Congressional Shooting: Local leaders look to bridge the partisan divide

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It's a rare moment to see Republicans and Democrats supporting each other, on really anything these days. But in times of crisis, like Tuesday, many politicians shed partisan politics for patriotism.

For the first time since 9/11, the Tennessee Republican and Democratic parties issued a joint statement condemning the shooting and asking everyone to keep the families affected in their prayers.

That sense of unity can be found in the Yellowhammer state too. WHNT News 19 spoke to local leaders of both parties about what they can do to bridge the partisan divide.

You don't have to look far, pretty much any political story on social media can be a lightning rod of opinions that go from politics to personal.

"I think we need to work on toning down the rhetoric, things have been really heated lately," says Sam Givhan, the Madison County Republican Party.

James Hodgkinson's act of violence targeting politicians practicing America's pastime, shows how this hatred can be manifested.

"I think we need to keep creating opportunities for people to talk, for them to understand different perspectives," says Susan Higgins, an Executive Committee member of the Madison County Democratic Party.

Even on the local level, party leaders rarely agree.

“The resist movement, the language they’ve used and so forth has not been positive," says Givhan.

"I think it’s just long past time to do some gun control legislation," says Higgins.

But even they can admit when the name calling needs to stop, and thoughtful discussions should rule the day.

“It doesn’t mean you have to agree with the other side, but it does mean you need to talk, you need to debate," says Givhan.

“If we can keep talking to each other, then I think we can keep understanding each other come to compromise on some of these issues," says Higgins.

Higgins says there's a clear difference between passion and over the top rhetoric. She wants local Democrats to still be vocal on the issues that matter to them, but make the discussion meaningful, not hurtful.

“There’s certainly some issues that I’m very very passionate about that I feel like I’ve been able to talk to Republicans, Libertarians, and Green Party people about, and part of that’s in how you approach the issue and how open and receptive you are to hearing what other people have to say," says Higgins.

Strong rhetoric may be our current reality, but it doesn't have to stay that way.

“I hope it serves as a wake up call, because it’s gone a little too far and needs to be dialed back a bit," says Givhan.

Givhan says he hopes national party leaders will find ways to bridge the partisan gap.

He sees the federal infrastructure bill as the best opportunity to champion some much-needed Bipartisan legislation.