WASHINGTON – In reaction to the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) urged members of Congress to think about “sharing prosperity” to the “have-nots” instead of keeping the wealth to themselves and their friends.
Johnson also said lawmakers and the general public need to act more like human beings and less like “animals” when they debate public policy issues.
The man who shot Scalise in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday while GOP members of Congress were practicing for tonight’s annual charity baseball game was identified as James Hodgkinson, 66, a Bernie Sanders presidential campaign volunteer who frequently posted anti-Trump material on Facebook.
“Congress will continue to do its business. We will remain polarized on the issues but the tone of our discourse has to change from personal animosity to simply disagreement on policy,” Johnson told PJM on Capitol Hill after the shooting. “And I think political discourse in this country has shifted dramatically with signals being given that it’s OK to personally attack those who disagree with or those who disagree with you. So we’ve got to find a way to come back from that and be more humane to each other, actually more like human beings as opposed to animals.”
Johnson, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, was asked if there’s a course of action he would like to see Congress take in the aftermath of the incident.
“I think it really boils down to what’s in the heart of legislators. Do they care about the people they represent or do they care more about corporations getting people elected here? Do they care more about the dark money that can be used either for or against them in their election? Do they care more about that than the poor, the people who are on the low end of the spectrum, those who have been down for generations, those whose forefathers were down?” he asked.
“Do they care more about bringing more money to those who already have, or should they think about sharing prosperity to the have-nots? I think it really boils down to that. The members have to really start looking into their hearts. Are we here to grease our own palms and those of our neighbors and friends, or are we here to work for peace and prosperity, not just for ourselves, but for everybody?” he added.
Johnson was also asked if he thought the New York City retelling of “Julius Caesar” that depicts Donald Trump as the assassinated title character and comedian Kathy Griffin posing with a severed head resembling Trump for a photo shoot have contributed to normalizing violent behavior toward political figures.
“I really don’t know anything about a play. I haven’t heard about that, but I would say whenever it comes to acting as if violence is OK, violence toward each other, which might not be physical violence, but it sets the mood, it sets the mentality, those kinds of things I think we need to avoid,” he said. “We need to step away from those kinds of – even if you call it entertainment, but really it’s not. It’s sending a message; we need to move back from that. We need to become more loving and peaceful toward each other.”
Johnson urged the public to remember that President Obama’s election had sparked violent behavior in political discourse.
“You are mistaken if you think this kind of behavior just started because it has been going on for a long time. And I think Barack Obama, his election, was the precipitating factor in making it OK to hate on your neighbor who you disagree with or who has a different color than you or has a different religious than you,” he said. “Those kinds of notions were stoked as a result of the election of President Obama. It’s just simply being expanded upon now, but let’s just look at it for what it is and it just didn’t start right now.”