The annual congressional baseball game is among the last vestiges of bipartisan comity on Capitol Hill. Played at Nationals Park, just a mile from the Capitol, it raises several hundred thousand dollars for three Washington-area charities. The game dates to 1909, though it occasionally has gone unplayed over the years.
Lawmakers in both parties take the contest seriously, in that each side very much wants to win. But the event is prized by all as an occasion for setting aside the rancor that marks their daily political competition and – increasingly – the nation’s political discourse.
Baseball is particularly adept among competitive sports in the way it encourages such friendly rivalries; the game’s leisurely pace invites each side to get to better know, and perhaps appreciate, the opposition. There is no time limit, no way for one team to prevail by running out the clock; the rules guarantee each side the same number of outs, the same opportunity to score and win. Millions of Americans wish we had more of that in our politics.
Each party has its own cheering section during the congressional game, but it’s not uncommon to see Democrats sitting among the Republicans, and vice versa. So the shock and sadness on display today around the Capitol is bipartisan. Members of Congress, their staffs and everyone else working in and around the seat of government put their differences aside as they absorbed news of the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise, a pair of Capitol Police officers, and others at the Alexandria, VA ballfield where the Republican team was practicing for the game.
A few in both parties dared to hope that from their shared grief might emerge a shared resolve to bring at least some of the spirit of the game to their work. That surely is something all Americans should hope for – and work for - today, tomorrow, and through every day to come.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: More Democracy Reforms