There are few things that make summer truly feel like summer than a good old-fashioned baseball game. Despite the sport’s declining popularity, people still go out to watch their favorite teams and, if you’ll pardon the pun, have a ball.
Even our elected congressmen and women get together every year since 1909 for a charity event appropriately called the Congressional Baseball Game, a game for charity. This quiet little game brings both parties together in the spirit of sport. While they might not ever forget our hard line politics, they still get a chance to enjoy themselves.
This year was going to be no different.
Things sure didn’t feel out of place for Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. While he was sitting in a car with fellow congressman, Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., at the GOP practice, a man came up to them and asked if the people on the field were Democrats or Republicans.
Not thinking much of it, Duncan responded that they were Republicans and “shrugged it off,” as Rep. DeSantis put it. They drove back to the Hill and went about their day.
And then the news broke.
The man asking the two congressmen what party was practicing in the field was hoping they were Republicans. This man, James T. Hodgkinson III, 66, was what some might call a “Bernie Bro,” an unapologetic leftist with a grudge against right-wing politics.
He has a history of activism in politics and making his left-wing views known on social media. He started various petitions calling for Hillary Clinton to concede the nomination to Sanders. He even volunteered for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. He was, for all intents and purposes, a “Bernie Bro.”
When this man asked whether the people practicing on the field were Democrats or Republicans, he wasn’t looking for the right people to protest. He wasn’t looking to vent his rage against the system. He was looking for targets. Republican targets.
His vitriol for the GOP carried him from his home in southern Illinois to a baseball field in Alexandria, VA, just by Washington D.C. where he stood by the edge of the third-base dugout and fired a high-powered rifle at the players.
He shot four people, including House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer, and two Capitol Police officers. Officers, responding as quickly as they could, gunned him down before he could shoot any more people.
Sen. Sanders was quick to make a statement once he learned of Hodgkinson’s involvement with his campaign, “I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind of unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”
This isn’t Hodgkinson’s first act of violence involving guns. There was a 2006 incident where he allegedly hit a woman who was with his wife. This incident led to another where the woman’s boyfriend confronted him. Hodgkinson responded by pistol whipping the man and shooting at him but missing. In the end, Hodgkinson was charged with domestic battery, battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm.
So, perhaps it wasn’t Hodgkinson’s politics that drove him to violence as it was his personality. This was a cantankerous man looking for a reason to rage against the machine. He chose leftist politics as his reasons for attempted murder, but leftist politics didn’t tell him to shoot Republicans. Bernie Sanders didn’t tell him to shoot Republicans. Only he could make that violent, tragic leap.
Fortunately, Rep. Scalise, the congressional staffer, and both officers are all expected to survive. The Congressional Baseball Game will continue as planned.