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Opinion >  Column

Shawn Vestal: McMorris Rodgers’ offensive campaign ads and flyers undermine her call for political civility

UPDATED: Wed., July 25, 2018

Mailers sent out by 5th Congressional District candidates Lisa Brown and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. (Nathanael Massey / The Spokesman-Review)
Mailers sent out by 5th Congressional District candidates Lisa Brown and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. (Nathanael Massey / The Spokesman-Review)

Our divided nation needs to heal, Cathy McMorris Rodgers says.

We are heartbreakingly riven by political divisions, Cathy McMorris Rodgers says. We can no longer disagree without being disagreeable. We demonize those with differing political views. We must regain a sense of shared purpose and unity for the good of the nation, and each and every one of us must do our part.

“We put labels on people, just dismiss them, dehumanize them, don’t even respect their human dignity, let alone their position,” Cathy McMorris Rodgers says.

She says these kinds of things a lot. She says them in Time magazine and other publications. She says them in pieces written for her website and campaign communications. She repeats them at speeches and in interviews.

“We’ve forgotten how to listen to each other, and how to come together for productive conversations,” she says. “Everything is viewed through an ‘us versus them’ lens. It shouldn’t be ‘us versus them.’ It should just be us – all of us.”

So true.

Also, Cathy McMorris Rodgers says, Lisa Brown supports pedophiles lurking in the bushes in our public parks.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers says we’ve lost our ability to have polite conversations about our differences. Social media boards are cesspools of rudeness. We treat others with disrespect, out of political anger and frustration. That’s very sad, and we should each commit ourselves to being better, Cathy McMorris Rodgers says.

“By being kind and caring for one another, we can offer each other hope and encouragement to continue on,” Cathy McMorris Rodgers says.

It can be so hard to carry on, without kindness. We must each be better.

“Do your part!” Cathy McMorris Rodgers says.

Also, Cathy McMorris Rodgers says, Lisa Brown is a threat to your children.

We are so, so divided over politics, Cathy McMorris Rodgers says. How can we overcome this tragic incivility? She has an idea: We should all sit down at a table with people who have different political views than we do and eat. Nibble and sip with people whose lives are different than our own. Discover our common humanity.

“It doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree,” Cathy McMorris Rodgers says. “I get that, but it doesn’t mean that these are enemies that we are going to just destroy either.”

Also, Cathy McMorris Rodgers says, Lisa Brown is dangerous. A threat to the precious, innocent children of Spokane, to whom Brown wants to provide access for sex offenders. Lisa Brown practically wants them to be assaulted.

Over the past year, Cathy McMorris Rodgers has fallen in love with the sound of her own voice on the subject of civility. But nothing tests a politician’s bromides about civility like a close election. Facing her strongest challenge in years, Rodgers has gone predictably negative – her recent flyers and TV spots suggesting that Lisa Brown is actually kinda sorta pro-pedophile are not routine, predictably negative ads, though.

They are the full Willie Horton, the precise kind of despicable politics that Cathy McMorris Rodgers pretends to be against.

Look, her civility campaign has always been a kind of con. A yearlong campaign about civility that completely omits any discussion of the rotting head on that fish – i.e., the spectacularly uncivil president she supports – is transparently ridiculous.

But the new ads erase all doubt: McMorris Rodgers is now civility’s Wizard of Oz.

As a talking point, civility in politics is mostly a form of criticizing others for incivility. McMorris Rodgers has referred to the time she was booed and heckled at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally in Spokane – boos and heckles that I criticized – and said it left her “heartbroken, not out of pride for my own speech, but out of sadness for our country.”

Those hecklers were indeed rude.

McMorris Rodgers’ flyers, though, are despicable.

The flyers depict a hooded man lurking in a park, near a young girl hanging from a branch. They refer to a vote from the 1990s, when both McMorris Rodgers and Brown were members of the state House of Representatives; Brown voted against legislation that would have given the state authority to prevent sex-offenders from living near schools.

That bill passed the House and didn’t make it through the Senate. Brown has said she voted against it because it was badly crafted – it applied to colleges but not preschools, for example. In 2006, she voted for a bill that prohibits sex offenders from living near schools.

The flyer uses this set of facts to produce a lie: Your lovely daughters will be assaulted by hooded strangers in the parks if Lisa Brown has her way.

Sure, things get rough in close races. Yeah, yeah. But if you’re going to crown yourself the queen of civility, maybe you should try not to become the worst example of what’s disgusting about political campaigns. And make no mistake about it: Political incivility grows out of politics itself, out of the campaigns and speeches and rhetoric that politicians use. It’s not just a dearth of bipartisan dinners.

But Cathy McMorris Rodgers insists she’s doing her part, and she calls on all of us to do our part as well.

“I’d like to challenge each one of you to join me in a commitment to civility,” she says.

“Over the past year I have been trying to do my part to serve as a unifying force here in our community,” she says.

“My goal,” she says, “is to be part of the solution.”

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