Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Speech shows how to push back against bully politics


As I have seen political discourse degrade into a verbal form of gladiator death match, I find myself recalling my old friends on “The McLaughlin Group” with an unexpected fondness.

People remember the show mostly for its fastpaced combative exploratio­n of big issues in the week’s news. Energized by host John McLaughlin’s combative style, it was a surprising hit, bestowing upon us the fame of being lampooned by Mad magazine and “Saturday Night Live.”

But what I find most memorable these days is the vision that guided John’s creation of the show. He envisioned a show based on old friends gathering to argue politics. No matter how passionate their disputes became, they always parted as friends. I appreciate how important it is, even in today’s tribal political times, to bring opposing voices together under the hope and understand­ing that they will part as friends.

John died three months before Donald Trump was elected, signaling a new era in which civility and comity became all but obsolete in politics, governance and media programmin­g.

Social networks opened up new avenues to raise your profile, campaign funds and political clout. And the rhetoric people use unfortunat­ely has gone “wild,” as Trump described his Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally in his tweeted invitation.

I think even John, who was no softy, would have blushed at the notion of members of Congress calling one another “pedophiles” and “groomers” without an ounce of evidence.

Now such assaults, taken directly from the dark paranoid reaches of the QAnon galaxy, turn up on the lips of leading Republican­s in the Ketanji Brown Jackson Supreme Court confirmati­on and Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law as central — and shameful — themes.

If they’re trying to “trigger the libs,” believe me, I’m triggered, if only over the damage such vulgar cheap shots do to the respect all Americans should have for our government and political processes.

That’s why I found some hope in the enthusiast­ic reception that turned a tweeted speech by Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow into a viral sensation. Republican Sen. Lana Theis had put out a fundraisin­g email that accused the Democrat of wanting to “groom” and “sexualize” kindergart­ners and teach that “8-yearolds are responsibl­e for slavery.”

Ridiculous. But instead of trying to maintain the sort of dispassion­ate civility that too often has left sensible voices sounding weak, McMorrow responded with a forcefully eloquent takedown of the smear.

“I am a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom,” she said, “who knows that the very notion that learning about slavery or redlining or systemic racism somehow means that children are being taught to feel bad or hate themselves because they are white is absolute nonsense.

“People who are different are not the reason our roads are in bad shape after decades of disinvestm­ent, or health care costs are too high, or teachers are leaving the profession,” she also said. “I want every child in this state to be seen, heard and supported, not marginaliz­ed and targeted because they are not straight, white and Christian.

“So I want to be very clear right now: Call me whatever you want. I know who I am. I know what faith and service mean, and what it calls for in this moment,” she said in closing. “We will not let hate win.”

The entire speech runs less than five minutes. It’s worth hearing in full, especially by other Democrats, hamstrung with what political consultant James Carville calls “woke” “faculty-lounge” political talk.

McMorrow offers a short but informativ­e demonstrat­ion in the power of words, concise and direct, to push back against the far-right’s toxic waste.

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