If you think that the political climate in America has seen its temperature raised to dangerous levels, just try being a member of Congress these days.
While political careers were at one time considered both an act of public service and an avenue to great power (with considerable financial benefits somehow accumulating while in office, judging by the number of members of Congress with net worths over a million dollars), serving as a federal legislator in the current dangerously partisan political environment is the source of considerable concern among some lawmakers as the threats to their own personal safety and that of their family members reach previously unthinkable new heights.
That concern was highlighted recently in a televised interview with Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) on CNN.
The interview was conducted as part of a series of discussions with lawmakers about the toxic work environment within which they are currently laboring, with metal detectors now enclosed at the entrances to the Capitol and extremist members of Congress spouting violent political rhetoric that could potentially trigger their followers to “use their 2nd Amendment rights” as some of the most deplorable right-wingers like to disguise their call to arms.
On CNN.com, Lauren Fox set up the situation thusly:
“Many members within the House of Representatives told CNN in recent days that they find themselves in a toxic work environment, wrought with bitter exchanges, threats and fears about what the erosion of decorum in the chamber will mean for a body that has still not recovered 10 months after the Capitol Hill riot,” Lauren Fox states. “In interviews with more than a dozen members, CNN heard from Democrats and some Republicans who say things are as bad as they can remember with no sign things will get better soon and the fears and concerns aren’t just coming from members, but their families as well.”
The CNN congressional corespondent goes on to describe what happened when she called Rep. Garamendi to discuss this frightening scenario and his wife, overhearing the context of the discussion, felt compelled to chime in from the background about the level of distress the continuing threats have been causing her and her family.
“In an interview with Rep. John Garamendi, a Democrat from California, Garamendi’s wife Patricia could be heard in the background during the interview responding along with her husband that yes, the threats were as bad as they had ever been. Patricia Garamendi, who works closely with other spouses on events and helping provide guidance on how to navigate Congress, agreed to speak with CNN for the story. She said that it’s the scariest time she can remember for the spouses of members who worry not just about their member of Congress, but their entire families,” Fox writes.
“It took away a lot of the fun. Service is hard. Travel is hard and the issues are hard, but when you are worried about your family, it has been difficult,” Patti Garamendi said. “I mean some kids are being escorted to school.”
Public service has always demanded sacrifices from those who choose that career path, but if too many people are put off on the idea of running for office out of concern for their own physical safety and that of their families, the number of competent and qualified candidates willing to serve may be considerably reduced as fears of partisan attacks increasingly seem imminent.
You can watch CNN congressional corespondent Lauren Fox discuss the current safety fears plaguing federal legislators in a dangerously toxic partisan environment in the video clip below.
Original reporting by Lauren Fox at CNN.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.