When Jake Burris got home with his four kids Sunday night, his 5-year-old son got a shock when he reached the porch. The family’s cat was dead — its head smashed and its eye hanging out — and some sick person had scrawled “liberal” on the side of the body with a marker.
Burris is the campaign manager for Ken Aden, a Democrat who is running against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Womack in Arkansas’ Third District. Police are investigating as a case of animal cruelty. (You can see a picture of the dead cat at this blog, but I’m not posting it here.)
Aden has pretty much no chance of winning. Arkansas’ Third District is overwhelmingly conservative and Womack received 72 percent of the vote in 2010. Although Aden is certainly pushing his views, this isn’t a hotly contested seat that could go either way. To put it more bluntly, Aden doesn’t have a chance.
Still, someone is taking the race seriously enough to murder a family’s pet cat. Why?
In the two decades I’ve worked in politics, I’ve known people cold-blooded and evil enough to do this sort of thing if they calculated that it would give them a political advantage. Almost anybody who’s been in the business for very long has known of certain sick individuals who you can call on for dirty tricks. There’s a slimy underbelly to the system that’s so evil that nobody wants to believes it’s there. So when I hear a story such as this, I know that I’ve known people who would have been capable of doing it.
I don’t know anybody on either side of this Arkansas election, so I don’t have any opinion about what really happened. The Aden campaign says that it’s convinced that Womack’s campaign had nothing to do with the death, so I assume they’re sincere in that. The Womack campaign has said the right things in supporting an effort to punish whoever’s responsible.
Although I don’t know who did it, I do think there’s enough blame to go around — to a political environment that’s overheated and nasty on both sides. As I read about this story on various sites oriented toward Democrats last night, it was obvious that they believe this is typical of “those sickos on the right.” At other times, when I read about sick things that have been done to Republicans, they want to assume that those things are typical of “those sickos on the left.”
Human nature is sick. Not everybody is that way, but a substantial portion of people are sick and evil. (In some circles, we call it “original sin.”) That tendency toward evil isn’t a Republican thing or a Democratic thing or something that’s more likely to show up in any nationality or belief system. Unfortunately, people are experts at ignoring the sickness among their allies and seeing every instance of it among their enemies.
We might never know what happened in this case, but I don’t blame any particular ideological view. I blame sick individuals who are more interested in making a point or hurting people. It might have been some Republican with an ax to grind with Burris or Aden. Or it might have been a Democrat trying to get some sympathetic attention for a campaign going nowhere. I honestly have no idea.
The only thing I’m sure of is that the sort of human beings who do things such as this — who coldly put their desires to win and to hurt their enemies above all — are evil. If you’re on one side or another in a situation such as this, don’t feel smug. There are those among your allies who are just as evil, whether you admit that to yourself or not.