Last year, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) went around her Arizona district talking to constituents about health reform. Arizona State Rep. Steve Farley, also a Democrat, went with her, often sitting onstage looking out at seething audiences. Now that he's back and forth between his Tucson home and the hospital where Rep. Giffords lies gravely wounded after being shot in the head on Saturday, Rep. Farley draws a connection between the violent rhetoric and the literal violence.
"You'd go to these health-care town halls, where you get 2,000 screaming, hissing, booing, shouting-down-everybody people on the right, and you got the sense that there was this kind of primeval allure to being in a mob," Rep. Farley tells us. "It's driven by politics, and not rational politics at that."
The suspect, Jared Loughner, now stands accused of two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, the Arizona Republic reports. Six people were killed, and another 14 injured. Loughner, 22, shows signs of having been mentally unstable.
Rep. Farley says that it's unlikely Loughner acted out of political motivations, at least in the way that most folks understand politics. But he argues that violent political rhetoric has an effect on people like Loughner. "They're loners and they're looking for something to belong to, and those big angry mob things, they're a rush," Rep. Farley says. "It doesn't matter what we believe in -- we've got to tone it down. Because this is a democracy, and we can't govern if we don't respect each other."
The good news now, Mr. Farley reports, is that he sees signs in Tucson that people of all political stripes are pulling together and calling for peace.
(H/T Blog for Arizona)