chances ratchet up as a tropical system approaches this weekend.
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