Much like “The show must go on,” the Congressional Baseball Game will go on Thursday, the managers of both teams announced at an emotional press conference.
Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, on the Democrat side, described what happened when his team heard about the shooting Wednesday morning.
We went into our dugout and huddled up and just started saying prayers for them that they’d be okay and that nobody would be hurt seriously. We’re gonna go ahead and play the ballgame. Players on both sides want to do that. They think it’s the right thing to do.
It shouldn’t take an incident like this to bring us together. Joe and I have been reflecting a lot lately on how we can still maintain our principles and our legislative agendas, but we can do it in a more civil way.
And when the leadership of this country is civil towards one another, maybe the public will start being civil towards one another, too, and the news media will be civil towards Congress and the people, and we can change the mood in this country so that people don’t get filled up with this kind of hatred.
But tonight we want to be together. I just suggested to Joe that we would like to host the entire Republican team down at the Democratic club. Probably some of them have never stepped foot in that building. But we want to have them to dinner…just have a time to be with each other and reflect upon this day, and to share some food and drink and get to know each other a little bit better.
After a little joking (including saying he was going to order the most expensive steak on the menu), Rep. Barton talked about the need to discuss the ideas – passionately – without getting personal.
Hopefully this will — you know, you can be intensely political without being personal, and a lot of the traditions of the House are designed to diffuse personal animosity. Mike and I sit on the same committee…so we have a bond that goes beyond being managers.
What happened this morning was unconscionable. You could see the shooter ducking out and shooting, and he was doing it simply because apparently he didn’t like the political climate and chose to start shooting at a bunch of Congressmen who happen to today be Republicans.
That’s not America.
You can be a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican or somewhere in between and discuss your issues on the floor and not go out in the lobby and get in a fist fight. We need to take a step back, and I think at our level we should be a part. That’s why we’re holding a joint press conference.
People think they can come to our town hall meetings and say just the most obnoxious things and we not feel it personally. Well, I can assure you, every member of congress is a person who has family, and while we try sometimes not to show it, sometimes we do take it personally.
We are more isolated and fragmented than ever. I participate quite a bit in local politics, including on social media forums. Those of us who have been there for the last few cycles have, for the most part, become friendly with each other, even if we vehemently disagree on politics. There aren’t personal attacks. I’ve actually become “in real life” friends with a few of the Democrats, we watch each other’s kids grow up through Facebook, and when my dad passed away suddenly two months ago those same Democrats were there, sending me condolence messages and mourning alongside me.
But this year we’ve noticed a new crop of participants in the forums who have attacked the other side right out of the gate and very personally. The collegiality is missing. Rep. Doyle said it well:
I’ve watched Joe’s son Jack grow up, and I always have this yearly banter with I’m about trying to get a secret, you know, out of Jack, saying, tell me something that your dad’s doing that I don’t know about, and Jack would always say, “I’m not telling you anything.”
When you know somebody’s kid, somebody’s spouse, play baseball with them, you see them at the gym and you talk with them there, it’s different. When you see that person on the committee level – I wouldn’t think of being harsh to Joe Barton no matter what we disagree about politically, because I feel like he’s a family friend.
Exactly. When you see the other side as a mother, a father, a teacher, a sister, a friend – and not just a faceless bot – you think twice before hurling rhetoric their way.
One moment that hit home in the press conference was seeing Rep. Barton choke up while talking about the birth of his son Jack (and how Democrats got him as many gifts as Republicans did), who was on the field with him this morning, and seeing the look of compassion on Doyle’s face as he put a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
As both Barton and Doyle said, when they’re on the baseball field or the House floor, they’re fighting for the victory or for what they believe in. Off the field, outside the Capitol, they are family friends.
So, let’s do this – let’s play ball!